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the misty fjords national monument, ak
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By David Hertel
From Sitka
Nov 8, 2010
Climbing a coulior of steep snow on the First Ascent of: The Ship's Prow, near Skagway, Ak

Legend has it that there are a couple bolted routs heading up some big walls somewhere in the Misty Fjords National Monument (down on the panhandle; southeast Alaska near Ketchikan). When the weather permits, the climbing would be incredible in many places. It does rain quite frequently and the rock is usually wet, but during the summer months, the occasional sunny hot spells dry out the rock making, "climbing," a goal rather than an activity of leisure. You have to get it while its good.
Thus far, it appears that these "legendary" bolted routs are only a myth as no one can pin-point where they are. As far as I know, the entire place is unclimbed, even traditionally. That goes without saying that the potential for new ascents is endless.
These "big walls" are glacially carved granite that reach up to 3000 feet and higher directly from the fjords below. As far as establishing this territory as one sought out by climbers, who knows what the future will bring. It is truly difficult to find a more beautiful place than this.
This summer I was working as a zip line guide in Ketchikan, Ak. I lived eight miles out of town so I frequently hitched a ride to pick up groceries and extra supplies (or fart around). One day I was picked up by an interesting fellow who planned to lead an excursion up one of these so called "bolted" lines, and inquired if I would like to tag along as part of his team. I told him that as long as he could set up the excursion (pick out the line, organize transportation, etc.) I'm all in. I told him of my understanding that people never climb there and every story I encountered about climbs in the area (which was from 3 people at bars) involved parties being forced to turn around due to weather. One drunken man was even so bold as to tell of an entire team of climbers falling into oblivion and sinking to the depths of the fjords. Even the bartender rolled his eyes in disbelief at his ridiculous tale, epic as it was.
Either way, I exchanged contact information with the expedition leader before going on my way. A few weeks went by and I hadn't heard anything of the climb so I e-mailed him to see what he found out. Tourist season was coming to a close and I had loads of free time between work. In a couple more weeks I'd be off to a remote location off the parks highway southwest from Fairbanks, to work with a competitive team of sled dogs for the Yukon Quest 2011 (that didn't go too well and I ended up quitting after the first month). My time in Ketchikan was coming to an end for the year and I was curious if I'd get a chance to climb the fjords or not.
He eventually got back to me, after I had left the panhandle, to say that the bolted lines seemed to be a myth after all. If there actually were any long sport routs, no body knew where they were or how to get to them. However, he did choose a trad line he thought would go on a wall over a hanging lake in the monument, but the weather turned and the season was over.
I may not have any experience with big walls yet, and not much in trad climbing either, but my goals are indeed lofty. I plan to train hard and gain experience before too long, and who knows what will happen. I can only hope I'll get a shot at the fjords next year.

just one of a million "big walls" in the Misty Fjords
just one of a million "big walls" in the Misty Fjords


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By Chad F
From Costa Mesa, CA
Nov 8, 2010
photo

misty fjords
misty fjords


another
another


another
another


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By David Hertel
From Sitka
Nov 9, 2010
Climbing a coulior of steep snow on the First Ascent of: The Ship's Prow, near Skagway, Ak

Excellent photos Chad. There may be a zillion lines just within the cirque itself.


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By talkinrocks
From Boulder, CO
Nov 9, 2010
Washburns Thumb.  Denali

Good luck in your endeavors. I hope you make it back there.

From the pics, there appears to be many lines and the rock looks good (from what I can tell). I have no beta for you, nor have I ever been there, but why worry about finding the bolted routes? Scope the shit out with some binoculars and make a FA. Seems like infinite possibilities on that cliff. If you dont have "Big Wall" experience, do you have multi-pitch experience? Hammer out those skills and more possibilities open up for you. Find the climbers in the area (Juneau, Haines, Skagway). Maybe the dude picking up hitch hikers isnt the best resource? I know the weather is a big contender. Its a rainy climate up there and the blue bird days are few and far between. Seems like May might yield the best weather in that neck of the woods? Maybe that's too early? I have had good late Sept weather up there. But its all a gamble in the rain forest anyway. Good luck!

Maybe these guys know something?....
www.alaskamountainguides.com/index.php


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By joedeltron
Nov 10, 2010

I'm from Ketchikan and am very interested in climbing in the monument, once I become more proficient on big walls that is. I've heard the rumor that punchbowl cove was climbed at some point but I don't know if it was bolted or not, either way there's a ton of potential there. I'm in Ketchikan now but the weather is horrid and I don't know when
I'll spend my next summer here.


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By clay meier
Nov 11, 2010
Thats Me

mountainproject.com/v/alaska/southeastern_alaskacoastal_rang>>>

Check this out for climbing in Skagway. I work for Alaska Mountain Guides and can tell you that there is some good rock around Skagway. Sorry I dont know more about the misty fjords and i know that cragging is not really what you are looking for but i thought you might be interested anyways...


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By Russell T
From Denver, CO
Nov 28, 2010
Awesome.

I'm moving up to Ketchikan in January, and if anyone's looking for a partner to go explore and see what we can climb out there, let me know.


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By Scott O
From California
Nov 28, 2010
Batman Pinnacle

I have got to move to Alaska...


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By Roger Linfield
Nov 28, 2010
Top of First Flatiron

I once spent two nights in Misty Fjords Nat. Mon. in a cabin on Hunchback Lake. We flew in an out by float plane. About half the circumference of the lake is unhikable, due to steep, granite walls that must reach over 1000' in height. The walls had some moss on them, but the main problem for climbing would of course be the weather. We were there in late May, and it rained the entire time.

The walls there had plenty of crack systems, so you could consider doing a wall climb with few (or maybe zero) bolts.


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By Scott O
From California
Nov 28, 2010
Batman Pinnacle

What's the rock quality like? It's granite, but is it rotten at all?


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By David Hertel
From Sitka
Nov 28, 2010
Climbing a coulior of steep snow on the First Ascent of: The Ship's Prow, near Skagway, Ak

Russell T wrote:
I'm moving up to Ketchikan in January, and if anyone's looking for a partner to go explore and see what we can climb out there, let me know.

i will more than likely be working up there next summer season. if you are still interested in climbing the fjords, i would be more than willing to go as well


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By David Hertel
From Sitka
Nov 28, 2010
Climbing a coulior of steep snow on the First Ascent of: The Ship's Prow, near Skagway, Ak

Roger Linfield wrote:
I once spent two nights in Misty Fjords Nat. Mon. in a cabin on Hunchback Lake. We flew in an out by float plane. About half the circumference of the lake is unhikable, due to steep, granite walls that must reach over 1000' in height. The walls had some moss on them, but the main problem for climbing would of course be the weather. We were there in late May, and it rained the entire time. The walls there had plenty of crack systems, so you could consider doing a wall climb with few (or maybe zero) bolts.

that is very true! i was living in ketchikan all last summer and there was about a 2 week dry spell around the end of june. the 100% humidity and 85 degree temperatures were unpleasant, but at least the rock was dry. and you are right about the moss. for the most part, you can peel it away from the rock like a piece of carpet in places you need for foot holds, but once you gain 50 to 100 feet, the rock is totally bare. its fair once you get out of shady areas such as the lower protions of the cliff faces where vegitation is heavy, or north facing crags
i think june- august would be the prime time to attempt anything in the fjords. the heavy snows melt off the tops durring spring and early summer making virtually every crag dripping wet. by june, the vast majority of snow has gone, and its up to finding a break in the weather to find a sunny day and dry rock. this september it rained constantly with only but a few days of sun in between
as far as i can tell (from flying by in a float plane and boating up close) the rock is solid as all hell. of course youre probibally going to find loose rocks further up the wall where thousands of years of erosion create the enevitable, but most of the cracks and fissures are vertical. that to me means that you dont have to worry as much about big blocks collapsing under strain as you pass by. and like i said, on any given wall in the misty fjords you have endless choices of lines to climb. just sit back and scope something out. then find a break in the weather and go for it!


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By Owen Darrow
From Garmisch,
Nov 30, 2010
Nice view

ROAD TRIP!! Maybe when spring hits I'll make my way up there but ski season is too good in CO and it hasn't even really started.


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By Russell T
From Denver, CO
Nov 30, 2010
Awesome.

Sounds like I've found some climbing partners. That's exciting. Alaska, here we come!


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By Ken Trout
From Golden, CO
Jan 7, 2011
The Valley, wet spring of '62. Victory dance with my sister after hearing that Harding sent the Leaning Tower.

I chanced by some good info and thought about this cool forum.

Tim Touala, Rock 'n' Road, 2002. Route #21 of the Alaska chapter, Misty Fjords (Devils Punchbowl):

"The scenic 3,000' K-F-H Route done in 1994 starts just left of center of the whole wall at the water's edge and follows a steep bushwack up the water channel to a tent ledge at 8,000. Then there is much 5.4 - 5.7 climbing, with a 1,500-2,000' rock staircase (4' wide) of fourth-class simul-climbing with amazing views of the Fjords. Twenty-three double-rope rappels. Very wet."

"Kruis-Fitch-Highleyman Route, III 7."


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By GR Johnson
Jan 7, 2011

the rock quality is generally very high on the south faces. There is going to be a great deal of moss and lichen... deal with it. Southeast Alaska probably has the highest concentration of unclimbed unexplored rock in North America. Sure the weather is pretty rough, the access can be challenging or expensive, but it is an adventure. So give up your orange mocha frapachinos for a few weeks, pack two sets of shells, a mosquito net and come on up. When the weather breaks this place will blow your mind.


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By James Kase
Sep 11, 2012

punchbowl
punchbowl

I live in Ketchikan, have a boat, tons of climbing gear and I know how to use it. Lets do this


rudyard bay
rudyard bay



nooya lake, flat light conditions
nooya lake, flat light conditions


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By James Kase
Sep 11, 2012

no chalk here.  Punchbowl lake deepwater solo potential
no chalk here. Punchbowl lake deepwater solo potential


punchbowl lake
punchbowl lake


slabby
slabby


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By James Kase
Sep 11, 2012

a lake on an island on a lake in the wilderness, with unclimbed granite domes in all directions at sunrise
a lake on an island on a lake in the wilderness, with unclimbed granite domes in all directions at sunrise

my room mate flies tourists over the area daily, check out this:

youtu.be/SNrkbEAFE8U

I'm editing this post because the site won't let me post new ones, new account. Anyway, does anyone have photos from big goat lake, walker cove, or some of the other small lakes in the area?


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By David Hertel
From Sitka
Sep 12, 2012
Climbing a coulior of steep snow on the First Ascent of: The Ship's Prow, near Skagway, Ak

Interesting indeed. I have heaps of new knowledge and experience since that origional post. I have been climbing traditionally and stomping tons of technical mixed lines in the Alaskan alpine like an adict for the past couple years. I even went out and got cerified to guide mountaineering trips in heavily glaciated terraine. Lookin back at this post, I sort feel like I am ready to lead my own expedition to the Misty Fjords and explore some of the fine cimbing that is to be had there. I may start looking for partners very soon as the winter will likely come and go leadin to an excelant climbing season down there in the fjords before too long.


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