Mendenhall Towers Free Ascent
Jul 16th 2011
On July 11 Juneau locals Ryan Johnson and Gabe Hayden made the first free ascent of the South Buttress Direct on the Main Tower of the Mendenhall Towers outside Juneau, Alaska. The climb is graded 5.11a, ascends over 2000 feet.
The South Buttress Direct was first climbed in 1973 by John Svenson and Mike Clark; this recent climb was likely the second ascent of the line. After speaking with Svenson about the line, Johnson went up to the towers in March with friend Jason Nelson climbing a nearby pillar in order to scope out the line and "just looking at those crack systems bumped it to the top of the list." Johnson and Hayden found three old 1/4 SMC bolts on the route placed by the first ascentionists.
Johnson says he hadn't had climbing shoes on since January, but they seized the opportunity of a brief weather window that was likely to only last for the one climb. Leaving camp at five in the morning, they started up the rock at six. "Right from the start we were blown away by both the aesthetic nature of the line and immaculate quality of the granite." Beginning with two pitches of moderate slabs, the climb steepened and they "entered a series of amazing cracks that took us some 800ft to the moderate summit pitches." An hour before nightfall, they made it back to camp after descending the Mountaineers route. They returned home the following day.
Source: Ryan Johnson