2010: Mt. Bradley, Vitalogy, by M. Allen

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Mt. Bradley, Vitalogy.

By Mark Allen, AAC

Mt. Bradley from the southeast: (1) East Buttress (Jochler-Orgler, 1987). (1a) Frieh-Johnson variation (2010). (2) Season of the Sun (Ichimura-Sato-Yamada, 2007). (3) Vitalogy (Allen-Zimmerman, 2010). The Bourbon Bottle (Crouch-Donini, 1996) starts on the left side of the lower shield bordering the start of (3), and the two routes weave similar terrain near Vitology’s upper dots). Other routes exist to the left of the deep cleft left of the Bourbon Bottle. Clifford Cochran

Graham Zimmerman at the Tower Bivy, morning of the summit day. Mark Allen

Vitalogy topo. Lee and Mark Allen

A glacier-level view of Vitalogy, from the Ruth Gorge. Mark Allen

Graham Zimmerman climbs the mushroom tunnel at the end of the initial 700-foot pitch, which opened with a prominent lightning-bolt-shaped couloir. Mark Allen

The crux Tower section of Vitalogy. The original plan was to climb the couloir right of the tower, but the first storm brought too much spindrift, and so the pair climbed steeper terrain free from drainages. They followed the ridge crest to the base of the Tower, then climbed just left of skyline up a system of dihedrals. Mark Allen

Graham Zimmerman busting the last M5 Pitch of the tower section. These last two of the six tower pitches were the most fun, low-stress climbing with tricky, bouldery cruxes and good hooks in frozen blocks. Mark Allen

Graham Zimmerman and I landed in the Ruth Gorge on March 28, and soon spotted a virgin line on the southeast buttress of Mt. Bradley. We made an attempt on March 31. Then, on the evening of April 2, we left camp with 40 hours of food and fuel in a 20-pound second’s pack and a 15-pound leader’s pack, regained our highpoint and established five more pitches. Mid-day we bivied on a prow, sheltered from what loomed above. The 1,500′ day included Zimmerman climbing several M5 pitches and me dealing with sustained 5.9 rock, an A1 tension traverse, and a transition from boots and crampons to rock shoes and back.

Later that day the temps cooled and we climbed the beautiful ice ribbon that had initially drawn us in: 1,000′ long, averaging WI4 with cruxes of M5+ and WI5. We climbed into the dark and established a second bivy. We awoke to lenticulars on the horizon and continued up a steep, blocky mixed ridge when the first of three storms hit. We climbed through to the base of a large 1,000′ gendarme, with the crux of the route. The storm broke while we pushed seven pitches of sustained mixed climbing until we were spent. We fixed a line and rapped down to bivy on an exposed ledge. The next morning we finished the tower and simul-climbed steep, exposed snow slopes and spines.

At 4 p.m. on April 5, after 66.5 hours, we summited Mt. Bradley via Vitalogy (AK grade V, M6+ WI5 5.9R A1). Our 4,600′ mixed route required 29 pitches, 19 of which were at least M5 or WI4. We finished our remaining food and began descending the west ridge, but a second storm closed-in quickly, forcing us to downclimb and rappel 2,500′ of uncharted terrain down a headwall and icefall to the Backside Glacier. We found ourselves under fire from increasing spindrift and sluff slides. Lower, and still exposed to full-track avalanches, we found a safe bivy beneath a rock overhang at the base of the steep glacial-carved walls. The storm lasted an entire day, pinning us down without food and little fuel, and brought 12″ of new snow and waist-deep drifts. The next afternoon we were awakened by a sizable slide poring over the rim of our rock awning during a clearing. We used the break in the storm to wade through new snow for seven kilometers, along the upper Backside Glacier, through 747 Pass, and down to the Ruth. Once in the Gorge a third and strongest storm hit, requiring us to navigate a whiteout at night to find our camp. After 99 hours away from camp, we began consuming the remainder of our 21 pounds of pork products. You can see more detailed media at www.markallenalpine.com

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