I mentioned a few days ago on May 6th that we had a couple of clients who had a scary experience on Marcus Baker. This story took place six days ago. Here are the events as written by Marcin Ksok:
Marcus Baker attempt 2010 Randy Howell, Marcin Ksok
On May 2 Mike Meekin and Matt Keller flew Randy Howell and me onto the higher slopes of the Marcus Baker glacier. We landed just below a prominent western ridge of Mt. Marcus Baker. It was the initial objective, but after seeing its icy upper slopes and the exit guarding seracs, we opted for the standard Matanuska Glacier route. Unfortunately high winds formed an invisible gate at the pass leading to the Mat Glacier, therefore a trek was in store for us.
On the way we scoped out another possible line up the mountain, an inviting ridgeline extending from the north-western flank of the peak. A lot less committing and exposed route than our initial objective.
The same night we traveled 2 miles and 1000 vertical feet to set up a cozy base camp at the foot of the ridge, elevation 7100’. Next morning started out with some step kicking up a snow slope, that is when we got the first warning. A loud whoomp shook the surface, but it was just as unsafe to continue to a lower angle terrain about 50 feet higher as it would have been to return. In a few hours we overcame the rocky ridge and higher snow slopes, zig-zagging between some bershrungs. At 9600 feet a comfortable camp was set up for the night.
Next morning was our summit bid, but the day was cut short, way too short. Few hundred feet above camp, as we were heading towards a crest of the ridge I kicked a step with my right foot and instantly heard a loud boom and lost my footing. The ride down was fast and helpless, with a heavy pack I tried to fight the avalanche, but my resistance mattered very little. Luckily the debris stopped before going over the 2500’ icefall below us. I was glad to hear Randy’s euphoric cheering, it meant he was still on top and alive. The 400’ long crown face loomed above us, the mangled tent slightly below.
The tent was still intact, but we lost 2 ice tools, ski pole and most of the fuel, forcing us to retreat in encroaching clouds which limited visibility. Next day shaken, but in good spirits, happy to be alive, we flew back out. Matt came in on his day off to pick us up just ahead of an incoming storm front.
Although the trip was cut short, by the time we reached town new plans were already being made for next year’s attempt.