Gietl and Schaeli climb Devil's Paw north summit

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 15/06/2015
Schaeli near the start of the northwest ridge of Devil's Paw. The line of Black Roses is marked. Simon Gietl
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Simon Gietl and Roger Schaeli have made the first ascent of the 1,000m northwest ridge of the north summit of Devil's Paw in a rapid 19 hours.

The highest peak on the Juneau Icefield, Devil's Paw (2,616m) is a four-summited mountain in the Boundary Ranges, straddling the border between Alaska and Canada.

Heli Putz, local ski guide and friend of Schaeli, had often spoken excitedly about the mountain, so in May Gietl, Putz, Schaeli, and another local guide Ed Shanley skied into the Paw.

The spring weather was excellent, and one-hour's ski travel above base camp brought Gielt (30, Italian, from the South Tyrol) and Schaeli (36, Swiss) to the foot of the ridge.

After a few metres of climbing the two realised that the ascent, with a headwall featuring wind-blasted rime that reminded the pair of Cerro Torre, would be far from a walk in the park.

The descended and prepared for a lightweight ascent, abandoning sleeping bags in the hope that they would only need one bivouac and could survive comfortably without.

They took a stove, food, crampons, and rock gear, with Shanley having to provide Schaeli with his own thin socks when the latter's proved to much for his tight rock shoes.

Route finding proved difficult, the rock was often wet or sometimes snow-covered, and there were large loose blocks that caused the pair some stress.

By late evening they were pushing through a dangerous stretch of deep wet powder below the summit when they decided it would be best to bivouac.

With wet feet and legs the experience was never going to be pleasant, so they were glad to get moving again after four hours and find a way through the headwall at first light.

Traversing well to the right, they finally discovered a chimney leading to the summit snowfield, and soon were standing on the highest point.

It had taken 19 hours in total, and it appears possible that no-one had previously visited this north top.

The pair had little time to rest as strong morning sun was already raising the temperature and making steep snowfields prone to wet snow avalanche. In five hours they descended a couloir on the west flank, and returned to base camp.

Due to the large species of lichen present on the climb, the 1,000m route was named Black Roses and graded 6c A1 M4.

Little climbing is recorded on the Devil's Paw, and accounts generally talk about atrocious rock on the summit ridges.

The main summit, the top immediately south of the north summit, was first climbed in July 1949 by Andrew Griscom, David Michael and Bill Putnam, who ascended the northeast flank.

The south top was first climbed in 1976 by Fred Beckey, Dougal McCarty, Jack Tackle and Craig Zaspel via the south couloir. This couloir has been climbed and skied several times since, as has at least one more couloir on the west flank.
 



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