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John Crook

The remote wilds of Alaska have, for many decades, been an inexorable draw to alpinists and mountaineers. The region still offers numerous unclimbed peaks for those looking to write their names into climbing history, but often they are unclimbed with good reason.

Remote Alaska takes no prisoners. Simply to be dropped off there on expedition is to commit yourself to certain, unavoidable dangers and climbing there can often be hampered by bad weather. This was the experience for aspirant Mountain Guide John Crook and his team when they visited the region in May 2016.

The team arrived with a firm objective in mind; The 1300m unclimbed East Ridge of Mount Laurens. But the weather had other plans. Despite attempting to find the best conditions by climbing at night, the sound of running water turned them back at the Bergschrund, sure in the knowledge that conditions would be dangerous in the extreme.

Abandoning their initial objective, the team headed to Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America. They were turned back again, this time just short of the summit by what John described as “extremely Scottish weather”. An attempt on the infamous Infinite Spur, yielded similar results when heavy snow set in high on the route. It is a testament to the team’s strong practical skills and decision-making that they descended safely over 25 hours after turning back.

Sometimes a trip ends without a successful summit, but is no less an experience for that. The finest traditions of alpinism include making the right call at the right time, battling the weather and most importantly, finding a spirit of camaraderie when three men share a tiny bivi tent in the middle of a white out.

John is a British Mountain Guide and IFMGA Aspirant Guide. Over the last 15 years he has been enjoying the full spectrum of climbing, honing his skills throughout the UK and the European Alps, having now climbed over 20 Grand Courses. The last decade has allowed John to share his passion and enthusiasm for the outdoors with many different people, both in personal and professional life, from leading school groups in Bolivia and Ecuador to guiding throughout the UK and worldwide.

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