In June 2016, climbers Pete Graham, Ben Silvestre and Will Harris made the first British Ascent (10th overall) of the Infinite Spur on Alaska’s Mount Foraker (Sultana) as part of a Rab supported expedition to the region.
The team had originally travelled to the rarely visited Thunder Glacier. Relatively few routes have yet been established on the peaks surrounding the glacier and the team had set their sights on a number of first ascent objectives. Unfortunately, as Ben explains, things didn’t go exactly to plan:
“Sadly on the Thunder glacier most viable lines turned out to be severely threatened by seracs. We spent the week we were there watching huge avalanches all day every day…We attempted a route but there was no ice and really deep snow which required some very physical digging to pass, so after climbing about 500m it became clear we were going far too slow. We were forced to retreat which was a shame as we climbed some really good mixed pitches up to around M6 difficulty”
The initial plan for the trip had always been to split their time between Thunder Glacier and the area around Mt. Foraker. With few options presenting themselves on the glacier, the team cut their losses and focus all their energy on the Infinite Spur. It proved to be a good call:
“After acclimatising on Denali, we found good conditions on the route, probably better than average. The whole attempt took five days from leaving basecamp to returning to it. We approached the route in bad weather and had heavy snow during the last of the descent but the 3 days during which we climbed the route were the clearest of the whole trip.”
The Infinite Spur is considered one of the finest alpine objectives in Alaska, if not the world, but its remote location and committing nature mean that it has only seen a handful of ascents since it was first climbed by Michael Kennedy and George Lowe in 1977. It climbs for over 3,000 metres from the base before reaching the summit at 5,304m. This first British ascent is an undoubtedly historic moment, made all the more so by the fact that both Pete and Ben work jobs around their climbing exploits.