Rada and Martinez summit highest unclimbed peak in North America

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In August, Patagon Journal contributing editor, Camilo Rada, and his climbing partner, Natalia Martinez, successfully summited the highest unclimbed “named” peak in North America, Mount Malaspina in the Yukon of western Canada.
 
The climbers are founders of the Uncharted project, an initiative that combines historical research and mapping projects with mountaineering expeditions of some of the last unclimbed peaks of Patagonia. Among their prior noteworthy Uncharted collaborations was the 2013 first winter ascent of Mount Sarmiento and the first ascent last year of Volcan Aguilera, the last, unclimbed major volcano of the Andes.  A climb in the Yukon was thus a bit out of their mandate, but proximity called as Rada, from Chile, is currently completing a doctorate in glaciology at the University of British Columbia.  
 
 
Malaspina is 3,776 meters, and lies in the Saint Elias mountain range. The only prior attempt, a 1976 Polish/ Alaskan expedition in preparation for an ascent of Mount Logan, was turned back by poor conditions.  By Martinez and Rada’s estimation, though, a feasible line existed.  This proved out, by the slimmest of healthy risk margins. Experience with severe weather conditions in Patagonia may have given them an edge. “Everyone who comes from climbing in the Rockies and North America finds conditions in Patagonia so much tougher,” said Martinez.
 
The trip started far off the mark. Poor snowpack led their plane to drop them closer to Mount Elias, which was 12 kms up-glacier from basecamp.  As they scouted the location the first three days, avalanche falls were constant.  Of greater risk at lower altitudes were dead drop serac collapses.  Different than avalanches, seracs are large blocks of ice that collapse as a result of glacial movement or simple weight fracture.
 
Though they initially intended the summit effort to come from a high camp at greater than 2000 meters, Rada and Martinez became keenly aware of the serac threat. “All the danger was down low,” said Rada. “So, to move quickly through the danger zone, we decided to push quickly from base camp.” After a few close serac bombings, they abandoned high camp other than for use as a gear cache.  The summit push, therefore, began from base camp, at 12:40 a.m. on August 14, during thecoldest, most stable, hours of the morning.
 
The plan worked like jam on toast, but neither of the climbers had any illusions about the elements of chance that played into their decision to continue upward. In a constant state of evaluation about the environmental risks around them, they moved quickly via simul climb through some of the dangerous areas.  Upon reach of the northeast col by late morning, they rested and prepared for the afternoon’s work up to their evening bivy, at 3,386 meters.  But they felt there was no rush, so they moved with a more deliberate emphasis upon safety in the new terrain.
 
Following arrival that evening at the bivy, because of continued risk of avalanche they attempted to make a sleeping cave in the ice.  But when the ice proved too hard, they built a modified snow igloo.  It was then Martinez saw the northern lights. “A magical moment, despite the exhaustion,” she says.
 
At mid-afternoon the next day, they reached the summit.  From the top of the mountain, the world’s largest piedmont glacier, the Malaspina Glacier of the Malaspina-Seward glacier system, splayed below them into the lowlands.  This massive glacial system has lost so much thickness to climate change that by the year 2000 it’s transferred mass had contributed to half of one percent of the rise in global sea level. 
 
After 10 minutes on the summit, numerous abseils, abalakovs, and several more uncomfortable brushes with mortality, on August 16, 2015, at 8 a.m., the two climbing partners arrived safely back to base camp, 55 hours after departure. 
 
On being first to summit Mt. Malaspina, Rada was characteristic modest. “It’s true, no one has had this view before but someone will have a better view, on a higher mountain,” he said. “It’s the route climbed - finding it, creating the normal route of the mountain - that makes the experience exciting.”  
 
Below, photos from Rada and Martinez of their expedition:
 
 
[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada
 
 
 [Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada
 
 
[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada
 
 
The dangerous approach below the north face of Mount Malaspina. [Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo RadaThe dangerous approach below the north face of Mount Malaspina. [Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada
 
 
[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada
 
 
[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada
 
 
Martinez climbs snow slopes below Mt. Malaspina's East Col. [Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo RadaMartinez climbs snow slopes below Mt. Malaspina's East Col. [Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada
 
 
The igloo bivouac on the east shoulder with the summit of Malaspina behind. [Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo RadaThe igloo bivouac on the east shoulder with the summit of Malaspina behind. [Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada
 
 
Mount Malaspina, Canada. [Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo RadaMount Malaspina, Canada. [Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada
 
 
[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada
 
 
[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada
 
 
[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada[Photos] Natalia Martinez, Camilo Rada