With loaded bikes Jake and I drift down the Goldmint Trail in search of sunny rock and summits. We make it 5 miles before caching the bikes in the pile of alder and shouldering backpacks for the remainder of the trek. We tromp another 3 miles, cache the camping gear, ford the Little Susitina River and then begin working up the grass and talus slopes to the base of the Southwest face of Triplemint (6300′). At the base of the route we cache the climbing gear and start scrambling carrying nothing but a bit of water, food and jackets.
Jake traversing grass ledges.
|At the plateau 1/2 up the route.
Connecting gullies to reach the ridge.
The Southwest face of Triplemint begins with a rock gully that leads to a grass sidewalk. From this point on it’s a series of grass sidewalks connected by short 3rd class sections of rock. Exposed, but never difficult, the grass sidewalks require a certain level of trust as we tiptoe across mud, tundra and lichen to short sections of solid, but wet, rock.
About 500′ we reach a plateau of talus that we scramble across aiming for a gully on the northern edge. Up the gully, an exposed traverse to the ridge and finally we’re scrambling up shattered rock slabs to the summit.
We linger briefly but threatening storm clouds make us wary of traversing wet grass above cliffs so we head scramble down our ascent route, down the hanging valley and across the river where we grab our gear and tromp the remaining mile and 1000′ to the Mint Hut.
Bipartisan agreement reached in the Talkeetnas. Hollis French is our former minority leader; Sean Parnell is our former governor.
The Mint hut on a beautiful summer day. This hut is why you should join the MCA!
The next day we set out for Montana Peak – but an extremely warm summer has melted way too much rock for us to safely ascend the route, so we throw in the towel about 1/3 of the way up and head down and out.
Southwest face of Spearmint. When I climbed the right side of the face in 98 and the 4th class route (left skyline) in 03 there were no sign of crevasses.
The Linear Accelerator on the North face of Troublemint. Skiers should take note of the crevasses which run parallel to the slope.
|The icefall that is melting out on Troublemint. Don’t ski off this!
Access the Southwest Face of Triplemint Peak by ascending the valley between Triplemint and Telemint. Note that the map shows a fairly large glacier, but this glacier is dying a quick death and hardly reaches 5000′. Head up the valley and just before you reach the glacier turn left/north and scramble up a gully of shattered talus to access the SW face. Climb until you’re blocked by cliffs and then start traversing climber’s left. Keep climbing up and left by connecting short grass ramps and rock steps aiming for the large flat area that sits on the SW face. Note that there is one point where you have to choose between a short rock slab and an exposed grass traverse above a cliff. Both are easy but very exposed. Above this point you’ll reach a plateau about 500′ wide that you’ll have traverse. On the other side climb gullies and rock steps aiming for climbers left skyline. This will eventually put you on the summit. Reverse the route.
|Typical climbing on the SW face: Gullies, exposed grass ramps and short rock steps.
Season: This peak is best climbed from early summer through early fall after snow has melted off the lower face. Snow in the gullies up high would aid your progress, but snow melt down low would mean slick mud and grass above a 500′ cliff (which would make me a tad uneasy).
Time: From the valley floor round trip the route takes about 6 hours (a good peak to climb on your way to the Mint).
Gear: This is a pretty straight foreword 3rd class route that doesn’t require any extra gear. About all I’d recommend is shoes with some sticky rubber soles.
Other Routes: If you’re interested in a harder route up Triplemint, consider the North Buttress.
We only made it about 600′ up this route so I can’t give a real route description – but I will share what I know. The Southeast Face is the standard route up Montana and it is accessed via a nasty dirt and rock gully that is at the very head up the Mint Glacier. Right off the glacier you’ll be faced with about 300′ of 40-50 degree dirt. Climb up and right aiming for chossy gully that will take you to the ridge. Above the gully you can scramble up 3rd and 4th class ledges to the summit; some people have used ropes, others have not.
Be warned: I have a somewhat high choss tolerance yet I thought this the gully had some of the worst choss I’ve encountered. You will dislodge lots of loose rock and you will have extended sections where you will actually have to kick steps into rotten rock and dirt to get a foothold. This gully was the scene of an accident several years ago when someone broke a leg attempting to ascend. I also know of a near accident several years ago when a climber pulled a large rock onto his lap while his partners watched from afar unable to offer help. Caveat emptor.
Note the rock fall everywhere on the glacier. Some of these rocks are car sized so don’t bother with the helmet.
The SE face. This is the gully you must ascend. You must be a true choss connoisseur to appreciate this route.
|Jake is somewhere in that pile of dirt trying his best to remain composed.
Other Routes: There is a route up the North face – and with the MCA planning on a new hut at the base of the North face it might make more sense to consider the north which might have less loose rock.
Looking down the beautiful Mint valley.
Climbers take note: you can bike 4.5 miles and save some time. Coming out is a blast if you packed right.