Mount Francis (5427ft) - 15Feb2021
|Port of Valdez from the summit of Francis|
Arriving in Valdez during January was the first time I focused on this peak. I was immediately intrigued by the jagged peaks this area has to offer. Mount Francis was a direct influence on my passion for winter mountaineering. The North Face rises 5400ft above the Port of Valdez, and this peak was an instant Alaska classic.
|View of the NE ridge|
This peak took two attempts,, though I didn't even step foot on the mountain on the first attempt on the first attempt. While approaching down the Trans Alaska Pipeline, I had a moose encounter. It was early morning when the shape of objects was visible, but this was about it. Then, as I was going up one of the steep hills of the trail, I saw glowing eyes on the horizon; I noticed the eyes coming closer and closer. I was unsure if it was a moose at the time, but I kept backing up. The glowing eyes followed me down the horizon, and 20 minutes later, the moose finally stopped in its tracks. I took this as a sign that today was not the day.
|East Face of Francis|
Two days later, I was heading back up; I started one hour later, so I had usable light, so If I ran into the moose again, I could identify what I was dealing with. Turns out it was a mother moose and its baby. She was just ensuring her baby was safe, which she had every right to do. So with a slight deviation, I was heading up to the glacier above. A very tame bushwhack lead me up to alpine terrain.
It was gorgeous up here, the East Face of Francis in full view and Bobs Knob on the left. There was blue ice on the East Face lower down and no wind. The couloir came into view, and I was impressed by the steep walls surrounding the access to the ridge.
|East Face Couloir|
| Heading up the East Couloir|
This was the first couloir I climbed, and now I am obsessed with ascending these beautiful formations. I love being emersed by giant walls and ascending steep snow. At the top of the couloir, I climbed a section of class 4 rock to reach the ridge. The ridge was tame, but the cornices were menacing and demonic.
I was able to stick to the rock and out of the fracture zone with ease, but it definitely could provide a false sense of security if you are uneducated. I was impressed by the sheer size of these cornices. They are so beautiful yet scary. The climbing was fun along the ridge. One short section down climbing on airy rock led to the final snow ramp to the summit. Costal summits are super special; views of jagged peaks and being a mile above the Port of Valdez are a thing.
|Cornices are real|
|Looking down the NE ridge from the summit|
I glanced down at my watch and realized I would not be making it to my evening class though I didn't really care. I came to Valdez to climb peaks and explore what Alaska offers. It was time to boogy, so I retraced my steps down the ridge and did a full 60m rappel down to reach the couloir. I glissaded the entire East Couloir of Francis, possibly the first glissade descent. I strapped my snowshoes back on and enjoyed strolling around with no moose encounters.
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