Iliamna Volcano

Since Redoubt Volcano was blowing it's top, James and I decided to climb Iliamna Volcano. Redoubt Volcano, the highest summit in the Aleutian Range at 11,197 feet, began erupting in March, spraying ash across Southcentral Alaska. Although Iliamna is just 30 miles from Redoubt, Iliamna was not doused with ash. Seismographs showed Redoubt was rumbling during our trip, but no major eruptions.  

In 2000, James and I attempted the West Buttress on Denali. We also had an incredible trip to the highest peak in the Chugach Mountains, 13,176-foot Mount Marcus Baker. This trip to Iliamna Volcano followed suit: an amazing mountain adventure filled with excellent climbing and fun company. James works at his family art gallery in Raleigh.

  • Mountain: 10,016-foot Iliamna Volcano, second highest mountain in the 600-mile long Aleutian Range.

  • Range: Chigmit Mountains of the Aleutian Range

  • Route: NW Face, see map below

  • Partner: James Kesterson of Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Pilot: Doug Brewer of Alaska West Air

  • References: Alaska Climbing Guide by Mike Wood and Colby Coombs

Pilot Doug Brewer flying his Piper Super Cub past a smouldering Redoubt Volcano. This photo was published as a double-page spread in Alaska magazine.  

We set up base camp at 4,000 feet on the Tongue Glacier. Redoubt puffing. We landed at 4,000 feet on the Tongue Glacier. Our ascent route is shown by the red line. The blue line is our descent route from the summit.

James descending from a load carry to high camp at 6,700-feet. Our route climbed the middle of the face, then joined right skyline (west ridge). We descended the middle of the face as described in Wood and Coombs. 

James at our 6,700-foot bergschrund high camp. We found a large pool of meltwater on the ridge above camp. 

 Tuxedni Glacier from high camp. 

James leaning into 40 mph winds during summit day on the northwest face.  

Crux pitch on the West Ridge.  

James on the football field summit with the northern Chigmit Mountains and Tordrillo Mountains beyond. 

James descending the upper northwest face. Notice Redoubt's vog (volcanic fog) blowing toward us from the high winds. We smelled strong sulfur all day. Some of the stench came from the Iliamna vents. 

 Back at high camp after a nine-hour summit day. 

Doug Brewer coming to pick us up.