03 Jul Moonflower free ascent by Tony Stone
Stephen Fortune, Viv Scott and Tony Stone, supported by a BMC Expedition Award, made a two-day ascent of the Moonflower Buttress on Alaska’s Mt Hunter.
In their purposes, the first ascent of the Z Buttress on Hunter’s West Ridge, but as they discovered that two Swiss had beaten them to it just one week previously, they set off for the Moonflower, climbing the 1,200m buttress in two days and finishing in excellent style by continuing the remaining 600m up the North East Ridge to Hunter’s 4,444m summit, and then descending the rather revered West Ridge.
This is their comment to the ascent: “The Mugs route gave superb continuously high quality and very sustained and varied technical climbing- the finest route any of us has yet climbed in the mountains and Tony put his productive scottish winter to good use, freeing all the aid sections at approx scottish VII 7 with the exception of the pendulum into the McNethery ice dagger. It was a great season for the north buttress of Mount Hunter, with at least half a dozen ascents. The Moonflower route had at least two other ascents and while we were on it teams also climbed the French route, Deprivation, and the Wall of Shadows.”
The Moonflower was climbed to the end of the difficulties – above the final rock band – in 1981 by New Zealander Paul Aubery and American Mugs Stump. In 1983 Todd Bibler and Doug Klewin climbed significant variants in the lower section and on the final rock band (the Bibler Come Again Exit) .American Stephen Koch and Slovenian Marko Prezelj made the first free ascent of the route in 2001, climbing the route to the Cornice Bivouac in just 25 hours.
Like the Infinite Spur and the Cassin, the route is considered a world class climbing objective. Although it has been called “The Nose” of the Alaska Range,. the sheer 4,000-foot granite buttress replete with difficult ice, rock, mixed, and aid climbing has less than 20 ascents to the top of the buttress and far fewer to the true summit. For even the world’s best climbers, an ascent is a career defining achievement. The buttress does not succumb easily and despite some good attempts, no one climbed to the buttress top in the years 2002 through 2005.