Unless someone has climbed it in the last year or so, Vanishing Pinnacle in the Revelation Mountains, a remote subrange of the Alaska Range, has only been summited three times. First in 1966, the second in 1985, and most recently in 2012. It’s a 400-foot needle that, as the first ascentionist said, is only detected in profile.
If you read the features in the 2013 American Alpine Journal the last one before the general entries was part of the new Recon section, which covers virtually untapped mountain climbing areas, Clint Helander wrote this one about the Revelations. They are rarely visited and still have peaks that, to the best of our collective knowledge, are unclimbed. The Revs are not giants, most are about 9,000 feet above sea level, but they are ripe for pioneering a new route and taking in big Alaska in solitude.
Helander is the contemporary expert on the region and has more first ascents there than anyone else. I’ve covered his most recent climbs in the Revs here on TSM before.
Helander and Ben Trocki were the third to climb Vanishing Pinnacle. The first ascent was lead by the first explorer in this range, who also happens to be my favorite alpine climbing author, David Roberts. (John Long is the best rock climbing author, for the record.)
Regarding the second ascent, Thomas Walter reported in the 1988 American Alpine Journal that, “On the top we found rusty pins slung together with a nylon belt left two decades earlier.” Walter and his would-be long-time climbing partner Greg Collins left the pins and rated the crux pitch as 5.11, even though Roberts’ team said the overall climb was F6 (i.e. 5.6), A3.
In 2012, Helander and Trocki, after climbing for 18 days on the more serious peaks and running out of food, thought what-the-heck and decided to dash up the Pinnacle. They found the pitons. For whatever reason, Helander loosened two, clipped them into a carabiner and descended with souvenirs. It wasn’t hard to guess who they might belong to.
Helander took the photo above shortly before shipping one back to its original owner. If nothing else, Roberts deserved it for his pioneering in the Revelations. Helander deserved the other for reopening the range to climbing, and even completing some unfinished business, like the second ascent of the Angel and the first ascent of Golgotha.
Roberts named them, Helander made his name through them.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Revs saw little more traffic among explorers of any kind until Helander’s arrival, and few have covered as much ground — vertical and horizontal.
Thanks goes to Clint for his repeated generosity and for sharing this story with me.