I received my 2012 American Alpine Journal in the mail shortly before I left for vacation with my family. It barely made it. I’d been planning on dropping whatever I was working through and taking the journal with me as my sole reading material. It was delivered just days before we drove north and I was thrilled to find several features that I had already been seriously daydreaming about (obsessing might be more appropriate.)
One of those topics was the first ascent of Mount Mausolus (9,170 ft. / 2,795 m.) in the Revelation Mountains, a southern section of the Alaska Range. It’s relatively little known and remote, though I suspect more ambitious alpinists seeking first ascents — the kind on virgin peaks, not virgin lines — are becoming tuned in to the history and opportunities of the region.
There have only been two key figures for the “Revs,” including author and climber David Roberts, who was the first to explore the region, and the current and active expert, Clint Helander. Helander wrote a featured article on his FA on Mausolus and I caught up with him earlier in the season over email after another FA in the Revs — Golgotha (7,930 ft. / 2,417 m.), which David Roberts essentially called his secret climb. Helander has had some significant first ascents in the Revs, in addition to Mount Mausolus including the Ice Pyramid (9,250 ft, / 2,902 m.) and Exodus (8,385 ft / 2,556 m.), Golgotha, a notable second ascent on the Angel, as well as several new ice and mixed routes in the Chugach Range.
I wanted to know a little bit more about what made him who he is and how he has become a leader in this range so I reached out to him and he consented to answer a few questions. You can learned more about his climbing accomplishments on Alpinist.com and in the American Alpine Journal, but here are some answers that give us insight into the influences that lead him to be a first ascentionist. Here’s our brief conversation:
TSM: Your climbs could be characterized as aggressive. Did you have mentors lead the way?
CH: I have always had an IMMENSE amount of respect for Mark Westman and Joe Puryear. It brings me endless amounts of pride to have been able to call Joe and Mark friends. They just accomplished so much in Alaska, no one else can really even compete with the overall volume of climbs they have completed. They learned together, climbed the hardest routes of their lives together and always remained humble and clear to their morals. They didn’t seek fame or self-promotion. They both climb(ed) for the pure love of the endeavor itself.
TSM: You have a core group of friends. Were they influential?
CH: My group of friends in Alaska is so unique. I met them in college as part of the Outdoor Club. I was 18 years old and didn’t know two shits about anything when it came to the outdoors. They took me out rafting, sea kayaking, ice climbing, mountaineering, rock climbing, hiking, etc. They had climbed Denali, traveled around the world. They were all so accomplished in my eyes. Now in many ways I have surpassed many of them in technical pursuits, but it is purely because of them that I am who I am today.
TSM: Who are your heroes?
CH: My friends are my heroes. From those who shaped me from a know nothing 18 year old punk to the Mark Westmans of the world. It makes me beam with excitement to be in so much awe of my friends. I love sharing laughs with Westman and then looking down and thinking to myself “why is this guy climbing with me? Am I worthy???”
TSM: What does alpine climbing mean to you?
CH: I feel like alpine climbing has given me a different perspective on every day life. My heart sings when I am in the mountains. My body pulses with a feeling of complete happiness. I love the bite of the cold air, the ice, the extreme vertical relief, the risk, and the reward. I love going into the unknown and pushing myself in the mountains. I love confronting my fears and doubts. I hate the failure in the moment, but I love the desire it gives me to better myself for the future. I love succeeding at a long awaited goal. It is the most meaningful form of personal expression that I have.
TSM: Will you climb forever?
CH: At this point, I honestly cannot see outgrowing climbing. I have no intentions of slowing down. I want to find a way to work seasonally or on my own time and still make a decent living, while still being able to devote a significant amount of time to climbing in Alaska and beyond.
TSM: What is your next big challenge?
CH: After my Revelations trip, I attempted the Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter. We climbed very well, but a broken crampon and core-shot rope forced a retreat from 15 pitches up. I plan on returning next year stronger, faster, and with more time to succeed on the Moonflower. There is another route in the Alaska Range that terrifies me, but I think that with a year of training, I will be ready to give it a shot if I maintain my focus on training. I also will return to the Revelations and attempt what I imagine will be my most difficult route yet. I plan to go to Yosemite in the fall. In the winter I will enter some endurance ski races and perhaps the Winter Alaska Wilderness Classic.
TSM: Thanks for indulging my curiosities, Clint. Keep up the great work, and stay safe out there.
Thank you for dropping by yet again. If you got something out of this post, you might want to consider following me on Facebook or Twitter because I believe climbing matters, even though we work nine to five.