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The Infinite Spur Next Up for Teton Climbers’ Coalition’s Winter Speaker Series

In 1977, George Lowe and Michael Kennedy made the first ascent of one of the great lines in world mountaineering, Alaska’s Infinite Spur, in an eleven-day odyssey that stretched the boundaries of alpine climbing possibility.

Forty-two years later, second-generation Teton climbing guide Michael Gardner and partner Sam Hennessy climbed the route in a 48-hour push in ski boots while carrying skis, then skied the mountain’s Sultana Ridge to descend. 

The differences and similarities between their ascents will be on display on February 18, when Lowe, Kennedy and Gardner explore the connections forged by the line as part of The Teton Climbers’ Coalition Winter Speaker Series.

The virtual event will begin at 7 p.m. Registration, which is free with a $5 suggested donation, may be made here.

For climbers, the Alaska Range holds many classic lines, but perhaps none as striking or mythical as the Infinite Spur (Grade 6 5.9 M5 AI4) on 17,400-foot Mt. Foraker. 

“This aesthetic arête soars nearly nine thousand feet directly up the south face of the second highest mountain in the range, providing a uniquely safe passage up a wall of total chaos,” notes the climbing forum Supertopo. “This route has been a distinguishing highlight in the lives of each alpinist that has completed it.”

Lowe, a PhD, is a legend among American alpinists, famous for first ascents such as the Kangshung (East) Face of Mount Everest, the North Face of Mount Alberta and the North Face of North Twin Peak in the Canadian Rockies. In the mid-1960s, he made first winter ascents of the Tetons’ Mount Owen and the Grand Teton’s North and West faces. Still avid at 76, Lowe made a one-day ascent of the Grand’s Upper Exum with his daughter in 2019, a week before his 75th birthday.

Kennedy, who ran Climbing Magazine for 26 years, is another alpine climbing luminary, with first ascents of the Northeast Face of Ama Dablam, the Wall of Shadows on Mt. Hunter and the Lowe-Kennedy route on the north face of Mt. Hunter to his credit. In 1978, he and Lowe made an infamous attempt on the North Ridge of Latok I in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range with Jim Donini and Jeff Lowe, turning back 100 meters from the summit—a high point that would stand for forty years. 

For Lowe and Kennedy, the first ascent of the Infinite Spur pushed them to a near-transcendental state, an experience Kennedy chronicled in the latest issue of Alpinist Magazine.

A professional skier on the World Tour circuit for five years, Michael Gardner’s climbing resume includes 12 guided ascents of Denali, six guided ascents of Antarctica’s Vinson Massif, more than 150 ascents of the Grand Teton, and a 36-hour single-push second ascent of Denali’s Light Traveler (VI M7 WI6, 3000m).

The series, which is being sponsored by the Hatchet Resort, Teton Mountaineering, Skinny Skis, Black Diamond, Access Fund and The American Alpine Club, in collaboration with Coombs Outdoors and the Jackson Hole High School Mountaineering Club, will be streamed via Zoom. A 45-minute “happy hour” before the main presentation will provide participants an opportunity to socialize, and to learn more about the TCC’s work on the Rec Center expansion climbing gym. 

The first virtual event, featuring world-renowned alpinist Carlos Carsolio, took place on January 21. Lowe, who was among the audience, called it “the most insightful lecture on mountaineering that I have ever attended.”

A third event is currently under development.