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Found 31 results

  1. I am looking to get setup with Few people to explore the Ruth Gorge in - 2018 Spring/Summer Season. My idea is to spend few days in Anchorage first - One day in Matanuska Glacier (Get all the crevasse rescue and ice climbing). If possible hike one day in - Exit Glacier (Get more situated with Alaskan Glacier Travel). Then fly down and setup a Base camp in - Ruth Gorge for 2/3 Days. Get familiar with the area and do some climbing with skill level permits. I am not a die hard mountaineer or climber - I can do whatever is my limit. Looking for few like minded people to share the Guide cost or any other cost which can be split. If you wanna do more intense climbing - you are most welcome to do so. With Regards Tapas
  2. Trip: Ruth Gorge Alaska - Ham & Eggs, Shaken Not Stirred, and SW Ridge 11300 Date: 5/16/2016 Trip Report: Joe Peters and I just got back from a great 2 week trip to the Ruth Gorge in Alaska. This was my 2nd Alaska expedition (the first being to Denali WB) and I was a little surprised at how much easier it is to "plane camp"....no hauling sleds!! The packing phase for this trip was more like 4 books....sure; 2 sets of tools....why not; a dozen eggs....yes!! You get the picture. You can pretty much take whatever you want as long as you are willing to pay the extra money when you have over 125lbs of gear. Overall we had a fantastic time and were able to climb three great routes. Overview April 30 - Fly to Anchorage, travel to Talkeetna May 2 - Fly with TAT to the Root Canal May 4 - Climb Ham and Eggs on Mooses Tooth May 7 - Climb Shaken Not Stirred on Mooses Tooth May 12 - Bump flight to the West Fork of the Ruth May 14 - Climb Southwest Ridge of Peak 11300 May 15 - Fly home to Spokane Warning: as usual, I tend to ramble and be lengthy so if you are looking for the pictures just scroll down. A couple words about gear/food. As I said you can bring whatever you want. We brought a Hilleberg Nammatj 3GT for base camp and an MH EV2 to use if we wanted to on routes. In the end we just single pushed all the routes so we each had our own tent at camp. It may have been overkill but it was nice on storms days! Both Joe and I brought Exped MegaMat 10LXW sleeping mats. They are heavy and bulky but they sleep as though you were on your mattress at home!! By far the best base camp mat I have ever seen or used. The kitchen tent was super nice even for just a party of 2. Great to get out of the weather, cook, hangout, store gear etc... Speaking of storage bring Rubbermaid boxes. We only brought one and wished we had more. They stack, keep stuff organized, make excellent places to eat/cook, and keep your chips and bread from getting mashed. As for food bring anything and everything. On storm days or rest days cooking gives you something to do. We made breakfast burritos, fajitas, pasta and lots of other great dishes. My personal favorite was our make shift oven. I took a round cooling rack and used a circular baking sheet on top of it. Then I put the cooling rack in a deep dish frying pan and put the lid on it. This elevates the baking sheet up an inch and you can bake to your hearts content. We made warm biscuits with butter and honey, chocolate chip cookies, and my favorite...personal pizzas. We took split boards which worked well for flotation and gave us something to do for an active recovery. Bring a 5 gallon bucket and a toilet seat that fits on top. It is WAY better than squatting over the little CMC cans the NPS provide. Last minute sorting while waiting to load our stuff into one of Talkeetna Air Taxi's Otters. Paul flew us in....also a treat to fly with such a great pilot. Views looking up the Gorge as we approach the Root Canal Glacier. The huge east face of Mt Dickey dwarfs the 2,500 ft tall Mt. Barril with Denali in the background. After landing on the Root Canal we took advantage of good weather to get on Ham and Eggs a couple days later. I can see why this climb is so popular. The crux sections are steep but short and the final summit ridge to the top is safe but great exposure and views. In talking with a guide who has been to the Ruth many seasons, he said this year it was in "friendly condition". It was busy that is for sure. We left camp at 4am about 1 1/2 hrs behind the first group of 2. Another party of 3 left 1 1/2 hrs behind us. And while occasionally we had to wait for people or others waited for us, everyone got along and all parties summited. There is lots of beta out there so I won't get into too much detail. We broke up the climbing into lead blocks. I pitched out the 1st couple entrance pitches through mixed terrain and an ice step. From there we simuled over easy snow to the crux. Joe got in a couple of good screws then clipped some fixed pins right before the top out. Above the crux we simuled to the top. The ice steps were in good condition and gave adequate protection making for some really fun climbing. From the col we continued up to the summit passing a v-thread and a couple of buried pickets on the way. We had clear but windy skies up top. Beautiful views of the Alaskan Range. Started back down and had a couple of rappels and some down climbing to get to the col. Then about 16 rappels later we reached the glacier below. All the rap stations had good fixed gear, and all told we were just under 10 hrs round trip from camp. Unloading our stuff at the Root Canal airstrip. Happy to be on glacier. Our camp on the ridge above the Root Canal with Mooses Tooth and our objectives in the background. Joe leading the way through the lower easy snow slopes. You can see the 2 of two ahead of us on the crux of Ham and Eggs. Joe leading us through the easier ice steps above the crux of Ham and Eggs. Climbing past a huge boulder along the ridge on the way up Ham and Eggs. Joe topping out on the corniced summit of Mooses Tooth after completing Ham and Eggs. Looking south across the range from the summit of Mooses Tooth. Rappelling one of the pitches mid way up Ham and Eggs. Shaken Not Stirred is the big brother to Ham and Eggs. Not in the sense of height or vantage but in the degree of difficulty. Overall the route has a lot more steep sections of ice and more mixed rock. Then the crux is obviously harder. We talked with 2 separate parties who bailed before the crux. So armed with some determination we took all the gear....aiders, talon hooks, the usual rack, and even rock shoes. For Shaken to be good you need a very cold night best after some warm afternoon. On Saturday we woke up at 4am to 15F in the tents and decided it was the day. Outside the weather was less than perfect with some low clouds coming and going, but we opted to give it a shot. As it turns out they all burnt off and it was a great day out. We left camp at 5am and quickly arrived at the base. The beginning couple of pitches were not rotten or scary as had been reported. We found neve snow and good ice. Joe led up to the easy couloir where I took over the step kicking and simuled up to the "narrows". From here we pitched it out changing leads. Even if you don't get to the top of the route the narrows are totally worth climbing. Absolutely cool and appropriately named. At 1 spot you couldn't face into the ice because your shoulders wouldn't fit between the rock walls. The ice quality was generally good and pretty soon we arrived at the crux. I led the pitch below the crux and put the belay on the right wall about 20 feet below tucked out of the way. The climb turns a bit left at the crux so my belay spot was out of the firing line which as it turns out was probably one of the best decisions I made that day. The crux is basically a chockstone jammed between the walls. It protrudes out 3 or 4 feet from the back wall. Ice pours over the chockstone and the cave it forms underneath was full of snow. The right side is steep rock while the left was a little more friendly with a couple of thin cracks and a veneer of ice. Joe took a look and said he was going to do it. He decided to leave his pack at the belay and soon took off. Climbing up he got in a 10cm stubby screw in the ice on the left. He put it as high as the ice allowed before it thinned down but it was probably 15 feet below the actual chockstone. From there he worked up towards the ice above. The large section of snow was soft and unconsolidated. Attempting to get a handhold to weight slightly while reaching up with the other tool the unthinkable happened. The entire section of snow probably the size of several refrigerators gave out and it all came crashing down. I caught his fall and flattened myself into the corner as the huge chunk of snow cartwheeled just a few feet to my left. His stubby screw held and nobody was injured. Now that the snow was gone he climbed right back up and was able to get a #1 BD C4 high up underneath the chockstone. Then he worked out left and up mixed terrain. Finally he got in some good sticks above and pulled over the chockstone. We both relaxed a bit as he got in a good screw. I followed but had my own challenge as the large ice coming over the chockstone broke off with me on it. After dangling in space for a minute I was able to drytool up under where the ice had been and reach the easier terrain above. We were excited to have got the crux, and I took over the lead expecting 3 easy pitches worth of snow above. It was quickly apparent that was not the case. The topo we had said to go up over a snow hump then traverse left. As I went up my progress soon slowed as I began excavating. It wasn't quite a tunnel but at times it felt like it as I worked up digging a 3 foot wide trench through the vertical snow. An hour or so later I had made it up 30-40 feet and dug a big hole through the snow hump looking down into the traverse and the next couloir. Joe followed the pitch then we simuled up to the top. After a couple quick pictures and some water we started the process of descending the route. It was obvious from the rap stations that Shaken doesn't get climbed as much as Ham and Eggs. We replaced several cords, added some rap rings/carabiners and beefed up a couple of stations with a pin or nut. Rappelling the 1st couple pitches at the bottom drove home the need for cold temps. All the snow and ice had turned to mush in the afternoon sun. We arrived back at camp at 5:30pm in time for a much needed dinner. We were super stoked to have climbed such a fine line, but also very taxed both physically and mentally. Looking up at Shaken Not Stirred on the day before our climb. Joe leading through some of the ice on the 1st couple of pitches of Shaken. Joe coming up the snow couloirs below the "narrows". Joe climbing up through the 1st pitch of the narrows. Unbelievably cool climbing! Joe leading another awesome pitch of narrows climbing. Here is Joe working on the crux prior to his fall. Here is what the crux looks like after the snow all fell out. Quite a big hole!! Looking back at the traverse and top of the trench through the snow hump. After a couple of days rest we started to get itchy to move. We wanted to "bump" to the West Fork of the Ruth and try Peak 11300's SW ridge. The weather was nice so we called TAT to get our bump. They said to get ready ASAP. Unfortunately in the meantime of breaking camp it clouded back up and we had packed for nothing. Not wanting to drag all of our stuff back up the ridge to our camp we settled for taking the necessities. The next day we arrived back at the airstrip cache to find our stuff in a complete mess. The ravens had opened up everything and destroyed, carried off, or ate about 2 weeks of Joe's food. I only lost a couple days worth because a lot of mine was in a rubbermaid box. Spirits were low as the snow fell for another day but the lesson was learned....Rubbermaids all around next year! Spending some time watching the clouds and light dance on the mountains. The big rock buttress looks very inspiring!! Our big mess of destroyed food after the ravens got into it. Bring Rubbermaids, bury your stuff or keep it in a tent! The dreary days of waiting......listening to music, cooking, reading. A shot looking down the Ruth Gorge on our bump flight to the West Fork of the Ruth. We finally got our bump on Thursday and proceeded to setup camp at the base of Peak 11300 while we watched avalanches and seracs fall off the faces as the sun moved. We decided to attempt the route in a single push with only down parka/pants for backup. We also brought an MSR Reactor stove and 16oz of fuel along with 1 cooked meal per person. The weather window looked good but temps were very warm. As a resulted we decided to leave fairly early and try to beat the heat. Alarms went off and we were soon following the boot pack out of camp at 2:15am. I led out as we transitioned from the flat glacier to the starting slopes up to the ridge. Simul-climbing we quickly reached the 1st rock band. We simuled through it, then I brought Joe up so I could get the gear back. Another block of snow and rock and we were just below the "thin man's squeeze". The rock steps were just so much fun with great gear that I couldn't stop smiling. Another block and we took a break at the 1st col to rehydrate and eat. The sun was starting to light up Huntington and the other surrounding peaks. Another simul block brought us up through the S couloir and to the rap into the 2nd col. I pitched out the next short section through the ledges and mantle move, more for rope drag than anything else. From here Joe took over the lead and we headed up weaving around rocks, up snow, and climbing mixed steps. For the most part the route stayed on the ridge or just to the right of it. The crux of the route felt like it was the last "5.8 gully" noted on the topo. Joe got the lead as we continued our simul climbing through it. It was super fun climbing and protected very well. From there we pretty much made a beeline to the summit. The last few hundred feet were snow although you could dig down and put a screw in the ice to protect every once in a while. Topped out at 10am and into the warmth of the sun. The views from the summit and along the ridge are stunning, some of the best I have seen! We quickly headed for the descent as we knew things were getting sloppy. The ridge to the top of the rappels had a bookrack but required a little bit of down climbing in some spots with serious runout in soft snow. We added another rappel anchor at the 1st rock outcrop above the sheltered col because the down climb looked hazardous in the current conditions. Then once over the col the regular raps started. There is actually a fair bit of traversing between rappels but never too bad. Finally after 8 raps or so we made it over the bergshrund and on to the glacier below. We had watched the slopes slide yesterday so we quickly made our way down crossing a couple of crevasses on the way. The whole bowl was baking in the sun by now and we longed for the shade of the tents at camp. We got back at 2:30pm making it in 12hrs and change tent to tent. The rest of the afternoon was a blur and by 5:30pm we were sitting at the Mountain High Pizza Pie in Talkeetna with the great white mountains only a memory. And so an Alaska trip is over but we are already talking about next year!! Our camp on the West Fork of the Ruth. It is such a beautiful setting. Peak 11300 catches some afternoon sunshine in the Ruth. Rooster Comb can be seen the background. A panorama somewhere below the 1st col. Joe is just a tiny dot along the ridge line in the middle. Looking up to the "grey rock" and the S couloir from the 1st col. The North Face of Huntington catches rays of morning sunshine. In the foreground you can see the tracks at the rappel to the 2nd col. Joe leading the way up the upper section of the ridge as the sun is starting to round the summit. A super wide angle showing the Ruth Gorge and Alaska range. On the right Joe is coming down the summit ridge behind me and on the left you can see the boot track continue down the corniced ridge. Looking back up at the steep corniced ridge that we descended.
  3. Trip: Lucifer - North Face "Agua Sin Gas" (FA) Date: 5/15/2015 Trip Report: Summary: New route on the north face of Lucifer on May 15 2015. John Frieh (Portland, OR) and Doug Shepherd (Denver, CO) "Agua Sin Gas" III W4/steep snow Lucifer is the peak just left of center: Details: I made my first trip to the Stikine Icecap in 2009 to make the first ascent of the west ridge of Burkett Needle. The climbing on the Needle was trumped only by the scenery; the Icecap seemed to be teeming with beautiful lines. I was amazed to learn many of them were unclimbed and as a result have more or less returned every year to attempt to climb one of them. In 2014 while approaching the West Witches Tit Jess and I spotted on the other side of what local climbers call "The Cauldron" or "Witches Cauldron" a very attractive looking face. I took a few photos and made a mental note to keep it in mind when a conditions and weather window coincided; I didn't expect it would be the following year. After reading SE Alaska's snowpack was 30% of normal earlier this year I more or less assumed I wouldn't get to climb there unless a weather window appeared early in the year. In August of 2013 I was shut down by extremely difficult glacier conditions in a low snow year and didn't want another "scenic helicopter flight" trip. I was in Salt Lake City the Monday prior training with some climbers when I noticed a solid weather window was taking shape. I pinged the usual suspects and Doug was available for a quick trip. I flew home from SLC Tuesday night, packed bags and drove to Seattle Wednesday night to meet Doug and catch the early flight north Thursday. Wally zipped us in Thursday afternoon; it was after he dropped us off as we were setting up camp that we realized I had in fact forgotten the stove in Portland. I think for most trips this would have ended the trip right there but the warm temps of the high pressure had turned the glacier into soup and we found a few shallow pools to collect water from. Still... no hot water meant no coffee which is an epic in my book. Doug earned a partner of the year nomination for not killing me right then and there. Given the heat wave we opted for a 2 am departure from camp in hopes of climbing a large majority of the face in the predawn hours. We found the same puddles we had collected water from the night prior unfrozen at 1 am so we knew it was going to be a mess. We managed most of the face before sunrise but we found the face slow going with numerous crevasses and sloppy snow in the unusual heat. We were hoping for a direct line up the headwall to the summit but given the temps and conditions opted for a safer, less direct line off the face climbers left of the summit. We managed the ~4000' face in about 12 hours; though we encountered some vertical snow/snice in places found the majority of the terrain to be moderate. All in all a good day out. We managed to snag a pick up some day and were back in Petersburg later in the day on the 15th making for a <24 hour Petersburg to Petersburg trip. Given my fuck up we opted to name the route "Agua sin gas" which in Spanish means "water without gas" Though usually this is reserved for still water (i.e. not sparkling water) it happened to also hold true for our situation. My 5th first ascent on the Icecap; my 10th in Alaska. Pictures: Glacier shenanigans Throw the horns! Partner of the year Gear Notes: Petzl Laser Speed Light screws. Arcteryx FL 30 was the perfect size for this route. Approach Notes: Wally at Temsco Air in Petersburg
  4. Trip: Mount Dickey (Ruth Gorge) - NE Face "Blue Collar Beatdown" (FA) Date: 3/20-22/2015 Summary: New route on the NE face of Mount Dickey on March 20-22nd 2015. John Frieh (Portland, OR), Jason Stuckey (Fairbanks, AK) and Chad Diesinger (Fairbanks, AK) “Blue Collar Beatdown” V W4 M4 65 degree snow Details: After much deliberation over where the low would settle in the gulf and what that would mean for weather in the central range I finally committed and grabbed a last minute ticket to Fairbanks. I landed early in the morning of the 19th and Jason, Chad and I immediately departed for Talkeetna. We rolled into town just as the Roadhouse opened where we each pounded the traditional half standard, a Rudy and a Razzy before heading to Talkeetna Air Taxi. After some bag shuffling we departed for the Ruth. As always Paul was gracious enough to “fly slow” on our way in and, after some observations from the air, ruled out a few possibles and made a decision to look at the NE face of Mount Dickey. After establishing camp (one of the downsides of being the first team of the year is you can’t recycle old campsites) we skied over and glassed the NE face. Though what we found wasn’t exactly confidence inspiring it was enough to merit a “let’s go see tomorrow” plan for the following morning. Upon returning to camp we found in the 90 minutes we had been gone a pack of ravens had ripped several holes in both brand new tents, opened a few duffels to pull out their contents out but mostly shit on everything. You can probably guess how we felt about this. The following morning we departed camp at approximately 4:45 am and made the short ski over to Dickey. We cached the skis near the face and started hiking. To be honest I can’t recall when we reached the face (it all sort of blends together) but I want to say around 7 am or so. We climbed two full pitches of snice (snow ice) that took sticks great but was a little limited on protection options. Given how thin these pitches were in places it would be my opinion that possible repeaters of this route should plan on an early spring ascent. These two pitches put us on the snow ramp that slashed the face. We immediately started blocking it out; simulclimbing when the terrain allowed for it. We encountered bottomless sugar to mixed climbing and everything in between. I had the final block of the day that started at dusk and ended well past dark. Our original plan/hope was to be off the face before the sunset and then rely on my knowledge of the descent from my 2012 ascent to descend in the darkness or, worst case, enjoy a sit, brew and exercise session on the summit plateau. Unfortunately we were not and after getting shut down by complex route finding in the dark we resigned to digging a pseudo snowcave into the side of a snow fin and sitting down to wait for dawn. When we finally sat down and settled in it was around midnight so we "enjoyed" four long hours of the Alaska night. Ironically (at least to me I suppose) that night was the last night of winter and the following morning was the first day of spring. As none of us had brought any bivy gear the Reactor saw plenty of use that night. No one slept out of fear for their fingers and toes. As soon as it was light we blasted out of the cave and promptly restarted our efforts to get off the face. After two failed attempts we finally found a way off the face. It was much later in the day than any of us had hoped. We slogged over and tagged the summit around 5 pm or so (again: it all blends together). We reached 747 pass around 8 or so and sat down for a final brew session as the last of the daylight faded away. Coffee, Perpetuem and what little we had left to eat was consumed before we began what would end up taking another 8 hours to finally reach our tent on March 20th at 4 am. All told we were awake for 48 hours and more or less on the move for all of it minus the 4 hour "sit and suffer" session. "Blue Collar Beatdown" is my second first ascent on Mount Dickey and my 9th “first” in Alaska since my first trip in 2009. Many thanks to all the great partners that have climbed with me on these over the years. My thanks to Paul and the great people at Talkeetna Air Taxi for the superior service. I cannot emphasize how critical a solid, reliable pilot is to the “Smash and Grab” approach; arguably it would be impossible without one. Fly TAT; you get what you pay for. Also a big thanks to the great people of Mountain Gear and the Alta Group for supporting local climbers like us as well as many local projects that benefit the climbing community. Finally many thanks to my Gym Jones family for teaching me how to suffer and the power of self image. Onward. Pictures: Off the glacier Looking back Trenching it up. The trench exceeded 6 feet in places. The pseudo cave. A dark night As first light breaks we immediately started climbing again Hour 40. Wasted. Gear Notes: Petzl Lynx: everyone wore these Petzl Laser Speed Lights: I can't get over how light these are but how well they hold up. The future. Arcteryx Alpha FL 45: My third "big" route in AK with this bag. Absolutely love it. The roll top took me a little bit to warm up to but I am a big fan now. Perfect size. GUs and Shot Blocks for the high heart rate stuff; bars and peanut butter for the lower heart rate stuff. Coffee and Perpetuem makes the world go round Laser Speed LIGHT! Approach Notes: I'll say it again: My thanks to Paul and the great people at Talkeetna Air Taxi for the superior service. I cannot emphasize how critical a solid, reliable pilot is to the “Smash and Grab” approach; arguably it would be impossible without one. Fly TAT; you get what you pay for. http://www.talkeetnaair.com
  5. Trip: West Witches Tit - West Ridge "No Rest For the Wicked" (FA) Date: 5/28/2014 Summary: First Ascent of the West Ridge of the West Witches Tit on May 28-29th 2014. John Frieh and Jess Roskelley. “No Rest For the Wicked” WI6 M7 A0 No Rest For the Wicked ascends the left hand skyline of the left hand peak Details: Nearly five years ago I made my second trip ever to Alaska where Dave Burdick and I made the first ascent of the West Ridge of Burkett Needle. That climb made a huge impression on me and I began making a list of climbs I wanted to return for. One of the lines I found in John Scurlock's excellent gallery was the West Ridge of the West Witches Tit. John's photo made it look like a series of easy granite ramps and the Ice Cap manager confirmed it was still unclimbed. In August of 2013 I flew with a group from Portland intent on attempting that line; unfortunately a lean winter followed by a hot summer resulted in impassable glaciers so the team opted for the 50 classic East Ridge of the Devils Thumb. A nagging injury from earlier in the season forced me to sit that one out and delivered me my first Stikine shutout. I had to return. I did this year and on May 28th Jess and I flew from SEA to PSG where we obtained our Stikine Ice Cap permits from the Manager and then flew to the Devils Thumb massif's single landing zone SE of the Devils Thumb. We scouted part of the approach before turning in early. The following morning (May 29th) we departed camp around 3:30 am and began the long traverse around the Devil's Thumb massif to reach our proposed route on the West Witches Tit. After 8+ hours of traversing multiple glaciers and ridges that required climbing and rappelling we finally reached the West Ridge which we were "pleasantly surprised" to find was anything but easy granite ramps. We took a brew stop and debated our options; if it had been any later in the day I doubt we would have tried. In the end Jess said "why not?" and we launched just before noon. Almost immediately we were faced with stout mixed climbing. I kept thinking "that had to be the crux!" only to be faced with another hard pitch. Roughly halfway up the route Jess led arguably one of, if not the hardest pitch I've ever seen in the mountains. 15 inches wide give or take; perfectly smooth and would have been unclimbable if not for the ice in the back of the chimney. Exiting out required lying back a giant flake with your feet above your head to attempt to get sticks in shit snow. Stout! As the pitch took nearly 2 hours to lead my sense was to bail at this point but we couldnt let such a proud pitch go to waste. More hard climbing followed; all told I recall 3 or 4 solid M6ish pitches and one solid M7 when it was all said and done. Near the top we crossed over Bill Belcourt and Randy Rackliff's rap line from their original first ascent of the West Witches Tit in May of 1995. We summited around 11:30 pm making the fifth overall ascent of the West Witches Tit. We discussed our options; though we were told a rap line existed down the south face that would make our hike back to camp shorter we were very worried about finding it in the dark and then rapping down new terrain. In the end we opted to rap the Belcourt/Rackliff line as we knew were it started and had some good beta from Randy and Bill about it. It turned out to be the right decision as their excellent line took us down very steep terrain on a single 70m rope. As an aside their unrepeated line on the SW face looks amazing. We hit the glacier sometime around 5 am; at this point it all gets foggy for me as all told we were awake and on the go for 36 hours on a measly 3000 calories each. We likely would have laid down for a brief shiver nap but with the weather window rapidly closing we death marched our way back to camp where Wally promptly snatched us up. "No Rest For the Wicked" is my fourth first ascent on the Stikine Ice Cap in the five years I have been climbing there and one of, if not the hardest route I have climbed ever anywhere. I am proud of our effort. Thanks to Wally of Temsco Air for the superior service; Dieter Klose for continuing to tolerate my flagrant behavior in the Stikine and of course Jess for being a great partner. Thanks to Randy and Bill for the great beta and encouragement as well as John Scurlock; I lost count how many FAs his pictures have provided me. Thanks to the great people of Mountain Gear and the Alta Group for supporting local climbers like us. Finally many thanks to my Gym Jones family for teaching me how to suffer and the power of self image. Onward. Pictures: Morning Coffee One of the more involved approaches I have done Foreshortened view from the col Stout pitches early on About to finally get some sun Cruiser Le Crux Another stout pitch High on the route Summit Hour 30: Starting to break down but still 6 more hours to go
  6. Trip: Mt Huntington - French (NW) Ridge (FWA) Date: 3/1/2014 Trip Report: Summary: On March 1st, Brad Farra (Portland, OR), Jason Stuckey (Fairbanks, Alaska) and I, John Frieh (Portland, OR), flew from Talkeetna to the Tokositna Glacier (~8600') below the west face of Mt. Huntington. We skipped establishing a base camp and instead immediately started climbing the French (NW) ridge, reaching an elevation of ~10,500' before bivying for the night. On March 2nd we started climbing around 8 am and reached the summit of Mt. Huntington just under 16 hours later around 11:30 pm. Due to the late summit we enjoyed a second bivy just below the summit at >12,000 feet. Six hours later we defrosted ourselves with mass quantities of coffee before beginning a descent of the West Face Couloir (Nettle-Quirk) around 9 am. As Jason and I had climbed and descended the WFC in the winter of 2011 we were able to move quickly down the route and reached landing zone around 3 pm on March 3rd, making for ~51 hours on route. I believe this was the first winter ascent of the French Ridge of Mt Huntington during the winter season and the third overall winter ascent to date. Bob Butterfield's photo of the French Ridge (sun/shadow line): Brad on route; Jason Stuckey photo: Itinerary: Feb 28/March 1: PDX -> ANC -> Talkeetna March 1: Paul/TAT flew us to the East Fork of the Tokostina Glacier (~12 pm). Climbed to ~10,500' March 2: Mt Huntington summit March 3: Descent via the WFC; evening pick up Back story: I would be willing to bet most would agree Mount Huntington is a beautiful mountain. Classic lines, big faces, no "easy" way to the summit... dig out Alpinist 20 for a sweet mountain profile. For no particular reason the French ridge has always appealed to me... part aesthetics, part history (Lionel Terray!), and part commitment (you can't exactly bail off the route easily if conditions change). I knew the amount of snow and the size of the cornices would determine how quickly one could climb the ridge (if not summit at all) so I started considering the French ridge as either a fall climb or a late winter/early spring climb in hopes of finding ideal conditions. My thought was if one timed it just right this would be the best time to encounter minimal slogging and more importantly minimal cornices. I almost attempted it a few times over the last few years but something always prevented me from trying or a different line in the range looked better. Finally it all came together so we went for it... and it just so happened to be winter. That is to say I wasn't intent on making the FWA; I just wanted to climb it. This trip likely would never have happened if it not for the excellent beta that Paul Roderick of Talkeetna Air Taxi provided on conditions. Best pilot and best flight service in Alaska. Also Mark Westman has been an excellent source of AK beta for me over the years; I know I asked him for his opinion of my Huntington idea more than once. Pictures: Early on climbing to get onto the ridge top: Almost on the ridge: First bivy: Second day sun: Early on second day: Getting closer... but not that close: Gear Notes: Light is Right! Petzl Quarks + Vasaks, new Arcteryx FL 45 liter pack (so sweet!), coffee Approach Notes: Talkeetna Air Taxi
  7. Trip: Revelation Mountains - Apocalypse (First Ascent) - A Cold Day in Hell Date: 4/7/2013 Trip Report: Well, since I'm now back in the normal "work world" and the adventures of the spring are nothing more than a distant memory, I guess it's time to spray about them. This was the first big Alaska climbing trip I did this year when I made my annual pilgrimage to the Revelation Mountains, located at the extreme western end of the Alaska Range. Since 2008 I have been to the "Revs" every year and have plucked off quite a few hidden gems in this seldom visited range. This year was particularly frustrating since we had to wait nearly two weeks to fly in due to the Revelations' fickle weather patterns. Apocalypse Peak is one of the highest peaks in the Revs at 9,340 feet. It was also the tallest unclimbed peak in the area and has always been on my hitlist. The 4,500 foot West Face is one of the most impressive walls in all of the Revelations. This peak looks like it belongs more in the Kichatnas. Several big walls, that are larger than El Capitan, jut skyward in daunting profile. April however, is a time for ice routes, so Aaron Thrasher, Jason Stuckey and I went sniffing around the West Face for a weakness that just may allow us access to the upper mountain. We were pleased to find the perfect "sneak" as Aaron called it. On the right side of the West Face, a weakness revealed a thin vein of ice dribbling several thousand feet down from a long and narrow couloir. It was an obvious line and we wasted no time in giving it an attempt. Aaron was out of time and had to fly out, so Jason and I started the next morning. The climb began with a beautiful rivulet of grade four ice, which we simulclimbed over about 300 feet. A steep gully of snow lead to more lower angle ice which went on for nearly 1000 feet. More steep snow lead to one of the route's crux pitches, a rapidly melting vein of grade five alpine ice that was no more than shoulder width for almost 200 feet. Just as Jason began seconding the pitch, my friend Conor flew by as he picked Aaron up from the glacier. They took an amazing shot of us on route. We continued up a steep gully that offered scant protection and eventually found a great narrow bivy just as the sun faded behind the peaks to the west. We chopped the ledge out for about an hour and then set up our First Light and enjoyed the rest. The next morning we set off early and immediately encountered more steep, cruxy ice pitches before the angle kicked back to 60 degrees. We simulclimbed most of the upper face, placing tons of ice screws and the occasional piece of rock gear. We eventually exited the technically challenging terrain but had lots of steep and very exposed snow plodding to contend with. We got to the summit ridge and could see that the north summit, a quarter-mile away, was about ten feet taller. We had to tag it...it was a first ascent. With only two pickets we resorted to trust. I wouldn't fall, if he wouldn't fall. Deal. The notoriously bad weather of the Revelations was no where to be found and we enjoyed perfect views the whole trip. The summit was extremely small, only one of us could stand on top at a time. The Apocalypse is one of the few Revelation peaks with a detailed history. It was been attempted several times by crusty Alaskan climbers in the 1980s, but has not even been tried for almost 30 years. Dick Flaharty of Fairbanks spent ten days on the central big wall, climbing 1,500 feet before encountering a band of poor rock. He was so enamored by the mountain however, that he named his clothing company, Apocalpyse Designs, after the peak. A year or two later, Karl Swanson of Talkeetna attempted the central snow line on a solo mission, but turned around when an avalanche poured over his head and nearly took him for the final ride. I was astounded to discover that he was less than 500 vertical feet from the summit. So close!!! We rappelled back to our high camp and had enough food to stay for another night. We had perfect weather and didn't feel rushed so we decided to enjoy our success and the perfect bivy. In the morning we continued our descent and touched ground by late afternoon. A major inversion had me shivering all the way to camp, and we were not surprised when our thermometer had bottomed out at -20. The next morning it was even colder, and when Paul Roderick from Talkeetna Air Taxi picked us up, he said it was -35. Another wonderful trip to the Revelations is in the books. Can't wait to go back next year! Hey Jens...you game? Check out my feature article in the 2013 American Alpine Journal (available in August), which fully details the history and potential of the Revelation Mountains. Thanks for reading! -Clint Helander Gear Notes: Tons of ice screws, a few pickets, a handful of rock gear (pins, a few nuts, some cams). Approach Notes: You gotta pay to play! A very expensive flight!
  8. Trip: Mt Wake (Ruth Gorge) - S Face via Johnson/Wake Col "The Cook Inlet" (FA) Date: 10/22/2012 Summary: First Ascent of the South face of Mount Wake via the Johnson/Wake col on October 22 2012. John Frieh and Jess Roskelley. “The Cook Inlet” 4,500', V AI4 M4 Details: On October 21 around 4 pm, Jess Roskelley (Spokane, WA) and I, John Frieh (Portland, OR), flew from Talkeetna to the Ruth Glacier below Mt. Dickey in the Ruth Gorge. We were able to scope out two possible lines before it got dark. After some discussion we decided to attempt an unclimbed line on the south face of Mt Wake. On October 22 we crossed the schrund at 9 am (late start due to what little sun Alaska gets this time of year) and made slow but steady progress up to the Johnson/Wake col. We bypassed the serac (crux) on the climbers right with a few pitches of AI4 and 100% premium Ruth Gorge "cracker jack consistency" granite mixed climbing. From the col we climbed through some mixed bands (M4) to reach the summit of Wake shortly before sunset. Nine hours of daylight is as short as it sounds. We retraced our steps back to the col where we took a coffee/perpeteum brew stop before continuing the descent into the night. Minus an almost unroped crevasse fall (me) it was largely uneventful. We reached our skis around midnight (15 hours skis to skis) where we opted for a nap before continuing the ski back to basecamp in the morning. Later in the morning on the 23rd Paul Roderick of Talkeetna Air Taxi picked us up and brought us back to Talkeetna to make for a brief 40 or so hours in the range. Many thanks to John Calder for the ANC logistics, Paul Roderick and the TAT crew, and Jess Roskelley for taking a chance climbing with a complete stranger. Jess is a solid climber who I look forward to climbing with again. Also many thanks to my Gym Jones family for the continued guidance and encouragement. Much respect. Home in the Range Bedtime chores October 22 Jess Above the col Jess's first Alaska First Ascent Gear Notes: Two FAs in Alaska in October both on Petzl Lynx; they are quickly becoming my favorite crampon. Lots of Wild Squirrel Approach Notes: Smash and Grab style climbing in the Alaska Range would not be possible without the expertise and service that Paul Roderick and Talkeetna Air Taxi provides. The best of the best. Fly TAT! The MAN: Paul Roderick
  9. Trip: Mt Burkett - NW Face "Can't Knock the Hustle" (FA) Date: 10/6/2012 Summary: First Ascent of the Northwest Face of Mt Burkett on October 6th 2012. John Frieh and Doug Shepherd. “Can’t Knock the Hustle” IV 5.8 M4 AI4 Details: During last year’s ascent of the East Arete of Burkett Needle I was able to scope out at least the start to a possible line on the Northwest face of Mt Burkett. That, coupled with Mr John Scurlock’s excellent photos, gave us just enough beta to warrant an attempt once a weather window was identified which, unfortunately, is often the crux of climbing in the Stikine. The Stikine attempted to “wait me out” all summer with a consistently crappy forecast before finally offering a weather window, thinking I had given up for the season. Nice try weather gods. On October 5th Doug and I flew from SEA to PSG where stubborn cloud cover resistant to burning off resulted in us getting flown into the Burkett glacier late in the day. We used the few remaining hours of daylight to approach Mt Burkett and used the same camp Dave Burdick and I used in 2009. The following morning (Oct 6th) we rolled out of camp around 5:30 am (???) and after some crevasse crossing hi jinx (see below) we reached the Burkett Needle/Mt Burkett col. We promptly dropped over, descended until we found a logical point to gain the face. Simul climbing blocks followed as we slowly unlocked the face. We found classic north face climbing: granite mixed climbing, ice and steep snow which reminded me of the NW face of Mt Stuart... only longer. We topped out around 4 pm (???) and after a few pics we rappelled and downclimbed the Golden Gully route. More glacier hi jinx, again in the dark, before finally hitting camp around 9 pm made for a ~16 hour camp to camp time. The following morning we did the short hike down to pickup where Wally promptly grabbed us just before 11 and brought us back to Petersburg for a ~43 hour round trip. The Northwest Face “Can’t Knock the Hustle” (IV 5.8 M4 AI4) represents the 6th ascent of Mt Burkett. Many thanks to Dieter Klose for support and allowing us to climb while the Icecap was “closed for the season” and to our pilot Wally from Temsco Air. Lastly, a huge shout out to Doug for sucking it up and getting it done on this one considering he is 6 weeks post toe surgery. John Frieh Doug Shepherd Pictures: Yes we have more. I will be showing them plus some from Mt Dickey on Oct 22 in Vancouver, BC (CANADA!) and sometime later this year at Mountain Gear in Spokane. If you're in the area I would be stoked if you can make it Glacier travel hi jinx Approaching the col Low on the face Higher on the face Yes it was really windy Gear Notes: 10 screws, #00 c3 -> #3 c4, rap material, picket Wild Squirrel Vanilla Espresso Approach Notes: Wally is the man
  10. Trip: Mt Dickey (Ruth Gorge) - NE Face "No Such Thing as a Bargain Promise" (FA) Date: 4/1/2012 Summary: First Ascent of the Northeast face of Mount Dickey on April 1-2 2012. John Frieh and Doug Shepherd. “No Such Thing as a Bargain Promise” 5,000', VI WI5R M6 Details: On March 30th, Doug Shepherd (Los Alamos, NM) and I, John Frieh (Portland, OR), flew from Talkeetna to the Ruth Glacier below Mt. Dickey in the Ruth Gorge. We spent March 31 skiing around the Gorge checking out possible routes and allowing the unsettled weather to move through. After some discussion we finally agreed to attempt the unclimbed northeast face of Mt Dickey. On April 1st we crossed the schrund at 7 am and were immediately faced with challenging terrain to negotiate: thin ice, vertical to overhanging snice and snow mushrooms made for slow progress and minimal gear placement options. After a full day of climbing we only had 3000 feet of climbing to show for our efforts. We chopped a bivy ledge and settled in for a chilly night. Day 2 started with us climbing up to our hoped exit off the face, only to find enormous snow mushrooms chocking the chimney system. Rather than bail we opted to traverse north around the NE ridge, hoping to find a different exit off the face. A 30 meter rappel landed us in a runnel system splitting the north face of the NE ridge. We followed this up to the seracs that overhang the true North face, nicknamed "Walmart". After a brief food, water and psych up break while still sheltered from Walmart, we blasted two quick pitches through the seracs onto the summit slopes. After some trudging we reached the summit around 8 pm; 37 hours after crossing the schrund. We descended the West ridge of Mt. Dickey and around 1 am on the 3rd we reached our camp back on the Ruth glacier. Later that morning Paul Roderick of Talkeetna Air Taxi picked us up and brought us back to Talkeetna to make for a brief four days in the range. Sorry for the shortage of photos... I'll try to add some later. Approach Notes: You may find a cheaper air service but you will not find a better service. Fly TAT
  11. Trip: Burkett Needle - East Arête "Repeat Offender" (FA) Date: 9/11/2011 Trip Report: Summary: First Ascent of the East Arête of Burkett Needle on September 11th 2011. Dave Burdick, John Frieh and Zac West. “Repeat Offender” IV 5.9 M5 AI3 Details: On September 9th, 2011 Dave Burdick, Zac West and I (John Frieh) flew to the Burkett Glacier in the heart of SE Alaska’s Stikine Icecap. A rare two-day weather window had appeared in between the record storms and rainfall that had been hammering the area all summer long. Our intentions on Mt. Burkett were soon abandoned after observing how active and broken the hanging glacier on the approach was in its fall state. Instead we turned our attentions to the unclimbed East Arête of Burkett Needle, a 2300’ alpine tower immediately West of Mt. Burkett. The following day our team ascended a rock rib to access the icefall below the Needle’s Southeast Face. The glacier was quite broken and required climbing into moats and up a short serac to reach the gully that leads to the base of the East Arête. Deteriorating weather caused us to bivouac at the col and attempt the climb the next day. On September 11th, we ascended steep snow and low 5th rock up the lower aspects of the East Arête to a prominent gendarme. A short wall lead up and over the gendarme to exposed rock and mixed climbing along and right of the ridge crest to the false summit. A short rappel brought us to the summit tower where our route joined the 1964 Kor-Davis North ridge. Three mixed snow and rock pitches lead to the summit. We rappelled and downclimbed the Northeast face to descend. The East Arête “Repeat Offender” (IV 5.9 M5 AI3) represents the 6th ascent of the peak. Many thanks to the Copp-Dash Inspire Award and the Mazama Expedition Committee for supporting our trip, Dieter Klose for support and allowing us to climb while the Icecap was “closed for the season” and to our pilot Wally from Temsco Air. Dave Burdick John Frieh Zac West 2009 First Ascent of the West Ridge of Burkett Needle "Smash and Grab" Trip Report Pictures: Yes we have many more photos and video to share but in accordance with the grant we will be putting it all together into a multimedia presentation to share at a later date (a slideshow perhaps?) so... stay tuned! Approach Notes: Temsco Air
  12. Here is a link to a report on another forum for a good effort on the Mendenhall Towers. http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=1553487&msg=1554874#msg1554874 Enjoy
  13. Trip: University Peak Saint Elias Range - South West Spur Date: 4/29/2011 Trip Report: Here's the FA of the 8,500 foot South West Spur. Kevin Ditzler and I spent a week climbing University from the south west. We spent four days climbing the south west face to where it meets the ridge. Only four of the pitches had any rock. Everything else was AI3/4 for about 7,000 feet. For some wierd reason we thought we could cruise the ridge. After about a half mile of roped pitches and two days we finally found the top. It took the rest of that day and half of the next to decend the North Ridge. We waited in Beaver Basin, the bottom of the North Ridge, for five days with minimal food and fuel for a pick up. Late on the fifth day Paul Claus, Ultima Thule Outfitters, made it in the marginal weather and flew us back to the lodge in time for dinner.
  14. Trip: First Ascent of Mt. Mausolus - "The Mausoleum" - West Face Direct Date: 3/16/2011 Trip Report: After years of obsessing, I was finally able to make the first ascent of 9,170' Mt. Mausolus in the southwestern Alaska range with Scotty Vincik. Conditions on the mountain were ideal in mid-March. We were extremely lucky! The route contained the finest alpine climbing I have ever done, with pitch after pitch after pitch of perfect ice. Enjoy. -Clint Helander [img:center]http://lh5.ggpht.com/_2jAtcezr53I/RaxmiR4DYuI/AAAAAAAAEX0/f353r_re0Yo/s512/85-Mt%20McKinley%20%28L%29%20beyond%20Mt%20Mausolus%20%28R%29.JPG[/img] An aerial photo of the west face of Mt. Mausolus. Photo by Cliff Cochran. Our route takes the obvious direct line leading up to the summit from the major snow cone. [img:center]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZF3QuY27-I/AAAAAAAADYc/6cGZNf3yBtE/s512/IMG_1601.JPG[/img] The 4,500' west face of Mt. Mausolus [img:center]https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZF3hoPns8I/AAAAAAAADYs/ovSFMwFF-3Q/s912/IMG_1610.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZFxjQFq35I/AAAAAAAADUg/O70fzNstC2I/s640/IMG_1395.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZFyAynQs-I/AAAAAAAADU0/mscTZ7MYKQo/s912/IMG_1408.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZFx2mojFuI/AAAAAAAADUo/XPpCVPTMwTk/s640/IMG_1404%20-%20Copy.JPG[/img] The upper 2,500' were continuous perfect, steep, unadulterated water ice. [img:center]https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZFyKwV4q-I/AAAAAAAADU4/LXL0exFdLms/s512/IMG_1420.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZFy_-8YTaI/AAAAAAAADVU/x2ZldNlKt1E/s512/IMG_1436.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZFznEgxDyI/AAAAAAAADVo/PP14SoQty3E/s512/IMG_1445.JPG[/img] We started getting some good rockfall here so we searched for a bivy. There wasn't much. We found one shitty snow mushroom and a small rock to sit on. The ropes and sleeping pads made for quasi-hammocks and a moderately reasonable bivy. [video:vimeo]21629404 [img:center]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZFziJ7I4NI/AAAAAAAADaY/nP9XTV1HFJY/s640/IMG_1459.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZFzzEu0LkI/AAAAAAAADV0/yg1bobW5o9M/s640/IMG_1463.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZFzZCbIZRI/AAAAAAAADVg/gpEWYmR5Tug/s640/IMG_1441.JPG[/img] Looking up at the crux pitches above [img:center]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZF0GScP3rI/AAAAAAAADWA/D6JEH4bdcLI/s512/IMG_1469.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZF0TNa915I/AAAAAAAADWQ/lGyN0Uy2DTo/s512/IMG_1477.JPG[/img] I like this image a lot. If you look at Scotty's frontpoints you can see that they are barely in. This is a good indicator of just how dense and hard the ice was. [img:center]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZF0aNhodfI/AAAAAAAADWU/vWHmi-By0ZY/s512/IMG_1478.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZF02NV5jpI/AAAAAAAADWk/tnC60_RviGY/s512/IMG_1485.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZF1O42M_CI/AAAAAAAADW8/KNwaS40-3os/s512/IMG_1497.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZF1byEPDrI/AAAAAAAADXA/CkkPPcdLcxk/s640/IMG_1499.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZF10qS1WOI/AAAAAAAADXU/7BTCorfjQ10/s640/IMG_1506.JPG[/img] [img:center]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZF2Fd13FGI/AAAAAAAADXk/YaA_f_BV-1U/s640/IMG_1510.JPG[/img] We topped out at dusk to a beautiful view. After a quick brew up just below the summit, we rappelled for almost nine hours before diving into a cave to sleep for the day. [img:center]https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/_-ROEgASjzLM/TZF38VjISII/AAAAAAAADa4/WnTtkryQVi0/s640/IMG_1636.JPG[/img] Over the next two days we skied 35 miles out to a remote lodge where we were picked up by our pilot. Gear Notes: Double rack of cams, nuts, pins, eight screws. Should have brought more screws, less rock rack. Approach Notes: A very expensive flight. Skied out to a lodge.
  15. Trip: West Fork Ruth - Huntington E. Ridge Date: 4/1/1980 Trip Report: The 1980 West Fork Expedition The concept My first two expeditions to the Alaska Range were the result of the late night campsite bullshit sessions of a group of rookie climbers from Portland Oregon while climbing on Cascade volcanoes, Smith Rocks trad routes, and Columbia Gorge waterfalls. We wanted big-mountain experiences, but weren’t club joiners or sponsor-seeking pros. We were just a bunch of Oregon boys that loved to climb, and wanted to do it on our own terms. In 1978 and again in ’79, our teams were composed of two 2-man ropes traveling together on the glacier, but climbing separately on the mountain. That formula worked well, but I thought that having more friends along would make for more fun, and add opportunities to team up with different partners. I began recruiting for a new expedition as soon as we got home to Portland in the summer of ’79. By the spring of 1980 our team had grown to nine climbers, and a base camp cook. Three were veterans of our previous expeditions, the rest were Alaskan newbies. Our plan was ambitious, to say the least. We would ski into the West Fork of the Ruth glacier via the Hidden River valley, the Buckskin Glacier, and a pass just North of the Moose’s Tooth. We would be air supplied for a thirty-day base camp in the West Fork. After our stay on the West Fork the pilot would return and ferry our base camp over the hump to the Kahiltna glacier. We would follow on foot over Ruth Gap, actually crossing just north of the gap by climbing over Denali’s South Buttress. We would spend another thirty days on the Kahiltna, and then finally ski out to the South through Little Switzerland. Total duration in the field: 80 days. We turned the apartment I shared with my roommate Dave into expedition Central and began preparing for the trip in January. The expedition would require 640 man/days of food, and to save money we made most of our own. We designed three menus; one for skiing days, one for alpine climbing days, and one for base camp days. Only the alpine rations had freeze-dried components. My partner Scott Woolums was working at an archeological dig, and managed to score a large artifact dryer, which we converted into a food dehydrator. For two months we cooked and dried meats, beans, noodles, veggies, fruits and breads which we would then combine into prepackaged meals of chili with corn bread, spaghetti with meatballs, or a goulash we called Peter’s Favorite. We bought fleece by the yard at a fabric store and made our own pants, shirts and booties. Some of us were working under the table remodeling a local outdoor store, and worked out a deal for gear at cost. We begged, borrowed and scammed our way to the airport in Portland, arriving with a backpack, a daypack, and 4 seventy-pound cardboard boxes each, just exactly the Alaska Airlines limit per passenger. Total weight: 3000 pounds. The Approach A few days later we were standing on the platform, waiting to board the Alaska Railroad train to Talkeetna. Sharing the platform with us was a Japanese expedition headed for the SE Spur of Denali. They were all wearing matching down parkas over matching nylon one-piece jumpsuits. Their gear was in custom made canvas duffels with the team name embroidered on the sides. The leader had a three-ringed binder 6 inches thick with charts, graphs, route photos, and an hour-by hour itinerary and climbing plan. Next to them, our group of longhaired freaks dressed in homemade fleece standing next to a small mountain of crumpled cardboard boxes looked pretty unprofessional. In Talkeetna we unloaded our boxes of gear and food and Barbara, the base camp cook onto the platform, where our pilot, Jay Hudson was waiting. Then we reboarded the train, heading for a “flag stop” at milepost 249. A flag stop is anywhere backcountry Alaskans wave a flag at the train, signaling their desire to be picked up. The train pulled to a stop at our milepost and we climbed out onto the snow. The baggage handler passed us our packs and skis from the baggage car, and the train pulled out, leaving us in a cloud of steam in the middle of nowhere. Milepost 249, Alaska Railroad Shouldering our 80+ pound loads, we skied off westward into the bush, heading for the Susitna River, about five miles away. The snow was knee-deep powder, the air temperature was below zero, and skiing downhill to the riverbank was a rude awakening to the realities of winter travel on foot in Alaska. No one argued when we called an early end to the day as soon as we reached the river. 80+ pounds of food and gear Camp one, Susitna River Approach route We spent the next two days working our way down the Suisitna river, across a low ridge to the Chulitna river and into the Hidden River valley beyond, a distance of about fifteen miles. Travel on the rivers was easy in early April, with the river frozen solid and buried in deep powder. Keith Stevens and Scott Shuey did most of the trail breaking, and being out front, decided to follow a pair of moose that seemed to know a shortcut over a ridge into the Hidden River drainage. It turns out that moose can navigate 50-degree slopes rather better than men on skis with 80-pound packs. Even so, after a few wild falls down the moose trail, we arrived on the evening of day three at the Hidden River, our route into the heart of the Alaska Range. Skiing down the Susitna River on day 2 Following a pair of moose over the ridge In three days we had put two frozen rivers, two ridges and 20 miles between the nearest road and us. Flying into the mountains from Talkeetna is an adrenalin rush thrill ride, but its over so quickly. A trip to the mall takes longer if the traffic is bad. Crossing those same miles on foot forces your mind to accept he immensity of the place, the smallness of your self and the serious nature of what you’re about. Dropping down off the ridge towards the Hidden River brought all this into focus for me. First glimpse of the Hidden River. Note the moose tracks to skiers right. The Hidden River Valley from the moose ridge The Hidden River threads its way up a classic u-shaped glacier-carved valley, and provides easy skiing to the Buckskin glacier at its head. The floor of the valley is silted in to a flat plain a half-mile wide, scattered with groves of aspen and fir. The river was open in places, the only source of liquid water we would find for the next two months. One more 9-mile day of travel found us at our first glacier camp, at 2100 feet on the Buckskin. Last free-flowing water for two months Camp 4 above the toe of the Buckskin Glacier, 2100' Once you are skiing on an Alaskan glacier the true scale of your surroundings hits you like a ton of bricks. Its twenty miles to Moose’s Tooth camp from our first camp near the toe of the glacier. You trudge along under your load for hours, and when you look up the landscape seems not to have changed at all. The normal estimates you make on how long it will take to get to point A just don’t work. When it’s your turn at the sharp end of the rope, breaking trail through the powder snow that reaches to mid-thigh, the passage of time becomes truly glacial. We spent days 5 and 6 on the Buckskin, drawing a long straight line up the center of the glacier that finally ended below the massive North Face of the Moose’s Tooth. The setting at the head of the Buckskin was unreal and incredibly intimidating. The Moose’s Tooth from this aspect is unbelievably impressive. From our camp we could see the camp of Jim Bridwell and Mugs Stump about a mile south. They were somewhere high above doing the first ascent of the North Face. Just to the west, across a final half-mile of glacier littered with ice debris that fell continuously down the North Face, was the pass we had to cross the next day; 1400 feet of 50 - 60 degree powder snow capped by a huge overhanging cornice. At 5400 feet, we spent our coldest night of the approach, with temperatures around -20 F. Camp 6, 5400' below The Moose's Tooth The next morning we hurried to cross the avalanche zone below the pass, staying well to the north side to avoid any parting shots from the Moose’s Tooth. We all skinned up as the slope steepened, and we skied switchbacks up the center of the headwall. The snow was bottomless, and we all thought the entire slope could slide at any moment. Looking up all you could see was the cornice, overhanging the slope by a good forty feet. Finally, the snow became too steep and deep to ski, and we wallowed our way straight up, trying to compact the snow into some kind of a footstep. The trough we left behind was waist deep in places. The cornice had a break on the right side, and one by one we popped over the top, thanked our lucky stars to have survived, and gawked at the view that rewarded our hour of fear. From the pass at 7000 feet, the Don Sheldon Amphitheater spread out below us, and vast bulk of Denali towered beyond. Heading for the pass to the Ruth The Moose's Tooth North Face Looks nasty from here! Cornice is geting bigger Wallowing to the top The Don Sheldon Amphitheater, Denali beyond Basecamp – West Fork Ruth Glacier The week of perfect weather we enjoyed on the approach was ending as we descended from Buckskin pass and skied the four miles to the Mountain House. A four-day storm kept us pinned down in the amphitheater, trying to stretch our food out until better weather allowed Jay Hudson to fly in our first resupply. As soon as the sky showed signs of clearing, we hustled up the West Fork to prepare an airstrip. The six-mile ski tour from Sheldon’s Mountain House to base camp in the West Fork is simply amazing. As you come around the toe of the Rooster Comb and see the North Face of Mt. Huntington for the first time, your jaw drops. There is a reason this face has only had one ascent (props to McCartney and Roberts for an amazing ascent). It is the most frightening north face imaginable, swept several times a day with massive avalanches, with no place at all to hide. As you ski up towards Huntington the fantastic northern aspect of the Rooster Comb is on your left. One by one you ski past the French summit, the beautiful North Buttress of the main summit, and the broad NW Face of the western summit. Avalanches from the Rooster Comb often sweep out across the center of the glacier, making the ski tour more interesting. Skiing toward the West Fork Below 11300 East Face Avalanches have the right-of-way on the West Fork Icefall on the face of the Huntington/Rooster Comb Col We place our base camp at 7000’, directly across the glacier from Mt. Huntington, a half mile from the base of the SW Ridge of 11,300. This position is not quite a mile from Mt. Huntington’s north face, but even so we were dusted regularly by avalanche clouds that rushed across the glacier in a matter of seconds. As soon as we got there in 1980, we dropped our packs, probed the area around camp for crevasses, and then began compacting an airstrip with our skis. We filled black plastic bags with snow and marked the 600’ long runway, then sat back to wait for Jay. Soon the sound of a Cessna reverberated off the walls of the mile-deep canyon of the West Fork, and Jay arrived with the first load of food and gear. He also brought in Barbara Bradford, our cook, and Jim Opydike, who had been forced to abandon the ski-approach on day two because of a massive blister. Two flights later Jay had all our stuff safely on the West Fork, and we broke out the booze as Barbara took over the cook tent. Much later that night we staggered (or crawled) from the cook tent to our sleeping bags, well fed and liquored up. Making a landing strip Hudson Air Service Taxiway Jay Hudson Base camp relaxation Staples Barbara making braekfast Some of the crew Afternoon excitment, courtesy of Mt. Huntington North Face The Climbs After a few days of sorting food and equipment, we split up into climbing teams and skied off in several different directions. A group of us decided that the SW Ridge of Pk. 11,300 would be a fine warm-up for the more challenging climbs to come. This beautiful line, a 4000’ moderate ridge climb that has since become a classic, was just a half-mile from camp, and was still waiting for a second ascent. It had a great bivy spot in the first col about 1500 feet up the ridge, gets sun all day, and has the best position of any line in the West Fork. The weather and snow conditions were perfect as we kicked steps up the gulley that leads up to the lower ridge, and we were soon following the wildly corniced ridge upward towards the mid-ridge bivy. Great rock and moderate climbing on the east side of the ridge crest gave us plenty of opportunity to enjoy the tremendous views of the West Fork and Mt. Huntington. At the first col we expanded a small crevasse into a spacious snow cave and spent a comfortable night. SW Ridge of Pk. 11300 Entrance gully is right out the back door Heading up the entrance gully On the ridge! View up the upper West Fork, Mt. Hunter beyond. Note our ski tracks in the center of the glacier The next day began with high-angle neve slopes leading up to a major gendarme, which we passed on the east side. We rapped into the col behind the tower and left a fixed line for the descent. From the high col there is an exciting upward traverse on the steep sides of the knife-edged ridge until it merges into the summit ice fields. We gained the ice field as the sun went down behind Denali’s South Buttress, and we climbed on into the evening. It was amazing fun, two ropes of two simul-climbing parallel lines up the blue boilerplate ice toward the summit as daylight faded into darkness. Steep snow and neve above the lower col Mt. Huntington's French Ridge is a nice backdrop Below the tower Climbing around the tower to the upper col, Mt. Huntington North Face behind Upper ridge and summit of Pk. 11300 We arrived at the summit sometime around midnight, and even in the half-light of the April night the views were mind-blowing. Scott Woolums and I were mesmerized by the view of Mt. Huntington’s East Ridge, our intended route, just across the dark abyss of the West Fork. Keith Stevens was likewise scoping out his intended line, a new route up the unclimbed NW Face of the Rooster Comb. All in all, a magical night on what I consider the best line in the area. These days 11300 is descended by traversing to the southeast, but we descended the route without incident and spent several days resting up for the main events. The Rooster Comb and Mt. Huntington at midnight from the summit of Pk 11300 Dawn light on Mt Huntington on the descent The Main Event Scott Woolums and I decided to climb Mt. Huntington’s East Ridge in 1979, after seeing it up close from the top of the Huntington/Rooster Comb col. We had crossed the col in ’79 on the way from the West Fork to Huntington’s South Ridge. The 5000’ East Ridge had only seen one ascent, and that had been siege-style over a period of two weeks in 1972. We wanted to climb it alpine-style in three days. Keith Stevens and Leigh Anderson had their eye on the unclimbed NW Face of the Rooster Comb. Their steep 3000’ mixed line climbs through the only relatively safe area on the broad face of the west summit of the Comb. Like us, they planned a fast, lightweight ascent. Scott and I blasted off a day before Keith and Leigh. The first order of business was to ascend the face of the Huntington/Rooster Comb col. Climbing this icefall is not for the feint-of-heart. The col is topped by huge cornices and very active seracs, and is swept frequently by huge avalanches. We climbed at night, and moved as fast as we could, using the same line we had climbed twice the previous year. Despite the objective hazards, the climbing is not difficult, and our luck held. We arrived at the col at dawn and settled in for a day of rest and photography. Huntington/Rooster Comb col Setting out for the base A little reminder of who's the boss Blue ice on the face of the col Objective hazards above The upper icefall Two climbers near the top of the col Cornice dance Top of the col, and still in one piece! Camp one, Pk. 11300 SW Ridge beyond Day 2 was the crux of the climb. The col rises easily for a few hundred feet, but soon merges into the steep north face of the ridge proper. The face is a series of steep gullies separated by fins of corniced snow flutings. We chopped our way into the first gully and climbed it until the snice in the gully was buried in near vertical powder snow. The unconsolidated snow forced us to burrow through the fin into the adjacent gulley. We gained a few more rope lengths up the face before tunneling our way into the next gulley to the right. Each time we neared the ridge crest the angle steepened to near vertical, the ice disappeared under the feathery powder, and we tunneled sideways. The exposure was tremendous, looking down the uninterrupted North Face 3000’ to the West Fork. Above and to the right was a massive hanging icecap that could be bad news if we had to go too far right. Finally we dug our way into a gulley that wasn’t choked at the top with snow, and I found myself leading the last few feet up vertical snice to the crest. It had been a long, hard morning, and my body was near its limit. I forced myself to focus on the next few moves. A fall here was unthinkable, protected only by a snow picket, now half a rope length below me. My head cleared the ridge crest, and six inches in front of my face was a gift from the first acscentionists. A 4-inch loop of 8-year old poly fixed line protruded from the ice of the ridge. I clipped my daisy chain into the loop and heaved myself up and over the edge. I slammed in a screw to back up the handy loop of fixed line and belayed Scott up. We hustled on up the much easier terrain of the ridge crest, looking for a place to make a bivy. Night fell, and still no ledge. The climbing was steep and everything was rock hard snice. At 11pm Scott gained a small corniced arête that protruded horizontally from the base of the mid-ridge rock band. We were out of options, so we chopped the cornice off the top of the arête, forming a ledge just big enough for the two of us. We settled in for the night, and enjoyed a fantastic display of Northern Lights as a reward for a hard 18-hour day. Summit day dawned clear and cold, at -20 F. In the daylight the exposure of our perch was heart stopping, with a 3000’drop off either side of our 3-foot wide platform. We had been lucky that the weather had remained fair! Scott led the rock band (all 30 feet of it), and we climbed up onto a mid-ridge plateau that had room to camp a small army. We dropped our packs and set off up the ridge toward the summit. Camp 2 on the East Ridge. Tokositna glacier beyond The (very short) rock band Above the plateau the ridge narrowed into a beautiful knife-edged ridge of ice, which we traversed just below the crest on the south side. The climbing was fun and the weather perfect, cold with just a bit of wispy clouds blowing past on the light breeze. The knife-edge merged into the bulging side of the summit cornice and Scott led up the final steep bit to the top. Then we were sitting on the summit of one of the world’s classic peaks for the second time in two years, and it was a blast. The clouds fell away and we were treated to fantastic views in all directions. Mt. Hunter to the west seemed close enough to touch in the crystal clear air. The upper East Ridge, 11,500' On top for the second time in two years! The view east, Rooster Comb, Mt. Dickey, Mt. Barille, and the Moose's Tooth The view west, Mt. Hunter and Mt Foraker The down-climbing back to the plateau went quickly and we spent a comfortable night there, but in the morning the skies to the southwest were looking grey and threatening, so we wasted no time and started a long series of rappels back to the col. Once off the ridge we didn’t slow down, and descended the face of the col in record time. We were back at base in time for dinner. And the view back down the East Ridge! From the route we had an excellent view of the NW face of the Rooster Comb, and had watched for any sign of Keith and Leigh. We thought we spotted the flash of a headlamp on the evening we spent on the chopped off arête of camp 2, but it was a mystery where they were now. That night the stormy weather hit, and for the next two days there was no sign of the pair. Once the weather cleared we spotted them coming down from the col. They had climbed the face in two long days, but missed the weather window and got held up by the two-day storm on the top of the col. Leigh had frozen his toes, and was real anxious to get out to the hospital. Luckily, Jay flew in a day later and Leigh left the party. Anchor at the bivy, NW Face of the Rooster Comb Leigh Anderson at the sitting bivy Steep ground, NW Face of the Rooster Comb Keith Stevens leading off More steep mixed climbing on the Rooster Ruth Gap and Beyond After thirty days on the Ruth it was time to move on. Jay Hudson made several flights to transfer gear to the Kahiltna, and several team members flew out to Talkeetna, bringing our party down to six. We shouldered packs with 4 days food and fuel and headed west for Ruth Gap. The upper West Fork is a lonely and seldom visited place. The SE Spur and South Buttress of Denali forms the north wall. The Isis Face towers 7000’ above the floor of the glacier. The much smaller peaks that form the wall between the West Fork and the Tokositna, beginning with the French Icefall, are very active avalanche zones, and they spread fans of debris far out onto the glacier. From our camp just below Ruth Gap, 4 miles up-glacier from our base camp location, we could see the West Face of Huntington rising above the intervening ridge, while behind us the view was blocked by the headwall formed by the beginnings of the South Buttress. Crossing this 2000’ wall of snow and ice was the next day’s challenge. Skiing on the upper West Fork Camp below Ruth Gap Morning found us once again wallowing up steep powder snow slopes beneath towering overhanging seracs. Just as when crossing Moose Pass, we were sure that the entire slope was just waiting for an excuse to cut loose and carry us all to the bottom. We climbed as fast as we could make steps in the bottomless powder, and topped out on the buttress in early afternoon. Suddenly the views opened up to the west, and Mounts Foraker and Crossen filled the horizon. Just as we had a year earlier, we set camp on the spot, unable to resist the fantastic setting. In ’79 it had been a mistake to camp on the Buttress. We woke up in the middle of the night to a bad storm, and ended up trapped there for three days. In 1980, however, the weather was settled and the next morning began another of a long series of cold clear days. We skied down the west side of the buttress, stopping twice to rappel over giant crevasses. A few hours later we moved out onto the main body of the Kahiltna. It was easy to spot the location of the ski trail to the West Buttress by the long lines of sled-pulling climbers trudging along up the center of the glacier. Climbing over the South Buttress of Denali Camp on top of the South Buttress South Face of Denali from the pass View back down the West Fork The year before, when the weather trapped us here for three days Skiing below the South Face The main Kahiltna Glacier, and crowds of climbers ahead. Mt Crossen in the distance After 45 days of solitude, Kahiltna International was a bit of a culture shock. There were over a hundred climbers there, most wanting desperately to fly out after spending a couple of weeks on Denali. We were still looking forward to another month of mountain living, but none of us fancied hanging around with the crowds on the Kahilta. Scott Shuey, Jim Olson and I hatched a plan to escape southward (the opposite direction from everyone else) and spend two weeks exploring a region known as Little Switzerland. Everyone else leaving Us digging in We skied the 20 miles to the Pika Glacier in an easy day. We were cruising on firm snow, double-poling as we lost elevation on the Kahiltna, all the way down to 4000’ before making a hard left up the Pika. The views of Mt. Foraker were amazing on the perfectly clear, sunny day. We were excited about Little Switzerland, an area that had seen very little exploration in 1980. We hoped to do some new routes on the warmer rock faces of the smaller, lower peaks. Unfortunately for the three of us, we spent 9 of the next 10 days trying to keep the tent from being buried by the constant snow of a major storm that kept us pinned down in camp. Crammed into a small two-person tent, we had one paperback book, one cassette tape for the Walkman, and nearly came to blows over the proper way to prepare a freeze-dried dinner. When our food and fuel ran out we were forced to return to base camp, with nothing to show for ten day except a single ski ascent on the one clear afternoon in mid-storm. We navigated most of the 20 miles back to base with map, compass and altimeter, skiing up-glacier in a total whiteout. A week later we packed up and retraced our steps to Little Switzerland on the first leg of the long trek out of the range to the Anchorage/Fairbanks highway. Ready to head south Mt. Foraker Lower Kahiltna, shirtsleeve weather Little Switzerland camp Pika Glacier Rock Spires, Little Switzerland Our route out of the range was complicated. We crossed an unnamed pass in Little Switzerland that led to an unnamed backside glacier. We descended this glacier until we were able to climb up to the east onto heather benches below Whitehorse Pass. The pass led us to a high drainage full of bear sign, a beautiful tundra valley with the ruins of an old miners claim, and a final climb up into the Peters Hills. We followed a creek of beaver dams towards a place on the map labeled Petersville, where a dirt road would finally lead us out to the highway. From the top of a low ridge, we suddenly came into sight of a bustling placer mining operation. As we came down the slope we were spotted by the gold miners below, and were met at the bottom by a pair of bearded miners with very big guns, wondering just who the hell we were, and where the hell we thought we were going. Once we explained that we were climbers just trying to get out to civilization, the miners warmed up enough to invite us into the cookhouse for lunch. There was a lot of friendly chatter until a guy came in with a gold pan loaded up with the mornings take. They seemed a bit nervous about outsiders seeing their panful of gold, and we decided it was time to thank our hosts for a nice lunch and hit the trail. After another endless day of walking down the dirt road, we were given a lift by a couple of Alaskans in a pickup truck, who stopped the truck every 5 or 10 minutes and blasted away at the wildlife with their rifles. Unnamed glacier east of Little Switzerland Climbing heather slopes toward Wild Horse Pass Lonely tundra valley northwest of the Peters Hills Chowing down on canned goods salvaged from a bear-destroyed miners shack Later that day we limped into Talkeetna, 80 days after skiing away from the railroad. First stop: the Chevron station for a hot shower and clean clothes. Second stop: the Roadhouse for dinner. Last stop: The Fairview Inn and several pitchers of beer. The 1980 West Fork Expedition had been an amazing success, and the adventure of a lifetime, but the planning for a return trip started over beers at the Fairview that night. Oh, and that fancy Japanese expedition we met on the train? With no skis or snowshoes, they spent all their time falling into the crevasses on the NW Fork of the Ruth as they ferried their gear toward the SE Spur, and ran out of time before making any progress on the route. Hudson Air Service cabin, Talkeetna
  16. Trip: Alaska Range - West Face Mt. Huntington, Colton/Leech Route Date: 4/1/1983 Trip Report: First let me say that when Keith read my TR on our ascent of the Rooster Comb DNB, I was told that he said, "That Jay... he was always falling off of stuff". Unfortunately, this TR will do little to dispel that gross exaggeration. Also, still looking for my slides from this trip. In March, 1983 Keith Royster (Keith’s last name is now Stevens) and I set off on our first two-man expedition into the Alaska Range. All of our previous trips had been with a minimum of four climbers, although we had always climbed as two-man rope teams. For this new foray into the range we decided to raise the ante a bit by resetting some of the parameters. First, just the two of us. That cuts the margin of error for the expedition in half. In the event of an accident that injures one climber, it is much harder to affect a rescue, and too dangerous if not impossible to go looking for help. The tragic experiences of Jim Wickwire and Chris Kerrebrock on the Peters glacier just two years before come to mind (read Jim's book Addicted to Danger: A Memoir about Affirming Life in the Face of Death). Second, a longer approach. In previous expeditions, we had skied into the Ruth from the Alaska railroad up the Buckskin Glacier, which is the shortest, most direct line into the Don Sheldon Amphitheater. This time we would use a new route, skiing from the Anchorage/Fairbanks highway up the Chulitna River to the West Fork glacier, cross Anderson Pass onto the Muldrow Glacier on the North side of the range, and finally cross back into the Ruth from the head of the Traleika glacier. This is a distance of around 100 miles. Third, travel light and fast. For the approach we would limit our climbing gear to the barest minimum; one 60-meter 9mm rope, double three-pin cross-country boots with overboots, flexible crampons, one ice tool each, and a few slings and biners. We would improvise anchors by using ice bollards and deadmen made from buried skis. Forth, minimize contact with our air support. Our climbing gear and supplies would be pre-cached ahead of us at two places; In the Don Sheldon Amphitheater for an attempt on Mt. Huntington’s West face, and on the Kahiltna glacier for a climb on Mt. Hunter’s North Buttress. Our one concession to our minimalist approach was a CB radio for contacting overhead aircraft in case of emergency. So the plan in a nutshell was; ski in to the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier from the North side of the Alaska Range, climb Mt. Huntington, ski and climb over the South Buttress of Denali into the Kahiltna Glacier, climb Mt Hunter, and then ski out of the range to the South. Keep it simple. Approach Route full-rez image here We left the highway on March 13th in perfect weather, cold, clear and sunny. From the small village of Colorado, we crossed the Chulitna River, still well frozen and covered in deep snow. We made good time by following a snow machine track up the West Fork of the Chulitna, heading for the West Fork Glacier. About noon of the second day a hunter on a snow machine came roaring up and offered us a 3-mile ride in the sled he was pulling. Later the same day we ran into a pair of Park Rangers and their dog team, heading back to the highway. They had been investigating an illegal cabin that had been built on National Park land at Ruby Creek, and told us to follow their tracks to the cabin if we wanted a warm night inside. They also said that as far as they knew, we were the only climbing party anywhere in the park at that time. The cabin was just what you would expect an Alaskan trappers cabin to be like; a low log structure set back in the trees, with a cast iron stove, a pair of bunks, a stockpile of firewood and canned food, and a rifle hanging from pegs on the wall. We spent another two days gaining Anderson Pass. We crossed the divide and descended onto the storied Muldrow Glacier, the approach route of the pioneer expeditions to Denali. Conditions changed dramatically, from deep powder snow on the South side of the range, to a windswept, rock hard frozen surface strewn with rocks of all sizes, fine gravels to giant boulders. The Muldrow is two mile wide and broken with pressure ridges and medial moraines. It was 20 miles to the junction with the Traleika Glacier, and we carried our skis the entire way, staying up on a pressure ridge so we could see the best path through the tortured ice and debris. Once on the Traleika the snow conditions improved and we could ski again. It was another 12 miles to the head of the Traleika. To our right were Mounts Carpe and Koven. To our left Mt. Brooks, the Pyramids, and Mt. Silverthrone. Our first camp on the Traleika was at the junction with the West Fork of the glacier, and from there we could look up the West Fork to Karsten’s Ridge and Browne Tower, the route of the first ascent of Denali. The next day we pushed on up the Traleika to its headwall, where the East Buttress of Denali, descending from Thayer Basin, blocks access to the Ruth just beyond. We set our final north-side camp at 7800 feet. Ahead of us was a wall of ice and snow rising to a pass at 10,500 feet. This was definitely the most remote place Keith and I had ever been, seven long days of skiing from the nearest road, barren, windswept, and silent but for the wind and sounds of moving ice. Galen Rowell’s party first used this route as a pass from North to South in 1978 during their circumnavigation of Denali. Scott Woolums and I had watched them descending from the pass that year from high on Mt. Dan Beard, which sits just south of the pass. They had done multiple rappels from ice screws on the descent to the Ruth. Keith and I would have to down climb. We weren’t carrying any screws. Traleika Pass Area full-rez image here The next morning’s work began before dawn. The climb to the top of the ridge was straightforward, although ice climbing in our soft three-pin double ski boots left something to be desired. It took us six hours to climb to the ridge top. The view from the ridge top was beyond description, the bulk of Denali to the west, Mt. Dan Beard immediately to the south, the deep gorge of the Northwest Fork of the Ruth down below, with the Southeast Spur of Denali beyond. Now things would get interesting. We immediately began down climbing, swinging 60 meter leads between belay anchors set in the deep snow using a set of skis as pickets/deadmen. Ten rope lengths brought us to the top of an obvious drop-off. We couldn’t see how big a drop it was, so we set up a rappel to find out. We chopped out a big ice bollard and ran the rope around it. I down climbed until I could get attached to the line, then lowered about 50 feet and looked over the edge. It was one of those good news/bad news situation. Good that we somehow managed to hit the bergschrund at it’s narrowest spot. Bad that the rope ended about 15 feet short of the bottom. The huge crevasse below the end of the rope was filled with snow. It LOOKED like it was pretty solidly filled. I looked up at Keith and said, “I’m going to drop off the end of the rappel. Clip the line into your belay so I don’t pull the rope down. You might need it”. I don’t think he was happy about the plan. I dropped over the lip and was hanging free. Lowering to the bitter end of the rope, I untied the safety knots at the end (kids, don’t try this at home!) and tried to let them both come through my figure eight together. A second later I landed in the ‘schrund, unhurt, in deep snow. When a reluctant and slightly pissed off Keith appeared at the lip, I told him to pull up one end and tie in to it so we wouldn’t loose the rope when he dropped off the end. After a few choice words from my partner, he arrived at the bottom, none the worse for wear. After dusting ourselves off we descended another few hundred feet to a saddle at 8500 feet and made camp. Beyond the saddle to the south the way was blocked by 10,250 foot Mt. Dan Beard. To the west an icefall dropped steeply into the heavily crevassed Northwest Fork of the Ruth. Our route lay to the east, where another icefall fell 1500 feet into the North Fork, and an easy 7-mile ski to our cache on the south side of the amphitheater. The snow was once again thigh-deep powder, and climbing down the icefall would not be easy going. Without our skis to distribute our weight we stood a good chance of finding a very deep hole, and we didn’t have a lot of resources for a crevasse rescue. So we pushed off the top on skis, climbing skins attached to slow the descent a bit, and roped together for safety. Skiing roped up with heavy packs is tricky even on easy slopes. Doing it in a maze of massive seracs and crevasses that drops 1500 feet in a half mile is a real challenge. Many times the leader would feel the snow collapse under his ski tails when crossing an obvious crack. Keeping the speed up was the key to avoid falling in. The leader would shout a warning, and the follower would bank his turn a bit wider to avoid the hole. Eventually we skied out onto the lower angled glacier below the icefall. Six hours after leaving the top of the icefall the long slog across the Don Sheldon Amphitheater was behind us. The first part of the long approach to Mt. Huntington was complete. We dug out the snow blocking the door to the small octagonal cabin known as the Mountain House and moved in. This spot is the primary landing strip for parties flying into the Ruth, and I had spent many days there over the past several years. From this spot we had launched ascents of Mt. Dan Beard, The Moose’s Tooth, The Rooster Comb and Mt. Dickey. On this occasion it was just a waypoint, a supply depot where we would gear up for the climb and pick up food and fuel for ten days. The cache we had expected wasn’t there, but the next morning Jay Hudson landed with our food and gear, and a surprise delivery of a six-pack of PBR and a couple of choice t-bone steaks. The next day as we relaxed and prepared our gear I made a discovery that would later have serious consequences. I was adjusting my rigid crampons to fit the soles of my borrowed pair of brand new plastic climbing boots. This was new technology in 1983, and the plastics were a third the weight of my heavy leather double boots. I adjusted the left crampon to fit the boot sole, and mirror-imaged the right crampon. When I fit it to the sole of the right boot, it was a half-inch too long. I double-checked the adjustment; it matched the left crampon exactly. I checked the boots; left boot size 10, right boot… shit! Size 9! My borrowed boots were mismatched and the right boot was one size too small. There was no way I was going to let this end our expedition. I hadn’t even noticed the difference when I tried on the boots back in Portland. Now I would just wear a thinner sock on the right. It would be fine. The next morning we packed up and began the 7-mile ski up into the West Fork. I never tired of the ski tour from the amphitheater up into the West Fork. Turning the corner of the Rooster Comb and coming into view of the awe inspiring North Face of Mt. Huntington stuns you every time. You don’t have to get lucky to see a dramatic avalanche come thundering down from Huntington or Rooster Comb. They are almost hourly occurrences, often sweeping right across your ski tracks. The West Fork is a deep, cold, ice-filled trench with walls a mile high. Keith and I skied past our normal campsite at 7000 feet, and continued on to set our camp below the French Icefall. We would leave the tent, skis and a cache of 4 days of food and fuel here on the Ruth. Early the next morning we post-holed over to the base of the icefall and started climbing. I had been up this slope before on a failed attempt on the French Ridge, and knew it was pretty straightforward. Nick and Tim had said the descent to the Tokositna was easy, and so it was. We rappelled and down climbed to the glacier and had plenty of time to dig a nice cave and settle in for the night. Colton/Leech follows the shaded gully. The top of the French Icefall is lower left The next day was a rest and recon day, and we watched the face for avalanche activity and talked about options for the descent down the Harvard Route, or maybe just to its north side. We looked at the sweeping 2000-foot couloir of our route and the 2000 feet of mixed climbing above that and thought that those brits had a pretty good eye for a line. The route looked to be in great condition, and after watching all day not a single thing had fallen of the face. On the 15th day after skiing off from the highway we climbed up the broad base of the funnel-shaped couloir, swinging long leads of simul-climbing on perfect ice. The weather was settled and clear, but cold, at about -10. As we gained height the angle steadily steepened, and snow turned to solid blue ice. The surface ice was rock hard and brittle, and every placement sent a shower of ice down the rope to pummel whichever of us was tied to the dull end. The final lead of the day was mine, and I was getting flamed. My arms ached from being bombarded all day with falling ice, and the broad couloir had narrowed into a proper gully. The final 200 feet were nearing 85 degrees, and I slowed down, afraid of a fall as we climbed together up the steep ice. I climbed into a fluted chute and was able to rest in a wide full-body stem, then made a final slow-motion charge over the top to find a roomy ledge that would make an adequate bivouac. I slammed in an anchor and brought Keith up, thanking him for his patience at the slow pace of those last few feet. The open bivy was comfortable but the night was very cold, with the temperature dropping below -20. We both slept boots on, in sleeping bag and bivy sac, and awoke to another day of perfect clear weather. After a quick brew we set off on the best day of mixed climbing of our lives. Never desperate, but continuously steep and interesting, the climbing was amazing. The sun and views made the belays enjoyable in spite of the cold. The sun was setting as I set up a semi-hanging stance about 100 feet below a snow ledge that we had been aiming for all day. I chopped a boot ledge in the ice and brought Keith up. Keith was pretty tired as he arrived at the stance, and since I was rested I volunteered to lead on up to the ledge, where it looked like we could spend the night. I should have grabbed my headlamp before I left the tiny stance, but I thought the light would last long enough. With speed in mind, I ran out a quick 50 feet on steep verglassed rock, and hung a sling around a perfect granite horn. Protected, I climbed another 30 feet to the base of a steep slab split by a 3-inch runnel of ice. The ledge beckoned just beyond. I realized that it had become much darker when my first tool placement threw sparks into the gathering gloom. I tried a dozen more times to get a pick into the thin ice, rewarded with nothing but more sparks. To my left the rock disappeared under a near vertical snow slab that led to the same ledge. I traversed over and the snow seemed firm, so I started double-shafting my way up. Twenty feet and I’d have it made. My head came over the top and I heaved a sigh of relief, reaching over the edge to shove my ice ax shaft into the snow. It felt like stabbing into spun sugar, there was no resistance at all, and no purchase for mantling up off of the vertical wall. I poked around with my axe, but there was nothing to offer the slightest hold. Then I felt my north wall hammer, still driven in to the head just below the lip, start to break out. My footholds began disintegrating under my weight and suddenly I was airborne as the snow collapsed beneath me. I felt myself contact the wall again and again as I pin wheeled down in the darkness into a vertical mile of air. Keith looked up at my yelp of surprise, and saw only bursts of sparks as my ice tools and crampons struck granite. I fell past his belay to the right and jerked to a stop ten feet below. My single piece of protection, the slung horn, had probably just saved both our lives. Within seconds I realized that, though shaken, I was not hurt. My tools still hung by the wrist loops, my right crampon was hanging from it’s ankle strap, bent nearly double, and my helmet was gone, but I was alive and uninjured after the 100 foot fall. With tension from Keith, I struggled back up to the tiny stance and took stock. Now fully dark, with my gear and brain in disarray, it was obvious that we would have to spend the night right where we were. As I hung from the anchor collecting myself, Keith began a 2-hour effort to enlarge the foot ledge to something that we could sit on. It was midnight before we were sitting/hanging in our bags, backs against the wall and the stove between us on the now 12-inch wide ledge. Somehow we managed to sleep through the coldest night yet. At one point I woke up and glanced over at Keith and my heart stopped. He was gone! Well, not gone, just sound asleep and doubled over at the waist, hanging from the anchor. Later, in the morning light, I bent my crampon back into something that would fit loosely onto my boot, and told Keith that it was still my lead. I backed up the sling on that beautiful horn as I climbed past. At the bottom of the ice runnel that had frustrated me the night before, I excavated a bombproof placement. In the light of day I could see where the thin ice offered sketchy tool placements, and surged safely up to the ledge in a matter of seconds. A few easy leads later and we were on the summit snowfield. We held a quick conference and decided to forego the summit. We were just above the top of the Harvard Route, low on food and fuel, and had a long way to go to get back to our camp on the Ruth. Down climbing, we got to the top of the vertical headwall pitch on the Harvard Route, and began a series of rappels to the right, down a steep little gully. Natural anchors were plentiful, and we left mostly slings as we descended rapidly back to the glacier. Just below the ‘schrund I picked up my helmet, none the worse for its 4000-foot fall. Crossing the ridge on our way back to the Ruth, we unroped about halfway down the French Icefall. Our tent out on the Ruth was looking really good, and we were in a hurry to get down. My right crampon was pretty useless, and had been coming off my boot every so often since the fall. 200 feet from the bottom of the icefall it decided to fall off one more time. I was on a bulge of good looking blue ice at the time, so I slammed both tools into the ice and clipped into them with my daisy chain. I bent over and began working on the bent-up crampon, putting weight on my tools. I heard a noise like when you pour a drink over really cold ice-cubes, and my tools fell past me, attached to 18-inch dinner plates of hard Alaskan ice. I was jerked of my feet, and accelerated down the slope toward a 50-foot cliff. I shot over the lip and landed in a pile of avalanche debris at the bottom. My luck was now played out, and my right fibula snapped. Keith walked over, shaking his head. He gave me a couple of Percodan and splinted the leg. I tried to stand, but couldn’t bear any weight, so I crawled the half-mile to the tent, dragging the leg behind. By this time the drugs were kicking in and I told Keith that I thought maybe it was just a bad sprain, and I thought I’d be able to travel in a couple days. He laughed and gave me more drugs. Keith helped me get into the tent and get my boots and clothes off to examine the leg. As he pulled off my right sock, he took a long look at my foot and said, “Jay, your toes are frozen.” We spent the next several days watching our food and fuel supplies diminish, hoping for the sound of a plane. I kept the radio inside my bag to keep the batteries warm, and my toes outside the bag to keep them frozen. We didn’t know how long I’d be there, and I didn’t want to risk infection by re-warming my foot. Our last resort was for Keith to ski back down to the amphitheater, where it was much more likely to find help. But that meant a 7-mile solo over some of the biggest crevasses in the Range, not something I wanted him to risk. We were burning the last of our fuel to make a final hot brew when we heard the beautiful sound of a Cessna coming over Ruth Gap. I had the radio out in an instant, and Jay Hudson’s voice filled the tent. We told him our situation, and he asked if we were still trying to minimize our air support, or were we ready for a ride. Keith described the glacier below our camp. There were several depressions marking large crevasses on the slope. Maybe, he suggested, we should travel down glacier to the regular airstrip at 7000 feet. Jay replied with the news that a 4-day storm was hours away, and he would be right down, so we should start packing. Jay kept the power on as he flew the Cessna up the slope, flying right across the low spots. He kicked the plane sideways not 20 feet from the tent. Three hours later I checked in to the hospital. Mt. Hunter was going to have to wait. Approach Notes: Skin-in from the Anchorage-Fairbanks highway, 100 miles
  17. Trip: West Fork Ruth Glacier, Alaska - The Rooster Comb, DIrect North Buttress Date: 4/15/1980 Trip Report: OK, this all happened a long time ago, so here it is, to the best of my rapidly aging recollection: In late April 1981, Keith Royster and I had been camped on the West Fork of the Ruth glacier with a couple of friends for two weeks. We were waiting for a weather window long enough for a 3-day alpine style ascent of the unclimbed North Buttress of the Rooster Comb. The pattern had been 2 to 3-day periods of stormy weather separated by a day of clearing. We knew from our experiences of the previous three seasons spent on the Ruth that if we were patient that pattern would reverse, and we could expect a 3 to 4-day period of fine cold conditions. Rooster Comb routes Bivy sites We both had climbed other Rooster Comb routes on those earlier expeditions. Scott Woolums and I had bagged the first ascent of the Rooster Comb’s main summit in 1978 via the SE Face. In 1979 Jeff Thomas and I made an ascent to the NW summit from the top of the col between the Rooster Comb and Mt. Huntington. In 1980 Keith and Leigh Anderson climbed a new route up the NW Face to the NW summit. Each year we looked at the North Buttress and vowed to come back and give it a shot some day. That day was rapidly approaching for Keith and I, but the current weather was less than perfect. It WAS good enough for a bush pilot from Talkeetna to land on the West Fork just above our camp and drop off two British climbers, Nick Colton and Tim Leech. They post-holed over to our camp, introduced themselves and announced that they were going to climb our route the next morning. After the brits left to set up their camp we convened a hasty war council. We could beat them to the base; our gear was packed and we had skis. In a footrace we could move much faster that the post-holing brits and get on the route ahead of them. But we knew the weather, and it wasn’t going to be good. We had seen the lower buttress disappear under enormous avalanches more times than we could count. At best there would be continuous spindrift for most of the route. It was a huge decision… did we want the first ascent or the best ascent? In the end we decided to wait for the weather. We were climbing for fun, we told each other, not glory. Five days later Nick and Tim were back from their epic. Or maybe it was just a typical day on the crag for them, being crazy brits and all. The constant spindrift had slowed them down dramatically in the lower third of the route, and they had bypassed the crux section of the gully by aid climbing around to the right. If we couldn’t be first, maybe we could score some points on style. Now finally the weather was becoming settled, and we hoped most of the new snow had fallen off the route, because we were going to go that night. It seemed to us that, after weeks of watching the face over the past three years, the big avalanches cut lose in the mid-afternoon. By starting the climb at 10pm, we could be out of the lower gully before noon. Even in late April there is plenty of light for gully climbing at night. We blasted off right on time, leaving our skis at the base of the route. The lower gully was classic, with excellent snow and ice up a twisting gully, perfect granite on both sides. We climbed together, moving fast, the leader placing pro until out of gear. Sometime before dawn we switched leads at Nick and Tim’s first bivy platform, set dead center in a wide section of the gully. I was nervous just stopping there to belay. It must have been a nasty bivy in the conditions they were climbing in. Keith in the lower gully By 10am we were feeling like we were in safer ground, with most of the lower gully below us. About that time our friend Jim Olson was at the base to retrieve our skis. From the center of the West Fork he watched a massive avalanche fall into the gully below us. A cornice had let go from high above and it scoured the gully, then washed out halfway across the West Fork. A half-hour slower and we would have been right in the firing line. As it was, we were blissfully unaware of our close call. At about the halfway point, the gully becomes discontinuous as it runs into a prominent 500-foot rock band. We set our first bivy where the snow and ice of the lower gully met the rock band. It was a very small platform, maybe two feet wide, but well protected by the overhanging bulge of rock above. We spent the night in sleeping bags and bivy sacs at –20F. I had a miserable night, not cold, but cramping up on the narrow snow ledge. Even my facial muscles were cramping, locking my eyes shut. About 30 feet right of our platform, the next pitch began with a 30 foot section of vertical rock, beyond which the gully picked up again, though quite a bit more steep than it had been. Keith made quick work of the rock, and led up the gully a ways before bringing me up. I got a really sweet lead up the gully to the base of the crux pitch. This is the point where Nick and Tim had climbed out to the right, bypassing the heinous, rotten vertical ice hose that the gully had just become. I was not unhappy that it was Keith’s lead! Keith led up some beautiful gully ice to the foot of the overhanging 40-foot chimney partially filled with some really crappy looking ice. He put in an ice screw that MIGHT have held a light fall, and headed straight up. It was mostly a very scary looking stem, with his backpack and right shoulder against the rock wall on the right and his feet kicking holes into the rotten ice curtain on the left. It was a monster effort, and I was sweating bullets for him until he finally pulled over the top. Definitely a no fall situation! Keith on the heinous crux pitch Keith continued on easier vertical mixed ground and banged in a belay. I jugged past the heinous chimney, thinking all the while what a scary lead it must have been. I lead off from Keith’s belay, first traversing left to follow the remnants of the gulley, now degenerated into vertical ice-filled cracks. Protection was scarce, and my first piece after traversing left was a number 1 stopper. I climbed up another twenty feet of ice-covered rock, heading for a three-inch wide runnel of ice. At the base of the runnel I was REALLY looking for a placement, and there in the base of the crack was a fixed pin left by Nick and Tim. I hit it a couple of times with my north wall hammer. It rang true and I and clipped in. WHEW! I set my axe and north wall hammer into the ice of the runnel and grabbed hold of the sling I had clipped to the fixed pin to lean back for a good look up the ice runnel. Suddenly the rock broke, the pin pulled, and I was forty feet lower, upside down over 2000 feet of air. Hanging from the number 1 stopper, I watched my snow shovel fall back to the glacier. I looked over at Keith as I slowly rotated in the air. He told me, “Stop screwing around Kerr, I’m freezing over here!” I got back on the rock, and looked up to see my ice tools waiting for me, still stuck in the runnel. The pitch had been hard with tools. Climbing back up to them barehanded was “interesting”. Once reunited with my tools, I banged the pin back in and scampered up the ice. For the first time in two days I climbed into the sun. I anchored in and brought my frozen partner up. In a couple more easy pitches we were above all difficulties and built a commodious bivy ledge. The next morning we kicked up the summit snowfield and pulled out the flask for a quick summit celebration. The weather was still holding perfect, and we enjoyed the 360-degree view for a few minutes before starting down the ridge that led to the col between the main summit and the NW summit and plateau. The descent to the col was exciting ridge climbing, ending in a long free rappel into the col. The climb up to the NW summit ridge was not difficult and we walked west across the plateau to the top of the wide gully that leads down to the Huntington/Rooster Comb col. It was late and we decided to bivy in the bergschrund before descending to the col. Unfortunately, we were out of food. After we dug our way down into the crevasse and set up our bivy, I told Keith I was going out to find us some dinner. He looked at me like I had been smoking too much pot. I crawled out of our cave and crossed the top of the descent gully to the base of a large rock. I dug at the snow and rock for a few minutes, then reached into a hole in the rock and retrieved the bag of food and fuel that Jeff Thomas and I had left there the year before. Keith was suitably impressed with our foresight when I returned with a huge meal for two and a pint of stove fuel. We started down early the next morning, and made two rappels down the gulley. We were crossing the giant cornices of the col barely an hour after we started down, working our way across to the west side, and the safest descent route to the West Fork. I knew the way down from the Huntington/Rooster Comb col really well. I’d made two round trips over the col in 1979 on our way to Mt. Huntington’s SE side, and one round trip in 1980 to gain the East Ridge of Mt. Huntington. It’s straightforward snow and ice climbing, made a game of terrifying Russian roulette by the huge cornices and seracs that threaten every part of the face. This is definitely not a place to stop for a picnic, and Keith and I fairly flew down the face, reaching the glacier in about two and a half hours. Crossing the Huntington/Rooster Comb col on the descent We felt great after the climb. We had managed to cut a full day off the first ascent time, climbed the crux gulley pitch, and done it in a spell of perfect weather. The North Buttress is the most classic line in the West Fork, in my book, and I put it at the top of my personal list of achievements. Some days after we got back to base camp, Nick and Tim returned from climbing a new route on the West face of Mt. Huntington. You had to hand it to those two; they really maxed out the possibilities on their visit to the West Fork. Two years later Keith and I skied back into the range from the North, destination: the Colton/Leech route on Mt. Huntington. But that is another story… Since our ascent in 1981 this route has only had one other successful ascent. Gear Notes: Lightweight alpine rack (screws, one picket, assorted pins), 160m double 9mm ropes, sleeping bags/bivy sacs, MSR stove, 3 days food/fuel
  18. Trip: Burkett Needle - West Ridge "Smash and Grab" (FA) Date: 7/4/2009 Trip Report: Summary: First Ascent of the west ridge of Burkett Needle on July 4th 2009. Dave Burdick and John Frieh: "Smash and Grab" 5.8 M4 IV. Burkett Needle courtesy of the great John Scurlock. The west ridge is the left hand skyline: Alternative view from north; west ridge is the right hand skyline: Itinerary July 3: SEA -> Petersburg, AK -> Burkett boulder -> High camp July 4: High camp -> west ridge -> summit -> rapped South Buttress Route -> high camp July 5: High camp -> Burkett boulder -> Petersburg Burkett Needle climbing history to date: 1964 - North Buttress (5.6) - Layton Kor and Dan Davis. August 9th. (1st Ascent and 1st Free Ascent) 1982 - attempt on the west side by Steve Monks and Damian Carroll. April/May 1995 - attempt on the South Face (V 5.9 A3 difficulty) - Joe Reichert, Gardner Heaton. March-April 1995 - South Pillar (V 5.10 A3+) - Greg Collum, Greg Foweraker, and Dan Cauthorn. May (2nd Ascent) 1999 - Le Voyage des Clochards Celestes (VI 7a+ A3+, ca. 1200m) on the south-east face - Lionel Daudet, Stbastien Foissac. May 29th (3rd Ascent) 2005 - attempt on the South Pillar by Carl and Bill. July 2006 - attempt on the South Pillar by Carl and Kale. July 2006 - attempt on the West Ridge by Dave Burdick and Micah Lambeth. July 2008 - South Pillar ascent to base of final 5.7 pitch by Zac and Nick 2009 - South Pillar ascent with a new three pitch free variation + 1 rappel that rejoins the South Pillar route above the aid pitch (5.10+) - Jens Holsten & Max Hasson. June 10th (4th Ascent) 2009 - West Ridge (IV 5.8 M4) - Dave Burdick, John Frieh. July 4th (5th Ascent) Pictures and prose: This trip was all Dave. Dave had the approach dialed from his last trip in 2006, stalked the daily NOAA updates and always immediatly called the both the chopper pilot Wally and local climbing guru Dieter Klose at the first sign of high pressure. It only took 3 years but he finally nailed a solid window I wasnt expecting a second trip to Alaska this year but the phone rang the Tuesday prior and in a little over 48 hours later I was sorting gear in Dave's garage. We were in Petersburg around 10:45 am on the 3rd... following a quick stop at the grocery story and lunch with Dieter we loaded up the chopper and a half hour later we were deposited at the Burkett boulder. We grabbed enough supplies for a few days, cached the rest and headed for a high camp on the ridge climbers left of the glacier. Drop point; Needle in the background One bag of chips or two? Approach stoke High camp. Radio tunes courtesy of a well positioned MSR windscreen We left camp the following morning @ ~6:30 am and minus a few crevasses to avoid and an almost lost ice tool were @ the base of the ridge with out incident around 9:30 am or so. Fat kids make better post holes Dave drafting; Devils Thumb in the background Can you feel the stoke yet? At the base of the ridge The ridge started with a mixed pitch before leading into clean granite. We changed into rock shoes and started simuling Let's get this party started More please Dave loving it... can you tell? Following a nice simul block we encountered enough snow on the ridge to warrant changing back into boots (this becomes a theme) From hand jams to ice tools A few mixed pitches took us to the top of the false summit. To be completely honest when I pulled over the top of the false summit I wasnt sure if the ridge was going to go. It looked hard... at least to this sucky climber. View from the false summit We rapped in to the low point in between the false summit and the true summit for a better look... from below it didnt look as bad and Dave stepped up to give it a go We changed back into rock shoes yet again It turned out the climbing was significantly easier that it appeared and Dave made quick work of the best pitch on the entire route Dave! Dave was nice enough to let me have the next one My turn Dave following I brought us to the final snow summit where guess what! We changed shoes yet again Boots for the summit 5th Ascent! We rapped the south buttress route per Zac's recommendation and the suspicion Jens and Max had beefed up all the rap anchors. Even though the rope got stuck 3 times this descent is the way to go IMO. We found the south buttress route topo was invaluable in assisting locate the next rap anchor. Hi jinxs Rapping the golden slab The highlight of the descent was rapping the severely overhanging A3+ aid roof pitch. Love the exposure Dave's turn We reached the base just after sunset. Speaking of... Done A quick stroll back down the glacier brought us back to the tent and a late dinner. Headed home The following morning we packed up and headed back down to the Burkett Boulder were we signaled Wally who promptly picked us up and whisked us back to Petersburg. Love the 3 day weekend! Shouting Out: - Dave for putting this together. He made it happen! - Dieter Klose for the beta, a place to dirt bag, rides and letting us browse his black book of climbs and history for the Stikine area. - Emily for the airport service and tracking the spot Gear Notes: We took: 1 tool per person crampons pins picket double rack to a #3 + 1 #4 c4 double set of nuts (one set was burned getting down) 50' of rap tat (used all of it + both our cordelettes) I'd recommend Double set -> 1 camalot + 2, 3, and maybe a 4 c4 double set of nuts (keep one set in the bag for getting down) lots of rap tat tool per person pons picket maybe??? better safe than sorry? Approach Notes: Wally is the man
  19. Trip: Alaska - The Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier Date: 4/25/2009 Trip Report: Summary: April 23: PDX -> SEA -> ANC -> Talkeetna. April 24: Spent most of the day waiting to fly (weather); Paul/TAT flew us to the Ruth camp late in the day (~7 pm). April 25: Toured up glacier/scoped routes. Started snowing around lunch. Snowed through the night and most of the next day. April 26: Snow stopped in the morning. ~1' of new snow when it was all said and done! April 27: Mix of sun and clouds for the day. Toured down to scope The Escalator on Mt Johnson April 28: Climbed The Escalator on Mt Johnson April 29: Rest day April 30: Climbed Wake Up on Mt Wake May 1: Picked up by TAT/returned to Talkeetna. ()^3 and ()^2 May 2: Talkeetna -> Urgent care -> ANC -> SEA -> PDX left to right: Mt Johnson and Mt Wake Details/Pics: I've put this trip off way to long. For the past few years running I've attempted to put a trip together only to have work or something else squash my plans. This year was looking like that... the best I could do was a little over a week off and the list of people willing to gamble the money on a week trip to the gorge was very short. I dont blame them... the odds of spending the week eating, sleeping and shoveling out the tent were good. I managed to find someone willing to take the gamble and met Doug for the first time in the SEA airport. We were in Talkeetna Thursday evening. Friday was a mixed bag of rain, snow and mostly dense fog/clouds... I was skeptical we'd be able to fly but Paul managed to find a window in the system and get us in Friday evening right before the next storm arrived. Fly TAT or plan on spending a few extra days in Talkeetna Saturday morning started out as mixed clouds and sun so Doug and I + Team Harro (who were also in the gorge but looking at some different routes) toured up the glacier to scope the approach to the Root Canal as we'd heard Stirred was in very nice. Shall we go see? Saturday tour By the time we got back to camp the weather had taken a turn for the worse... it snowed through the night and most of Sunday. Common occurrence on Sunday When the storm was all said and done Monday morning ~1 foot had fallen so we let everything shed and settle on Monday. Post storm: Avy on Bradley We headed down the glacier on Monday while things settled and shed to scope out The Escalator on Mt Johnson The Escalator on Mt Johnson On Tuesday we got an alpine start and climbed the The Escalator on Mt Johnson. The Escalator starts with ~3 pitches of WI3/snice which we simulclimbed. Following the initial ice step is a long snow field that lead to the upper runnels (see route pic above). The snowfield Start of the runnels The runnels had it all: soft snow (technical wallowing!), neve, the occasional alpine ice/snice and of course powder over rock. Good times. Hot runnel action As the mountains were still shedding the recent snowfall we had to deal with the semi regular wet sluff. Shower time for John Doug holding his rope out of a slide The runnel ended on the summit ridge which we followed to the top. Where's John? The ridge had a few rock steps We stopped just short of the true summit which is actually a cornice that at the time overhung the north face... a few days prior to our ascent a Polish dude had cracked part of it off as he attempted to stand on the "very top" and had to jump to safety as the "summit" at that time fell down the north face!!! The standard descent is to the Johnson/Grosvenor col and down via downclimbing + some raps. Definately rated on the jingus scale. Please dont squish me We found The Escalator to be extremely moderate (WI3, 5.5, snow!) and long (at least by Cascade standards... 4000'+ !!!) but would have a hard time recommending it to someone unless it was cold temps and they understood the descent has some healthy objective hazards. Still... a great route! I guess we were the 7th (???) or so ascent of the route (3 of those in 2009). Wednesday was a rest day... we spent the day napping, eating and drying stuff out. Wednesday Yard Sale Wednesday views from camp (l-> r): Church, Johnson, Wake, Bradley Thursday we headed back down the glacier again for a swing at Wake Up on Mt Wake. Wake Up follows the obvious gully on the right hand side of the face to the ridge and then the summit ***Note the monster hanger above the North face. This will be of interest later in this TR*** Though we overslept our alarm by an hour (route name irony?) we still managed to start the route fairly early. Start of the route. Note hanger again. Lower portion of the route Approximately 1/3 or so up the route the above mentioned hanger released. Before (note glacier floor) After. I wonder if I still have skis? Some video taken just after the the above pics were taken [video:youtube] We kept rolling (as once on the route you arent under the hanger) and soon reached the supposed WI5 crux. Mid crux which was awesome flutings and a little wet Looking down the crux We found the crux to be maybe WI4 (Cody 3+ ) and very enjoyable. From there the route dogs right towards the summit ridge. You work you way through snow mushrooms and gargoyles. To The Top! Awesome terrain Looking back down Much to our enjoyment the ice continued! We worked our way through more mushrooms and a few short rocks steps Rock step Mushroom negotiations Ice is nice We found a way to gain the ridge with minimal cornice tunneling Gaining the ridge It was nice to be back in the sun! Sunshine! Faced with the earlier avy and the fact that we knew our descent sported a similar cornice we opted to not continue to the summit (weak) and head for the descent couloir before it got any more sun. Wild nice views on the descent [video:youtube] We did one rap on the way to the descent couloiur and one more to get into it. We bombed down the couloir as quickly and safely as possible and began the search for our skis. We were in luck! Though scattered they were intact! These were originally standing up next to each other Doug found his crampon and ice screw bags approximately 1/4 mile down the glacier! Evening commute home We found Wake Up though not as moderate or long as The Escalator still fairly tame (WI4, 5.8) and we both greatly enjoyed it. Our CAN friends Damien and Jimmy attempted the same route the next day and as they were racking up @ 2:30 am the same hanger released again! They ran for safety and though they were both pelted were not injuried! We all flew out on Friday and after an unpack/dry out/repack session proceeded to and (some more than others). Saturday we headed south to ANC minus a quick stop @ intensive care... one of the CANs managed alcohol poisoning after the previous night's festivities... I guess that's what happens when you go switch from kokanee to PBR Shameless Plugs: This trip wouldnt have happened or went as well as it did if it wasn't for: - Doug for taking a chance and going on a bigger trip with someone he had never met before. Thanks for a great trip dude! :tup: - Mark Westman/Joe Puryear/Marcus Donaldson/Roger Strong for answering all my beta/route/gear questions - Team Harro for the Mid and Stove boards and Talkeetna shuttle service - Kurt Hicks for hooking up a ride to ANC - Team Good Times (the CANs) for the ride back to ANC. You fuckers can party like god damn rock stars! - Jared (CO) and Tim (all over) for all the great beta and warm wine (It goes straight to your head!) And most importantly I am deeply indebted to both Rob Shaul/Mountain Athlete and Mark Twight/the Gym Jones staff (Rob and Lisa) for providing me both the tools and motivation to make this trip a success (at least in my eyes it was). Due to a house remodel at the start of this year I had only touched an ice tool twice and had been in the rock gym maybe five times or so leading up to this trip. Regardless of this thanks to their programming design advice and insight I was still able to make 2 routes happen in the 4 climbing days we had during our short trip. Many, many thanks. [soapbox]I find it comical that climbers will gladly drop $$$ on new gear (that they only end up selling a few years later when something "better" comes out) but refuse to spend any $ on a training seminar... something they will "own" the rest of their life and will only improve/enhance their climbing. Go figure.[/soapbox] Until next year Gear Notes: Peanut butter quesadillas! Approach Notes: TAT sucka!
  20. Trip: Denali - Denali Diamond Date: 6/19/2007 Trip Report: At Colin's and others' request, I'm posting as a trip report an email I already sent out to friends, with a few additional photos added. Enjoy. -MW We flew to Kahiltna base camp on June 2nd and over the next several days ascended the west buttress of Denali to the 14,300 foot basin. We arrived here with 3 days of food. We would leave 10 days later with at least 4 times that amount. On our 9th day on the mountain, we went from 14 to the summit on a nice day… joined by over 100 other folks who had camped up at 17,000'! Here's the fixed lines two days earlier: Although it was a surreal experience, it was actually the first time I had ever summitted Denali by this route, and I have to say I enjoyed it plenty despite the crowds. As always, Colin enjoyed himself too: Two days later, Colin joined the extreme ski team and climbed the upper West Rib to the summit and skied the Orient Express in his mountaineering boots and miniature skis, while I gave an exertion cough I had developed some opportunity to recover. In ensuing days, the ski team went on to ski the Messner, Rescue, Orient, and numerous other steep chutes on both the north and south peaks of the mountain, taking advantage of some of the best ski conditions in many years on these features. A stretch of mostly good weather during this week also allowed our friends John (Jedi) and Evan to climb the Cassin Ridge in 3 days after they took a chance on an ambiguous forecast that yielded bomber high mountain weather. Their successes were contagious and fired us up. On the evening of the 16th, we descended to our "basecamp" at 7,800' at the junction of the northeast fork, and the following evening left this camp for our planned route: the Denali Diamond, a 3500' granite wall left of the Cassin Ridge. The route then continues up an additional 4500 feet of steep snow terrain alongside, then on, the upper Cassin Ridge. We made rapid progress up the northeast fork despite unfrozen snow conditions and reached the bivouac crevasse at the foot of the Cassin Ridge in 5 ½ hours from 7,800'. We spent the day resting as light snow fell and visibility remained limited, but a forecast for 2, possibly 3 days of sunny skies and high pressure kept us optimistic. At midnight that night, the clouds evaporated and we began climbing. We simul climbed a half dozen easy pitches of snow and ice to where the wall steepened. I then led several easy to moderate mixed pitches with some simul climbing. The route unfolded beautifully, with astounding rock quality and well iced chimneys and grooves that provided continuously stellar climbing. Colin led a block of pitches up some wonderful mixed terrain that brought us to the "Diamond", an enormous block that dominates the wall. I then led a very steep squeeze chimney filled with ice, followed by a difficult mixed pitch. Soon we found ourselves entering the final crux corner system that leads to the snowfields hanging above. Colin led two very steep waterfall pitches (5+) which held sustained and continuous 90 degree sections. I thought these quite reminiscent in terms of difficulty and quality to the "Shaft" on the Moonflower of Mt. Hunter. The first of these leaned left and actually overhung in places, requiring some delicate and technical stemming: The second pitch began with a short but technical M6 mixed step, followed by relentlessly vertical but excellent ice. As with everything we had climbed to this point, the protection and rock quality was absolutely superb, allowing us to focus entirely on the climbing, and maximizing our enjoyment. A short ramble above the second step led us to the infamous crux pitch. To the right, the FA party's notorious 25 foot, A3 roof loomed. This looked very intimidating. Just left of this was an even worse looking chimney (unclimbed): Just a bit further to the left, the main corner continued above as a 40 meter, vertical, inside corner, with no ice. This pitch, climbed by the 2nd and 3rd ascent parties, had never been freed, but was estimated at M7. The plentiful cracks assured us that it would go one way or another, but at this point in the day (15 hours) our primary goal was simply getting the rope up there. We brewed up some water as the afternoon sun began to blaze upon us- our timing was working out as hoped, climbing the hardest part in the warm sun. Colin started up and the climbing proved quite hard. After 20 meters of mixed free and aid, he belayed, to recover some pieces that would be needed above. I belayed from a fully hanging stance while Colin worked out more mixed free and aid climbing to another belay 30 meters higher. Following with both packs was a major pumpfest. Above, instead of the easy terrain we were now hoping for, we were treated to 2 more pitches of M5-ish climbing in icy, awkward chimneys, before we abruptly exited into the massive snowfield paralleling the upper Cassin Ridge, at about 16,000'. It was 9 PM, hour 21 since leaving the base. Although the Alaska Range was surrounded on all sides by enormous thunderheads, the weather up here was beautiful and windless, a perfect day to be on this huge face. Finding only hard ice and thin snowcover, we were forced to climb another 600 feet to find snow deep enough to obtain a tent ledge without having to chop into ice. Both of us were now very dehydrated and therefore pretty much knackered; as such, this last section of "easy" climbing was, for me at least, the mental crux of the whole climb, and I had to dig deep. Once settled in the tent we could begin repairing the deficit we'd put ourselves in, brewing up much water and eating a good meal. We then slept soundly in Colin's custom 2 person sleeping bag; between this bag and the BD firstlight tent, our bivi setup weighed almost nothing yet allowed us enough comfort to get a good rest. Day 2 was bright and sunny, so we slept in and did not begin climbing until 2 PM. This day was like a whole different climb: all snow climbing, and at altitude. We broke trail in variable snow conditions for over 3 hours before finally joining the Cassin around 17,500'. Anticipating a cold, late evening summit, we stopped at 19,000' to brew up in the evening sun and prevent a repeat of the previous day's dehydration. Smoke from lightning caused fires began to infiltrate the mountains, but otherwise it was relatively warm and beautiful. At 9:45 PM we stood alone on the summit in a cold stiff wind, happy it was now all downhill from here. Our time on the 8000 foot face was 45 hrs, 40 minutes, and this was the route's 5th ascent. At just after midnight we reached the tent and food we'd left behind at 14,000 on the west buttress. The weather shut down the following afternoon. I love it when the timing is this perfect. We remained on the mountain for another week: me at Kahiltna basecamp with Lisa, Colin at 14,000 in hopes of some further climbing; but, the weather would not allow it. On the positive side, with the right connections, Mountain High Pizza Pie delivers to basecamp in 90 minutes or less: Gear Notes: Standard alpine rack to 3", 6 screws (mostly 13's), handful of pins of all types, lots of slings, a light pack, and a good weather forecast. Approach Notes: The Northeast fork of the Kahiltna is always a heads-up experience, but don't let rangers or British climbers tell you it's near-impossible. Go look for yourself, move fast, and use common sense.
  21. Just heard on the radio that Masatoshi Kuriaki just completed the first solo winter ascent of Foraker. He spent 56 days on the peak, 10 minutes on the summit and had to bivy in a snow cave on his way down! To pass the time he composed haikus including this (roughly translated) one: See the summit It is so so close But far away The interview on the radio said he hauled out 28 lbs of human waste. His quote (in broken English) "Two day out, 1 pound waste. 56 day out, only 28 pound!" Here's more info: http://www.japanesecaribou.com/ Once APRN posts the interview online I'll link to it.
  22. Trip: Abercrombie Peak - SW Face (First Ascent) Date: 3/20/2007 Trip Report: Colin Haley and I skied up the Valdez Glacier to the base of the 1450 meter SW Face of Abercrombie Peak (circa 2130 meters) on March 19. The forecast was for "a major change in the weather pattern" to hit in a day, so we knew we would be racing the weather. We left camp under clear skies at 6:40 on March 20 and climbed steps of water ice and mixed terrain to around WI4- and 5.4b. Although we wore harnesses and carried a rope and some rack, we never used it. Good training, I guess. We reached the summit at 15:00 in a whiteout and began the descent. We reached camp at 19:00 and coaxed enough water out of our dying gas cylinder for a Ramen each. We were very pleased that we had gone high class and brought Maruchan rather than Top for this recovery meal. We believe this to be the first ascent of the face. Some photos are at http://59A2.org/valdez/200703/
  23. Trip: Mt. Huntington - Nettle-Quirk Date: 3/12/2007 Trip Report: On March 10th, Jed Brown (Fairbanks, Alaska) and I flew from Talkeetna to the Tokositna Glacier below Mt. Huntington. On March 12th we climbed to the summit of Mt. Huntington via the West Face Couloir (Nettle-Quirk), and descended via the same route, in just under 15 hours roundtrip. We believe this might have been the first ascent of Huntington during the winter season. Although many teams descend from the top of the ice ramp, we found it to only be half-way to the summit, in terms of time and effort. Conditions and weather were excellent, although the temperatures were quite cold; we both frostnipped a few digits. After a few days contemplating other objectives, we gave in to the cold nights and flew out of the range on March 16th. A few lessons learned: -bring two pee bottles instead of one -bring mittens that you can actually do technical climbing in -bring a face mask that covers your nose -bring a sleeping bag rated to -30F instead of -10F -bring a larger than 2-person tent to basecamp -bring a thermarest to basecamp -muffins are very difficult to bite at -20F -bring basecamp down booties -don't go to Alaska before April!
  24. Trip: Yukla Peak (6000' sub peak) - Chugach Mountains - Gank'd and Slay'd - 2800', V, WI6, M6, A2 Date: 2/10/2007 Trip Report: John Kelley and I made the hike out to the Icicle Valley from the Eagle River Nature Center again last week in an effort to attempt another new route on Mount Yukla. The hike out there took us just under eight hours and involved a little bit of fourth-class terrain once we accessed the Icicle Drainage. We arrived at the boulder bivy site at about 12:30 at night and set up camp. The entire next day we relaxed and rested in preparation for our coming climb. At 3:30 in the morning on Thursday, we were up and heading out to the base of our objective. After 700 feet of third-classing steep snow and grade-three ice, we reached the fork where the three routes split. Our original intent had been to go for the left trending ramp, but we decided upon reaching the fork to go for the ice line on the right, which had already seen several attempts by other parties. Instead of starting on the ice at the base of the climb (which looked grade 3-ish from far away but looked very thin and unprotectable from up close), we decided to gain the route from a ramp just to the climber’s left of it. I led up the ramp, which was perfect styrofoam ice. The ramp ended in a 15-20 foot tall rock headwall. I attempted to get over it and was able to get most of the way up it (mostly 5.9ish laybacks), but was thwarted up high by down sloping rock and poor feet. After trying in vain for roughly an hour, I had John lower me and give it a go. He quickly got to my highpoint and decided it would have to be aided. He placed a few bird beaks (one of which blew out on him) and pitons and after about an hour was able to get through the crux moves. He followed the narrow chimney up to the rope’s end and set up a belay. He hauled the bags while I jugged up and cleaned. Once I got up there, he gave me the rest of the rack and after sorting it, I was on my way, already on virgin ground. It was getting dark by this point, so we were definitely looking for a bivy spot. I led up a narrow snow chimney to a thin WI4 step. “Not so bad,” I thought. Upon getting to the top of the step, I saw I was in for quite a pitch. It had snowed just enough to make things annoying, and all the cracks and holds were covered. I scratched and picked my way up to the base of another snow filled rock chimney. I went right initially, and got about 10 feet up and couldn’t find any protection. The holds became nonexistent and I was facing a 20+ foot whipper into a shoulder wide chimney that would not end well. My last piece was a snarg hammered into some frozen veggies. I doubted it would hold. I considered retreat, but decided that I needed to man up and go for it. Once I had my man pants on again, I down climbed 10 feet and went left. After a few desperate and dicey moves, I was up and over the technical crux of that pitch, which went at M6. I scratched my way up to a belay and spotted a good bivy site 20 feet below and to the right. 20 minutes later we were shoveling out a small, protected ledge for our first night on the wall. After a cramped night on the small ledge, we brewed some water and were on our way again. John took the first pitch of the day over a sketchy dihedral to a right trending corner system, then up a slough gully to a rock outcrop where he set up a belay. I followed and on the way up, my tool popped off my harness while I jugged up. (Note: do not use those stupid Ice Clippers, they fucking suck) Luckily John had a third tool, so we were able to continue. I took the next lead over a grade-three ice step and was sloughed on the entire time. After getting through that, I climbed steep snow to the base of a grade three ice pitch. I led up the ice without any difficulties and set up a belay for John. We were sure we were getting close to the top. At this point in time, we were racing the light. “This is probably it,” he said, in reference to the next pitch that he was going to lead. With that, he took the rack and started up the ice, which appeared to be grade-five from the bottom. With almost no pro and long run outs, he got near the top and was faced with thin overhanging ice with unconsolidated snow above that. He placed two equalized screws and pumped himself up for the committing moves. “I guess I’ll just go for it, “ he said, and with a couple impressive moves he dominated his way up the crux ice pitch, which went at WI6 due to its thin condition and unprotected run out, all mixed together with the 15 foot overhanging section under a powder snow mushroom. John got to the top and let out a triumphant scream. “We must be near the top,” I thought. Once I got up there, I saw that we still had a few pitches to go. We traversed right over a snow slope that would be atrociously dangerous in different conditions and began digging a snow cave for our second bivy on the face. Although our bags were soaking wet and our food was low, we remained decently comfortable and kept ourselves entertained by spitting out songs and lyrics from NWA and Easy E. We awoke in the morning and got going. The weather had finally turned in our favor and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Anxiously, we packed up, and John took the WI3 pitch, which we knew would put us close to the top. It was a rope stretcher, literally, and I had to lean forward just so John would have enough rope to reach a belay. The rope got caught on a rock and I had an interesting pendulum swing and drop when it popped off of the rock as I jugged up the rope and freed the packs that had been caught on an outcrop. This pitch put us on top. We were very excited and packed everything up, then headed towards the 6000-foot sub peak of Yukla. We descended down the Northeast Ridge back down the Icicle Glacier to our camp at the boulder bivy. Tired, but determined, we left our camp at 5:30 and were back at the car by 10:30. This was John’s third new route on Yukla within the past year (AAJ 2006) and my second attempt on the peak. Our route Gank’d and Slay’d, went at 2,800’, V, M6, WI6 A2. Gear Notes: Full set of cams, Nuts, 4 Lost Arrows, 4 Bugs, 4 Angles, 1-2 Snargs, Smokes, Don't use those stupid clippers on alpine routes unless you want to lose your tools
  25. Jed Brown and I just returned to Fairbanks after making the first ascent of Mt. Moffit's North Wall on July 10-13th. The Entropy Wall (VI, 5.9, A2, WI4+), approximately 1,500m and 33 pitches, is followed by approximately 900 meters of snow and ice slopes leading to Moffit's summit. It was the most serious and commiting climb I've ever done. Some rock was poor, but some was excellent and splitter. Highlights included a perfect snow-mushroom bivy, a 3m horizontal roof, steep water-ice pillars, and lots of free climbing and aid climbing up steep cracks. More pictures to come eventually! Picture of the face: http://59A2.org/hayes/200607/route.jpg
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