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Jay Kerr

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About Jay Kerr

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  • Birthday 08/29/1949


  • Occupation
    iPhone Developer
  • Location
    Portland, OR
  1. anyone has condition updates from AK Range(ruth)?

    We climbed the SW Ridge of 11300 in early May (many years ago). You're a couple thousand feet higher at the base than for climbs in the gorge, so conditions should be better. You can get landed right at the base, and the setting up in the West Fork can't be beat. Here's a link to a TR with photos of the ridge. http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/921453/TR_West_Fork_Ruth_Huntington_E#Post921453 Jk
  2. Watts Talks

    Hi Alan, welcome to CC. Haven't seen you in ages! Like you, I've scaled back my climbing as my body ages (60 this year!), and now I spend all my time free time sailing. Next time you're in town look me up, we'll get out on the river... As to this whole sport vs trad, bolt/no bolt discussion, I've always been a trad climber, and more into alpine climbing that rock, but it seems to me there is room for all. I never liked the crowds around the sport climbing centers, but all it takes is an approach of longer than an hour or two to weed out the sport climbers and find plenty of trad lines with no fixed gear. In a decade of climbing in the Alaska Range, I never ran into a single bolt... Jay Kerr
  3. 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
  4. Getting around in Alaska Range?

    I think you need to go for a ski/boot combination that is the best compromise between all the uses you're going to put them through. In my case back in the day, I needed a setup that would give me the support I needed for fast, long distance travel with a heavy pack (and sometime a loaded sled behind). The gear I described above (three pin bindings on metal-edged waxable mountaineering skis, with skins for climbing and for steep descents with heavy loads, and leather double three-pin boots.) was the best compromise for me. A 100 mile ski-approach is not much fun in climbing boots and downhill skis with silvrettas. Once we got to a base camp we did a lot of 1-3 day ski tours with lighter loads, and having relatively lightweight gear and waxable skis made the skiing much more enjoyable, yet the gear was still adequate for doing moderate ski-descents. We did descents of Mt. Dickey, Denali's South Buttress when crossing Ruth Gap, and lots of others. We often supplemented our ski gear with sherpa style snowshoes. We did a lot of ascents that required climbing over a big ridge to get to the base, and rather than carry skis across, we packed the snowshoes. Anything to avoid pos-tholing up a glacier If I were going to fly into the range, and my skiing was going to be short range (from camp to the base of the route) or I was more into ski descents, my gear choices would be different. ALso, I am way out of touch with the current state of backcountry ski gear. I have moved on to off-shore blue water sailing these days, as my knees and back have had enough of heavy loads in the mountains.
  5. mac book pro vs pc?

    I just replaced two Toshiba laptops with MacBookPros. The Toshibas both lasted less than two years. On one, the monitor died. On the second, the motherboard died. In both cases it would have cost less to replace the computer than to repair. Hardware-wise, the Toshibas were cheap crap compared to the MacBooks. And I have three years of Applecare on each. Granted, the cost was twice as much, but you get what you pay for, IMHO. If you earn a living with your computer it makes sense to buy the best tool. OS X is far superior to Windoz in every way. And The upgrade to Snow Leopard is $49 for a 5-pack. Oh, and Exchange support is built in. The MacBooks boot in less than half the time as the Toshibas, the OS is stable as hell, and its only going to get better with Snow Leopard (released tomorrow). I've used both platforms since 1984, in the pre-press industry, in software development, and in web development. My shop is all Mac these days (two 24" iMacs, 4 MacBook Pros, and a Mac Mini as a boat computer on my sailboat. I now have one PC left, running Microsoft Money. Sadly, personal finance software is one area that has very poor software support on Mac. Not a fanboy... Apple can be just as obnoxious as Microsoft, and they charge a premium, but they make killer hardware and their OS is the best.
  6. Hey Daniel -- If by finish you mean the Colton/Leech to the summit of Mt. Huntington, then no. But I had summited the peak twice before, so I didn't feel like I needed to get there again. Also, Colton and Leech had also not gone on to the summit, figuring that the hard climbing was below them. If you mean continue on to Mt. Hunter, we did come back to attempt the North Buttress, but the cold weather in April, '85 prevented us from the attempt. Nighttime temps at the base of the route were -35 when we were there, so we climbed Denali West Buttress instead. jk
  7. Actually picked up my helmet on the glacier after the descent, so I had my brain bucket for the second fall. jk
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. Getting around in Alaska Range?

    I'm old school, but I've skied hundreds of miles in the Range, skiing in and out from the highway to the West Fork of the Ruth. I used three pin bindings on metal-edged waxable mountaineering skis, with skins for climbing and for steep descents with heavy loads. There were no plastic ski touring boots back in the day, so we used leather double three-pin boots. jk
  11. Alaska Trip Reports

    Hi -- New to the board. I've posed a couple of trip reports on superTopo.com on some climbing we did in the late 70s and early 80s in the Alaska Range. Is there any interest here in historical TRs? These involve routes on Rooster Comb and Mt. Huntington, as well as ski-in/ski-out approaches. If there is interest I'll post them here, rather than cross-post. Jay Kerr at Camp 2, East Ridge Mt. Huntington, 2nd ascent, 1980 Photo by Scott Wollums Later jk