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joepuryear

best of cc.com [TR] Alaska Range; April 19 to July 22

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I just returned from a great trip in the Alaska Range.

 

I started out flying into the Mountain House with David Gottlieb. We walked down the hill and camped in the middle of the Ruth Amp., a spot I highly recommend over camping in the Gorge due to more sunlight and much less wind. The weather and conditions were great so we immediately went for the Japanese Couloir on Mt. Barill. This was a great natural line up the east side of one of the Gorge peaks. We descended the same way.

 

After a rest day and continued good weather, we decided to have a look at the South Face of Mt. Dan Beard. Not knowing much about the route, we followed the main couloir up the left hand south ridge, and then continued up the ridge above. The snow conditions quickly deteriorated in the afternoon sun and after a few route finding errors, we descended around 500 feet from the summit. Not feeling complete with the climb, we took another rest day, and then with better knowledge of the route, climbed it to the summit just as the first big storm hit. We descended in the raging storm and returned to camp for five days of tent time.

 

The weather finally cleared a little and with only a few days left in the trip, we decided to race up to the West Fork for a look at the Southwest Ridge of Peak 11,300. We moved camp up to the West Fork and in the foggy mist we met Jedi, who had just climbed it and gave us tons of good info. The next morning dawned clear. We were torn between waiting a day to let all the new snow settle and letting a clear day go by. We decided to go for it. We summited that evening and spent an amazing night on the summit and descended the next morning. The next day we skied out to the Mountain House and were flown back to Talkeetna.

 

After a few rest days I picked up my next climbing partner Daniel Zimmermann from Switzerland. We flew into Kahiltna Base Camp intent on Hunter’s North Buttress, but this never materialized due to the very warm and moist season the range had. Instead we focused on smaller objectives. We headed up the first morning to look at the Mini-Moonflower, but seeing a party already on it we shifted our focus to the South Face of Peak 12,200. We climbed through 2000 feet of rock bands then broke out onto a long snow slope above to reach the summit. We descended the dangerous Southeast Face back to our skis.

 

Our next mission was an attempt on the Mini-Moonflower which saw us up 9 pitches before the spin-drift nightmare occurred. Upset with the general trend of the weather, we decided to climb the Southwest Ridge of Mt. Frances one day regardless of conditions. It snowed the entire day, but we found this climb to be one of the better base camp area climbs, very similar to the Southwest Ridge of 11,300.

 

After a rest day, a small break in the weather opened up so we ran up and did the North Couloir of the Mini-Moonflower. This as well proved to be an awesome moderate route up a really cool feature.

 

The next eight days were stormy and depressing. We almost flew out at one point but were lured into the promise of a short high pressure spell. We left for the West Face of Kahiltna Queen one clear evening. It started snowing after three hours of climbing but we pushed onto the summit in a bit of a bad storm. Descending was interesting amidst the rash of avalanches but we returned back to base camp unhurt and flew out that evening.

 

After a bit of rest and a relaxing boat trip on Prince William Sound with some good friends, my next climbing partner Chris McNamara came up. The weather had been marginal for another week in the range and we flew into the Ruth Gorge one morning in light rain. However, just a few hours later the weather cleared. Chris looked over toward Barrill and said “I want to go climb that. Now.” So just a few hours after landing, I found myself at the base of the Cobra Pillar of Mt. Barrill. After a frenzy of climbing, 15 hours and 10 minutes later we found ourselves on the summit. It was our first climb ever together – what a way to warm up. A shitty descent down the Northwest slopes allowed us to walk all the way back around that morning and crash in our tent for the next four days for the biggest storm of the season.

 

After surviving three days of torrential rain we headed down the Gorge for a look at Werewolf and Hut Tower. Not liking the line on the Werewolf, we climbed up the Southwest Face of Hut Tower, a line I had done before but was certainly worth repeating – 10 pitches up to 5.10 on some of the better rock in the Gorge.

 

Our next objective was the West Pillar of the Eye Tooth. This might well have been the best alpine rock climb I’ve ever done. The rock is good, the climbing interesting, and the line is aesthetically amazing. We topped out on the last rock tower (don’t be fooled by the route topo!) with snow leading to the summit. Without snow gear, this was to be our high point and we started the long descent, getting our rope stuck no less than five times.

 

With some time left but no fingertips left, we decided to have a look at the ‘small’ (1800 foot) Stump formation on the side of the Wisdom Tooth. The left of two major dihedral systems on the south face caught our attention. The climbing was incredible and the rock outstanding, until it abruptly exited left, off the face and dead ended into a steep gravel wall 600 feet below the summit. This was apparently the route of the first ascentionists and we were rather disappointed as we rapped off. After another day of rest we decided to straighten the route out and complete it direct to the summit. We headed back up and climbed several new pitches of amazing terrain. We haven’t yet named our new variation on the South Face of the Stump (Wisdom Tooth), but it is one that shouldn’t be missed next time you’re in the Gorge – 12 long sustained pitches up to .11a. We set up the route with bomber descent anchors with clean pulls.

 

With our time was coming to an end and our fingertips really worked we pulled our big sleds up to the Mountain House (which Chris maintains was the crux of the entire trip), and had a beautiful evening flight back to Talkeetna.

 

And for the crux of my trip: On July 8, Michelle O’Neil and I were married on the Pika Glacier in Little Switzerland. We flew up with two airplanes with most of our family and some close friends for a beautiful ceremony amidst the great peaks of the Alaska Range. We had a big reception in Talkeetna that evening.

 

Michelle Puryear and I flew back into the Pika the next week. The weather had definitely changed back to a wet pattern. Our first objective was the West Face of Middle Troll. We found the climbing to be quite fun as we simuled the route in one pitch. At the top I conned Michelle into scooting out to the edge of the huge diving board feature for a neat photo op.

 

Two days of rain ensued but a clear morning dawned and we got an early start to climb the South Face of The Throne. Being rather uninspired by the routes on the right side of the South Face, we climbed the rounded ridge to the left of the South Face Gulley. The climbing again was solid and fun, and we were pleased to find that the summit ridge had no snow or cornices, allowing us to summit via the upper West Ridge.

 

The next day again dawned clear so we decided to take a shot at the East Buttress (Gargoyle Buttress) of the Royal Tower. The climbing was interesting; not quite as solid or straightforward as the other climbs, and the routefinding was tricky. The weather was decidedly going down hill all day and on the 11th pitch, about 2-3 from the buttress top, we decided to bail. After the first rappel it was raining. Toward the bottom the rain was intense and so was the rockfall. The bottom three pitches are quite threatened from the gully on the right. We pulled our drenched bodies back into camp without incident.

 

After another day of rain, we decided to try one more peak. During a very short weather window, we were able to climb the South Ridge of South Troll. Twice we set up rappel anchors to bail, as waves of rain came over, separated by sunny breaks. At one point we made a hasty rappel, only to reclimb the pitch. After we summited, we realized we were in for it. We quickly rappelled the north face then climbed over to the West Face of the Middle Troll to continue that decent line. Hail, rain, wind, and thunder buffeted us, but we again made it down safely. We flew out that evening during a brief clearing in the weather.

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Congratualtions to you and Michelle! Married in Little Switzerland, now that must of been pretty awesome. What was the wedding dress made out of, Epic, fleece???

 

Nice trip report. Nice trip!

A couple more trips like that and you are going to have to go somewhere else to find new terrain.

Good meeting you Joe.

Cheers,

Jedi

p.s. see you next spring

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I can't believe how much shit you guys climbed? Where you a saint in your previous life? I get shut down on the way to the cook tent in AK sometimes!

Way to go! Amazing!

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That's a radical list of summer accomplishments. I managed to fail on Cobra Piller, W Ridge of Eyetooth, and a hot chick on my trip to AK last summer .

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What a fantastic trip and trip report; inspirational!

 

Congratulations on living the dream.

 

Please PLEASE post some pictures.

 

rockband.gif

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Damn!

 

10 years worth of shiz in 1 season!

 

Excuse my while I go cry...

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i have some pictures. but you gotta work a little to see them:

 

 

1) you need QuickTime. if you don't have it, then go here: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/

 

2) turn up the volume

 

3) click on this link: AND THEN WAIT 1-2 MINUTES. the file is 6MB. on a dial up connection it could take 20 minutes to download

 

http://supertopo.com/forumphotos/alaska2.mov

 

enjoy!

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Wow, that's a great slideshow. Inspirational. Thanks for putting it together.

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GREAT slideshow!! "Inspirational" hits the nail on the head.

 

Chris, who is the music by??? I love that tune!

Jedi

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GREAT slideshow!! "Inspirational" hits the nail on the head.

 

Chris, who is the music by??? I love that tune!

Jedi

 

Ditto. That was amazing. Nice work. thumbs_up.gif

 

The tune is Moby, from the album "Play."

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mmm...more fine porn.....

 

That avalanche pic is pretty wild. It's hard to get a sense of scale there...Did you get seriously blasted or did it keep it's distance?

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I guess after traversing underneath that thing all these years, eventually you are going to be there when it lets loose. The avalache started 5000 feet above us and we were less than a half-mile from the base. We were lucky, it was relatively small and after running as far as we could in the opposite direction (minus some picture time), we just got dusted. A party or three earlier in the season got to experience the full wrath of a blast that went up the other side of the valley. They were all fine but a little shook up.

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wow....thanks for the incredible imagery guys...damn....I need to go there. congrats on your climbs.

 

Chris, nice song selection...love that one.

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Nice job! But can't you be more ambitious next year and climb a little more? Oh, wait, there's probably nothing left to climb . . . That's nothing short of a climbing frenzy. Congratulations!

 

cool.gif

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