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[TR] Alaska - Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier 5/2/2010

John Frieh

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Trip: Alaska - Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier


Date: 5/2/2010



April 29: PDX -> SEA -> ANC -> Talkeetna.

April 30: Paul/TAT flew us to the Dickey camp early (~10 am); spent the day setting up camp and checking conditions on surrounding peaks.

May 1: Skied up and down the great gorge of the Ruth Glacier; spent the day scoping potential lines.

May 2: Combined a portion of Season of the Sun with the East Buttress of Mt Bradley via new/unclimbed terrain.

May 3: Rest day: retrieved our skis from Bradley, more scouting.

May 4: Ham and Eggs on Mooses Tooth from Dickey camp

May 5: Picked up by TAT/returned to Talkeetna. Talkeetna -> ANC -> SEA -> PDX


Southeast aspect of Mt Bradley




Due to unfortunate circumstances I was suddenly partnerless for AK only days before I was suppose to fly north. Fortunately a friend connected me with Dylan Johnson who, though couldn’t swing the full two weeks I had originally planned, could break away for a long week. Sometimes little is better than none.


So for the second year running I met my AK partner for the very first time in the airport. We spent the 29th running the usual errands in ANC; Rob Smith was kind enough to provide shuttle service around town (thanks dude!)


On the 30th Paul was able to zip us in before the predicted w/x arrived that afternoon. Fly TAT or budget more $$$ for booze at the Rib while you wait to fly


Always always always call shotgun. Especially if it's your first time flying in.



Home on in the range



We bumped into Mr Jack Tackle at the Dickey camp; he was gracious enough to update us on snow conditions which unfortunately weren’t ideal. A dry, cold winter had yielded a lean selection of spring ice and recent spring snow had left many of the north facing aspects covered in unconsolidated sugar.


With that in mind we spent the remainder of the 30th and the 1st studying the few lines that would have both minimal sugar snow but some amount of snow and ice. After some careful consideration we settled on the SE aspect of Bradley. Specifically we both liked the look of the Giri Giri boy’s April 2007 route Season of the Sun as well as the Orgler/Jochler July 1987 East Buttress. Frankly we were both more drawn to the aesthetics of the buttress but given that the lower portion of the buttress contained several sections of rock slab that were currently covered in sugar snow (it was originally climbed as a rock climb) we decided to see if we could somehow connect the lower portion of Season of the Sun with the upper portion of the buttress. Doing so would require covering some new terrain but we were both excited to see if we could get the combination to work.


The East Buttress (left hand skyline) of Mt Bradley



On May 2nd we got a slightly later start than originally planned due to an alarm clock failure but started Season of the Sun around 6 am. A sampler of neve sprinkled with rock and water ice steps passed quickly until we reached the Season of the Sun crux: an M6 offwidth.


Early in the day



Season of the Sun crux pitch



Though we found noticeable less ice on the pitch than the FA party the pitch protected well and passed quickly. We continued up Season until reaching the second major ice pitch of the route that marks the start of the “central gully" It was here we left Season and pointed for what appeared to be a viable point to join the buttress. Snow slopes quickly turned into a series of mixed pitches before we found ourselves on the East Buttress.


Mixed steps enroute to the East Buttress





We continued up the East Buttress simulclimbing as often as possible but ended up pitching out much of the terrain. Near the top in order to avoid some cornices we had to deal with some deep unconsolidated sugar that slowed our pace but we finally topped out at 6 pm almost exactly 12 hours after leaving our skis.


East Buttress



Deep sugar enroute to the summit






Headed home



We opted for the Wake/Bradley col for the descent as I was familiar with it from last year which unfortunately meant we basically had to traverse up over Bradley. Additionally reaching the col required avoiding several slopes that had been baking in the sun most of the day. This meant staying on top of the ridge line which created additional climbing and added to our descent time. 5 hours after leaving the summit we crossed the schrund and hightailed it back to camp. All told it was ~17 hours on route and ~19 camp to camp. As we never really had the leisure to stop and brew both Dylan and I completed the effort on a liter of water each. Good times.


The 3rd was spent mostly rehydrating, refueling and looking at other options for a second route. Unfortunately nothing in the lower gorge appeared to be in desirable shape so we decided to take a run on Ham and Eggs on Mooses Tooth camp to camp.


On the 4th we left camp on the 4th at 4 am and battled a stiff headwind up the glacier. We lucked out and found a boot pack up to the Root Canal. 2 hours and 45 minutes later we stopped just under the Mooses Tooth for a quick brew stop. After racking up Dylan led out and we started simulclimbing clipping rap anchors as we went. We quickly caught the other teams ahead of us (they had started from the Root Canal camp) and were forced to pitch things out as passing wasn’t really an option. Dylan scored a nap at one “pit stop”. Regardless of our slowed pace the route was in great shape so we enjoyed ourselves. Near the top of the couloir we punched it and passed all the other teams and took it to the summit: we wanted to make sure and be first on the way down.


Dude... lets just do it tent to tent. I hate carrying bivy gear anyways...



Pitch 1



Oh yes, is very nice!



Traffic jam



Dylan doing his best "A young Mark Westman" impersonation



The descent went smooth and we were on our way and back in camp right at the 16 hour mark. We could have shaved a few hours off that if we had been first on the route but we were just stoked we didn’t have to hump bivy gear up to the root canal and back.


Good times with great people back in camp



On the 5th we called TAT at 8 am and they snapped us up at 9:30 right before the next storm rolled in. Did I mention how great these guys are?





Back in Talkeetna we ran into these two guys that tried to get us drunk and steal all our secret projects but we were wise to their tactics.



We were in ANC that afternoon and I had breakfast back in PDX on the 6th. Love it.


Until next year :brew:


Shameless Plugs: Many thanks to


- Dylan for a great trip and taking a chance on a complete stranger. VERY NICE!

- Mark Westman for all the condition updates and being a bad ass

- Roj for hooking me up with Dylan: I don’t know what lies you told him about me but it worked and I owe you!

- Rob for the ANC shuttle service.


Most importantly: many thanks and much respect to Mark, Rob and Lisa of Gym Jones. I visited Gym Jones last July where they evaluated my strengths and weaknesses and based on those provided me both programming and guidance which resulted in reaching personal bests both in the gym as well as outside. For sports where power-to-weight ratio truly matters (like climbing) they have no peer.


In addition to being experts in their field they are some of the most nurturing, gracious individuals I have ever met. All paths to the Way start in the mind.


As words fail me I can only hope my actions fill in the blanks. Much Respect.



Approach Notes:


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Hell yeah!!!!! Good job -- and 16 hrs from the Gorge? Damn that's fast! :brew:


PS - those guys that tried to steal your projects climbed H&E in 4.5 hrs up - 7hrs RT from the Root. They gave us hot tea with honey liquor as they rapped past us.

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I don't know much about the Alaska Range but 12 hours up an apparently technical route on Mount Bradley sounds like some..."MAJOR HAULING FUCKING ASS!!!" Am I mistaken?


How many pitches are thrown in there?


Then to turn it around a day later and climb Ham & Eggs in a huge day! Wow! Thats some serious instant recovery! WTF are you eatin up there?

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