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John Frieh

first ascent [TR] Mount Dickey (Ruth Gorge) - NE Face "Blue Collar Beatdown" (FA) 3/20/2015

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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

 

DSC031441.JPG

 

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

DSC03068.JPG

 

Looking back

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Trenching it up. The trench exceeded 6 feet in places.

DSC03126.JPG

 

The pseudo cave. A dark night

DSC031181.JPG

 

As first light breaks we immediately started climbing again

DSC03124.JPG

 

Hour 40. Wasted.

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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!

DSC03099.jpg

 

 

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

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:brew:

 

Those first couple photos really set the stage- impressive and insecure looking climbing. And the trenching? Nuts. Seems impossible that snow that soft can be so steep (and not slide).

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I have always thought you were another one of those crack babies. Keep showing me I wish I was a crack baby! You have always amazed me to what you do.

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Thanks all. For the record we only had two rope lengths of heinous trenching; a large majority of the route was not nearly as bad... if it was we'd still be up there.

 

Not a crack baby AFAIK but for sure curious to see what I can do given the other commitments in my life. You only get once chance at this life... right?

 

 

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How does this relate to the 2003 ? Karen McNeill route? I remember that it's in the same general area.

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DSCN0879.JPG

 

Karen's route is the obvious WI3 flow. Blue Collar Beatdown is the next weakness left. The seracs above would scare me shitless, but I don't have much AK experience, so that will probably fade after more trips. I'm guessing they rip very infrequently.

 

BTW, that flow of ice in the far right I believe is undone, however big seracs make up the top. Again, I bet they rip very infrequently.

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How does this relate to the 2003 ? Karen McNeill route? I remember that it's in the same general area.

 

Keenwesh is partially correct. Karen's route was climbers right of our line and is pictured in his photo though 1) she rated it WI4+ and 2) they did not reach the summit.

 

From Karen's 2003 AAJ entry:

 

Mt. Dickey, northeast face ice.

 

Flying into the Ruth Gorge, I caught sight of an obvious drip of ice on the northeast face of Mt. Dickey. On May 20 Christine Byrch and I left our camp below the Don Sheldon Mountain House in the Ruth Amphitheater.

 

We skied down to Mt. Dickey and stashed our skis south of a rock rib that separates Barril from the northern end of Dickey’s east face.

 

Initially we postholed up 1,500' of snow that led to the base of the ice. The drip had formed between serac bands on the upper face. From looking at maps we knew that the route wasn’t threatened from above. The ice was in perfect shape, and we climbed 240m of WI4+ ice. From the top of the ice, Christine and I ascended 300m of snow, interspersed with a little ice, followed by more snow. This took us to the ridge proper.

 

After brewing up we headed toward the summit, which lay more than 1.5km away. Initially we kept to the ridge, but part way along had to descend to lower slopes, as the cornices were huge. The going became slower, until we finally decided to descend Pittock Pass back to our camp.

 

Our skis were still at the base of Mt. Barrill. Walking around to retrieve them was out of the question, so on May 22 we climbed over Mt. Barrill and descended the Japanese Couloir, which landed us close to the skis. On our return to camp we discovered that Adam Rosenthal and Jack Jeffries had climbed the route on Dickey the day after us.

 

On May 25 Christine and I skied around Mt. Dickey, making a side trip to the summit. From the top we realized that we were probably 300m from the summit when we turned back after our earlier climb. Having communicated with several Alaskan veterans, I believe the route on Mt. Dickey to be a first ascent.

 

Karen McNeill, Canada

 

Keenwesh's photo makes our route look fairly threatened but if you actually ski up to the base as well as fly over the top of it you can see only the start of the route is in the firing line of the serac. As you move across the face the prominent rock buttress protects you. Exiting off the face too early and you will reencounter the serac but if you continue far enough right the serac shrinks and you are only faced with a minimal cornice.

 

We all have different risk tolerances for exposure. I find it comical that numerous climbers will camp in the Root Canal every year for days exposed to cornices without a second thought but everyone shits the bed when I move under a serac for a few hours.

 

 

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We all have different risk tolerances for exposure. I find it comical that numerous climbers will camp in the Root Canal every year for days exposed to cornices without a second thought but everyone shits the bed when I move under a serac for a few hours.

Are people still camping in the same spot on the Root Canal after the 2011 accident?

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We all have different risk tolerances for exposure. I find it comical that numerous climbers will camp in the Root Canal every year for days exposed to cornices without a second thought but everyone shits the bed when I move under a serac for a few hours.

Are people still camping in the same spot on the Root Canal after the 2011 accident?

 

In 2014 I saw a few teams camping in a questionable location. Memories fade...

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