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mthorman

best of cc.com [TR] Ruth Gorge Alaska - Ham & Eggs, Shaken Not Stirred, and SW Ridge 11300 5/16/2016

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Trip: Ruth Gorge Alaska - Ham & Eggs, Shaken Not Stirred, and SW Ridge 11300

 

Date: 5/16/2016

 

Trip Report:

 

Joe Peters and I just got back from a great 2 week trip to the Ruth Gorge in Alaska. This was my 2nd Alaska expedition (the first being to Denali WB) and I was a little surprised at how much easier it is to "plane camp"....no hauling sleds!! The packing phase for this trip was more like 4 books....sure; 2 sets of tools....why not; a dozen eggs....yes!! You get the picture. You can pretty much take whatever you want as long as you are willing to pay the extra money when you have over 125lbs of gear. Overall we had a fantastic time and were able to climb three great routes.

 

Overview

April 30 - Fly to Anchorage, travel to Talkeetna

May 2 - Fly with TAT to the Root Canal

May 4 - Climb Ham and Eggs on Mooses Tooth

May 7 - Climb Shaken Not Stirred on Mooses Tooth

May 12 - Bump flight to the West Fork of the Ruth

May 14 - Climb Southwest Ridge of Peak 11300

May 15 - Fly home to Spokane

 

Warning: as usual, I tend to ramble and be lengthy so if you are looking for the pictures just scroll down.

 

A couple words about gear/food. As I said you can bring whatever you want. We brought a Hilleberg Nammatj 3GT for base camp and an MH EV2 to use if we wanted to on routes. In the end we just single pushed all the routes so we each had our own tent at camp. It may have been overkill but it was nice on storms days! Both Joe and I brought Exped MegaMat 10LXW sleeping mats. They are heavy and bulky but they sleep as though you were on your mattress at home!! By far the best base camp mat I have ever seen or used. The kitchen tent was super nice even for just a party of 2. Great to get out of the weather, cook, hangout, store gear etc... Speaking of storage bring Rubbermaid boxes. We only brought one and wished we had more. They stack, keep stuff organized, make excellent places to eat/cook, and keep your chips and bread from getting mashed. As for food bring anything and everything. On storm days or rest days cooking gives you something to do. We made breakfast burritos, fajitas, pasta and lots of other great dishes. My personal favorite was our make shift oven. I took a round cooling rack and used a circular baking sheet on top of it. Then I put the cooling rack in a deep dish frying pan and put the lid on it. This elevates the baking sheet up an inch and you can bake to your hearts content. We made warm biscuits with butter and honey, chocolate chip cookies, and my favorite...personal pizzas. We took split boards which worked well for flotation and gave us something to do for an active recovery. Bring a 5 gallon bucket and a toilet seat that fits on top. It is WAY better than squatting over the little CMC cans the NPS provide.

 

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Last minute sorting while waiting to load our stuff into one of Talkeetna Air Taxi's Otters. Paul flew us in....also a treat to fly with such a great pilot.

 

 

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Views looking up the Gorge as we approach the Root Canal Glacier. The huge east face of Mt Dickey dwarfs the 2,500 ft tall Mt. Barril with Denali in the background.

 

 

After landing on the Root Canal we took advantage of good weather to get on Ham and Eggs a couple days later. I can see why this climb is so popular. The crux sections are steep but short and the final summit ridge to the top is safe but great exposure and views. In talking with a guide who has been to the Ruth many seasons, he said this year it was in "friendly condition". It was busy that is for sure. We left camp at 4am about 1 1/2 hrs behind the first group of 2. Another party of 3 left 1 1/2 hrs behind us. And while occasionally we had to wait for people or others waited for us, everyone got along and all parties summited. There is lots of beta out there so I won't get into too much detail. We broke up the climbing into lead blocks. I pitched out the 1st couple entrance pitches through mixed terrain and an ice step. From there we simuled over easy snow to the crux. Joe got in a couple of good screws then clipped some fixed pins right before the top out. Above the crux we simuled to the top. The ice steps were in good condition and gave adequate protection making for some really fun climbing. From the col we continued up to the summit passing a v-thread and a couple of buried pickets on the way. We had clear but windy skies up top. Beautiful views of the Alaskan Range. Started back down and had a couple of rappels and some down climbing to get to the col. Then about 16 rappels later we reached the glacier below. All the rap stations had good fixed gear, and all told we were just under 10 hrs round trip from camp.

 

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Unloading our stuff at the Root Canal airstrip. Happy to be on glacier.

 

 

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Our camp on the ridge above the Root Canal with Mooses Tooth and our objectives in the background.

 

 

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Joe leading the way through the lower easy snow slopes. You can see the 2 of two ahead of us on the crux of Ham and Eggs.

 

 

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Joe leading us through the easier ice steps above the crux of Ham and Eggs.

 

 

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Climbing past a huge boulder along the ridge on the way up Ham and Eggs.

 

 

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Joe topping out on the corniced summit of Mooses Tooth after completing Ham and Eggs.

 

 

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Looking south across the range from the summit of Mooses Tooth.

 

 

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Rappelling one of the pitches mid way up Ham and Eggs.

 

 

Shaken Not Stirred is the big brother to Ham and Eggs. Not in the sense of height or vantage but in the degree of difficulty. Overall the route has a lot more steep sections of ice and more mixed rock. Then the crux is obviously harder. We talked with 2 separate parties who bailed before the crux. So armed with some determination we took all the gear....aiders, talon hooks, the usual rack, and even rock shoes. For Shaken to be good you need a very cold night best after some warm afternoon. On Saturday we woke up at 4am to 15F in the tents and decided it was the day. Outside the weather was less than perfect with some low clouds coming and going, but we opted to give it a shot. As it turns out they all burnt off and it was a great day out.

 

We left camp at 5am and quickly arrived at the base. The beginning couple of pitches were not rotten or scary as had been reported. We found neve snow and good ice. Joe led up to the easy couloir where I took over the step kicking and simuled up to the "narrows". From here we pitched it out changing leads. Even if you don't get to the top of the route the narrows are totally worth climbing. Absolutely cool and appropriately named. At 1 spot you couldn't face into the ice because your shoulders wouldn't fit between the rock walls. The ice quality was generally good and pretty soon we arrived at the crux. I led the pitch below the crux and put the belay on the right wall about 20 feet below tucked out of the way. The climb turns a bit left at the crux so my belay spot was out of the firing line which as it turns out was probably one of the best decisions I made that day. The crux is basically a chockstone jammed between the walls. It protrudes out 3 or 4 feet from the back wall. Ice pours over the chockstone and the cave it forms underneath was full of snow. The right side is steep rock while the left was a little more friendly with a couple of thin cracks and a veneer of ice. Joe took a look and said he was going to do it. He decided to leave his pack at the belay and soon took off. Climbing up he got in a 10cm stubby screw in the ice on the left. He put it as high as the ice allowed before it thinned down but it was probably 15 feet below the actual chockstone. From there he worked up towards the ice above. The large section of snow was soft and unconsolidated. Attempting to get a handhold to weight slightly while reaching up with the other tool the unthinkable happened. The entire section of snow probably the size of several refrigerators gave out and it all came crashing down. I caught his fall and flattened myself into the corner as the huge chunk of snow cartwheeled just a few feet to my left. His stubby screw held and nobody was injured. Now that the snow was gone he climbed right back up and was able to get a #1 BD C4 high up underneath the chockstone. Then he worked out left and up mixed terrain. Finally he got in some good sticks above and pulled over the chockstone. We both relaxed a bit as he got in a good screw. I followed but had my own challenge as the large ice coming over the chockstone broke off with me on it. After dangling in space for a minute I was able to drytool up under where the ice had been and reach the easier terrain above. We were excited to have got the crux, and I took over the lead expecting 3 easy pitches worth of snow above.

 

It was quickly apparent that was not the case. The topo we had said to go up over a snow hump then traverse left. As I went up my progress soon slowed as I began excavating. It wasn't quite a tunnel but at times it felt like it as I worked up digging a 3 foot wide trench through the vertical snow. An hour or so later I had made it up 30-40 feet and dug a big hole through the snow hump looking down into the traverse and the next couloir. Joe followed the pitch then we simuled up to the top. After a couple quick pictures and some water we started the process of descending the route. It was obvious from the rap stations that Shaken doesn't get climbed as much as Ham and Eggs. We replaced several cords, added some rap rings/carabiners and beefed up a couple of stations with a pin or nut. Rappelling the 1st couple pitches at the bottom drove home the need for cold temps. All the snow and ice had turned to mush in the afternoon sun. We arrived back at camp at 5:30pm in time for a much needed dinner. We were super stoked to have climbed such a fine line, but also very taxed both physically and mentally.

 

May6am.jpg

Looking up at Shaken Not Stirred on the day before our climb.

 

 

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Joe leading through some of the ice on the 1st couple of pitches of Shaken.

 

 

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Joe coming up the snow couloirs below the "narrows".

 

 

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Joe climbing up through the 1st pitch of the narrows. Unbelievably cool climbing!

 

 

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Joe leading another awesome pitch of narrows climbing.

 

 

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Here is Joe working on the crux prior to his fall.

 

 

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Here is what the crux looks like after the snow all fell out. Quite a big hole!!

 

 

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Looking back at the traverse and top of the trench through the snow hump.

 

 

 

After a couple of days rest we started to get itchy to move. We wanted to "bump" to the West Fork of the Ruth and try Peak 11300's SW ridge. The weather was nice so we called TAT to get our bump. They said to get ready ASAP. Unfortunately in the meantime of breaking camp it clouded back up and we had packed for nothing. Not wanting to drag all of our stuff back up the ridge to our camp we settled for taking the necessities. The next day we arrived back at the airstrip cache to find our stuff in a complete mess. The ravens had opened up everything and destroyed, carried off, or ate about 2 weeks of Joe's food. I only lost a couple days worth because a lot of mine was in a rubbermaid box. Spirits were low as the snow fell for another day but the lesson was learned....Rubbermaids all around next year!

 

May9e.jpg

Spending some time watching the clouds and light dance on the mountains. The big rock buttress looks very inspiring!!

 

 

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Our big mess of destroyed food after the ravens got into it. Bring Rubbermaids, bury your stuff or keep it in a tent!

 

 

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The dreary days of waiting......listening to music, cooking, reading.

 

 

May12j.jpg

A shot looking down the Ruth Gorge on our bump flight to the West Fork of the Ruth.

 

 

We finally got our bump on Thursday and proceeded to setup camp at the base of Peak 11300 while we watched avalanches and seracs fall off the faces as the sun moved. We decided to attempt the route in a single push with only down parka/pants for backup. We also brought an MSR Reactor stove and 16oz of fuel along with 1 cooked meal per person. The weather window looked good but temps were very warm. As a resulted we decided to leave fairly early and try to beat the heat. Alarms went off and we were soon following the boot pack out of camp at 2:15am. I led out as we transitioned from the flat glacier to the starting slopes up to the ridge. Simul-climbing we quickly reached the 1st rock band. We simuled through it, then I brought Joe up so I could get the gear back. Another block of snow and rock and we were just below the "thin man's squeeze". The rock steps were just so much fun with great gear that I couldn't stop smiling. Another block and we took a break at the 1st col to rehydrate and eat. The sun was starting to light up Huntington and the other surrounding peaks. Another simul block brought us up through the S couloir and to the rap into the 2nd col. I pitched out the next short section through the ledges and mantle move, more for rope drag than anything else. From here Joe took over the lead and we headed up weaving around rocks, up snow, and climbing mixed steps. For the most part the route stayed on the ridge or just to the right of it. The crux of the route felt like it was the last "5.8 gully" noted on the topo. Joe got the lead as we continued our simul climbing through it. It was super fun climbing and protected very well. From there we pretty much made a beeline to the summit. The last few hundred feet were snow although you could dig down and put a screw in the ice to protect every once in a while. Topped out at 10am and into the warmth of the sun.

 

The views from the summit and along the ridge are stunning, some of the best I have seen! We quickly headed for the descent as we knew things were getting sloppy. The ridge to the top of the rappels had a bookrack but required a little bit of down climbing in some spots with serious runout in soft snow. We added another rappel anchor at the 1st rock outcrop above the sheltered col because the down climb looked hazardous in the current conditions. Then once over the col the regular raps started. There is actually a fair bit of traversing between rappels but never too bad. Finally after 8 raps or so we made it over the bergshrund and on to the glacier below. We had watched the slopes slide yesterday so we quickly made our way down crossing a couple of crevasses on the way. The whole bowl was baking in the sun by now and we longed for the shade of the tents at camp. We got back at 2:30pm making it in 12hrs and change tent to tent. The rest of the afternoon was a blur and by 5:30pm we were sitting at the Mountain High Pizza Pie in Talkeetna with the great white mountains only a memory. And so an Alaska trip is over but we are already talking about next year!!

 

 

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Our camp on the West Fork of the Ruth. It is such a beautiful setting.

 

 

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Peak 11300 catches some afternoon sunshine in the Ruth. Rooster Comb can be seen the background.

 

 

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A panorama somewhere below the 1st col. Joe is just a tiny dot along the ridge line in the middle.

 

 

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Looking up to the "grey rock" and the S couloir from the 1st col.

 

 

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The North Face of Huntington catches rays of morning sunshine. In the foreground you can see the tracks at the rappel to the 2nd col.

 

 

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Joe leading the way up the upper section of the ridge as the sun is starting to round the summit.

 

 

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A super wide angle showing the Ruth Gorge and Alaska range. On the right Joe is coming down the summit ridge behind me and on the left you can see the boot track continue down the corniced ridge.

 

 

May14bm.jpg

Looking back up at the steep corniced ridge that we descended.

 

 

 

Edited by mthorman

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Man nice work and great photos. Granite, ice, and sky. I'd love to see the rest of them. Some are still a bit wonky.

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Having had to make the climb up to the Root Canal from the Ruth Glacier, I had assumed aircraft as large as a Turbo Otter could land and take off from the Root Canal glacier. I had assumed only Super Cubs could stick that landing.

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Great trip, Marlin. Thanks for the excellent TR and photos. Happy for you and Joe.

-Steve R.

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Also, you need to go in and delete the "medium" from the image tags. Should be huge after you do that.

 

Thanks Jason, that helps a bunch! That oven is sweet looking! I am definitely going to try one of those out in preparation for next season.

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Man nice work and great photos. Granite, ice, and sky. I'd love to see the rest of them. Some are still a bit wonky.

 

Thanks! Do the pictures show up better now...still wonky??

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Thanks for the great TR - Alaska Range climbing is so beautiful. Out of curiosity what camera were you using?

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Thanks for the great TR - Alaska Range climbing is so beautiful. Out of curiosity what camera were you using?

 

I used a Canon Powershot S120 for all the pictures. Except the 4 or 5 panoramas which were taken with my iPhone 6.

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May14at.jpg

 

Outstanding report and photos! :tup::tup: A refreshing reminder that I need to go to Alaska someday and not just go for Denali. Thanks for taking the time to share this trip with us. Had to look into your camera due to being impressed at the quality.

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Shoot RAW and get good at Lightroom post-processing. You'll be amazed at what most cameras can do.

 

That said, the S120 is a great little camera. My go-to for more technical routes or carry-overs.

 

If you want to spare no expense, the other one to check out is the Sony RX-100 IV.

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The evolution of popular climbing cameras is interesting. When I started climbing the Nikon FM was the camera of choice because if the batteries failed it could be used fully manual. When point and shoot cameras came out, Olympus Stylus was quite popular due to its inherent ruggedness and decent image quality. With the advent of digital, I've been on trips where one partner has an IPhones, the other an expensive DSLR. The IPhone came back with better photos because it was easy to carry and deploy quickly.

 

And Josh, yes, you do need to go to Alaska. Skip Denali and do a Ruth Gorge or Kahiltna peaks tour.

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Yes the iPhone does take great photos...and for the panoramas it was much easier and better than my S120. But I would hate to take all the photos on a iPhone. As Jason said, shooting in RAW or at least a high quality JPEG then editing in Lightroom will really give you the best quality photos. The S120 supports a RAW file format. I also like the S120 because I can use it in a manual mode (for shutter speed, and aperture) which is sometimes very helpful with low light, or bright contrast.

 

And yes Josh definitely put Alaska on your climbing list....just don't do Denali :)

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I find that so strange, that android and iphones are so much better at panos than most cameras.

 

Why can't they add better functionality in camera??

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Nice trip, also really good pictures. I have the S120 as well and am very happy with the image quality and especially the 60fps video quality. Great camera and lot more affordable than the Sony RX-100 ii (which is also excellent, just $300 more).

 

I am not certain, but if anyone cares, I think you guys might have made the fastest round trip ascent on 11,300 to date. Back in 2004, Joe Puryear and David Gottlieb climbed the route in one day to the summit, bivied, and got back down the next day. At the time (pre-guidebook) the route didn't get nearly as many ascents as it does now and I hadn't heard of anyone climbing the whole route to the top in a day, so I was pretty sure Joe and David's ascent was the first in that regard. The snow was in great shape, and Dan Aylward and I headed up a day later. We were inspired enough by their effort, and the track they'd put in, to leave behind everything except a puffy jacket each- we didn't even take a stove. We climbed the route in 7 1/2 hours to the top, spent over an hour on top, and returned to camp, 13 hours tent to tent. We simuled the route in 4 pitches. Since then I've heard of several ascents that came close to that time (and it get lots of ascents now so it hasn't obviously been possible to hear every story) but this is definitely the fastest time I've heard about.

 

I did the route again in 2013. We had to break the trail in pretty bad snow. It took us 15 hours just to get up the route, and 22 round trip! Conditions are everything on this route.

 

Anyway, well done, gentlemen! Thanks for the report and the great photos.

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I am not certain, but if anyone cares, I think you guys might have made the fastest round trip ascent on 11,300 to date.

 

Mark,

Thanks for the info. We had a perfect boot track which made it especially speedy with all the simul-climbed sections. It could go much faster than 12 hours if somebody was trying and had similar conditions.

 

Hopefully we'll bump into you next season.

 

-Joe Peters

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Great TR Marlin. Loved Joe's video as well. Sounds like the Raven's were starving.

 

Josh, Go for it. The summit of Denali is breathtaking.

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