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Climbing

Ruth Gorge 2016

One of the blankest faces around, the N. Face of Mt. Johnson.
One of the blankest faces around, the N. Face of Mt. Johnson.

April 16-28, 2016

After too long a break I finally went back to Alaska with Matt to attempt Peak 11,300 on the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier.  However, as it turned out we never accomplished much in the way of climbing.

Months of training were put in, not just in 2015-2016 season, but also in 2014-2015.  That winter I never even packed a bag for AK, despite having ambitions to go.  Matt had an injury and I was without a definite partner.  Couple that with almost non-existent weather windows that year and I didn’t do anything that season.  Fast forward to this year and we questioned if we should postpone because of unsettled weather forecasts.  We considered the Cascades, we considered pushing things out a few weeks, we considered just rock climbing.  In the end we considered that many hours spent hiking up hills, running and lifting would be wasted if we didn’t give our original plan a shot.  In the end the mind was weakest link.  As a result we didn’t get much more than the top of a couloir.

Conditions also played a part in that there was a lot of snow in the AK Range at the end of March and first few days of April.  We flew in on April 18 and had a string of clear, warm weather.  The result was sluffing of snow on high steep faces, ice fall, rock fall, unconsolidated wet snow in the sun.  All things that aren’t confidence inspiring for climbing.

Finding some friends at the cook tent.
Finding some friends at the cook tent.

The many hours spent in camp were comfortable because of the temperatures and sun.  We got some reading in, some drinking in, and enjoyed the quiet that is the glacier.  We had some good mates on the glacier.  A couple young Germans, Max and Christof; and two Quebecois, Bernie and Martin.  These guys had a bit better luck than we did with climbing, but not too much better.

After only seven days on the glacier out of a planned twelve, we pulled the plug and returned to town.  In a fortunate twist of fate, our friends Kim and Andy, who were in a different section of the range and who had great conditions, were also flying out.  Paul, owner of TAT, was a bit early for our pickup and flew inside camp to give us a quicker load up.

We called for a pick up about a week early. Paul was early on pick up day and helped save us a long walk to the plane by landing basically in our camp. The left wing tip is overhanging our camp. Friends and super-couple Kim and Andy headed out with us.
We called for a pick up about a week early. Paul was early on pickup day and helped save us a long walk to the plane by landing basically in our camp. The left wing tip is overhanging our camp. Friends and super-couple Kim and Andy headed out with us.

The next few days were spent making the Talkeetna Main St. Traverse:  breakfast at the Roadhouse, back to bunkhouse for a few hours of napping, reading, internetting, lunch someplace, commence beer intake, continue until evening and dinner at the brewpub.  Rinse and repeat.  Talkeetna’s a pretty small town.