Goldfinger IV, 5.11a

 
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The Stump


Alaska, USA


Trip Report
A taste of Alaska: Cragging in the Ruth Gorge, July 2012
Wednesday August 15, 2012 2:43am
Goldfinger in the evening light - great weather on the day we flew in!
Goldfinger in the evening light - great weather on the day we flew in!
Credit: pvalchev
Full trip report with a lot more photos and details is here: http://sightly.net/peter/trips/alaska2012/

This is just a short photo TR. I got extra stoked to go to the Ruth Gorge from the supertopo and other trip reports online, so I want to contribute a few photos hoping for others to get psyched. (Very thankful for the great guidebook as well, we had a chance to chat with Joe's wife at TAT...)

Alaska is amazing. We had the pleasure to spend 3 weeks there this July. Six days were spent in the Ruth Gorge - just checking the place out and doing some low key cragging to get a taste, definitely not an expedition with a huge agenda. Honestly, the Ruth is such an amazing place - just *being* there was mind blowing. And the climbing was awesome - sweet granite and perfect splitters. If only the weather was better, eh? We had 2 mostly climbable days total (with some rain on the first day but nothing too major) - with which we were pretty happy, followed by an intense 2 day snow storm. We also spent 2 days in rainy Talkeetna at first, waiting for the weather to clear, but eventually it did and we flew in! They tell you the flight is amazing - and words do not do it justice. Even not climbing, the sight seeing flight would be mind blowing...

Exchanging final words with Paul before he leaves us!
Exchanging final words with Paul before he leaves us!
Credit: pvalchev
We tried to cut across prematurely, and had to go back left & take a w...
We tried to cut across prematurely, and had to go back left & take a wider path around these giant crevasses. Denali in the background!
Credit: pvalchev
A plane of tourists flying through, with Denali in the background - wo...
A plane of tourists flying through, with Denali in the background - wow!
Credit: pvalchev
Skiing by the Gargoyle, a huge hunk of rock with only a handful of cli...
Skiing by the Gargoyle, a huge hunk of rock with only a handful of climbs - lots of potential!
Credit: pvalchev

Our first objective was Goldfinger, here it is in the evening light:
Goldfinger in the evening light - great weather on the day we flew in!
Goldfinger in the evening light - great weather on the day we flew in!
Credit: pvalchev

By the time we setup camp and made dinner, it was midnight!
Camp
Camp
Credit: pvalchev

We woke up to showers, but the weather cleared up and it was sunny around noon!
Credit: pvalchev

This is the panorama view from camp:
Panorama view from camp. Mt Dickey in the middle, with its crazy 5,000...
Panorama view from camp. Mt Dickey in the middle, with its crazy 5,000 foot face
Credit: pvalchev

Soon after, we started up the amazing corner of Goldfinger - very aesthetic feature with good rock and sustained, beautiful climbing!
Looking down the first pitch of Goldfinger
Looking down the first pitch of Goldfinger
Credit: pvalchev
Higher up on Goldfinger
Higher up on Goldfinger
Credit: pvalchev

The views never got old!
Credit: pvalchev

Did I mention the corner was amazing?
Looking down pitch 6
Looking down pitch 6
Credit: pvalchev

It had already rained on us twice so far, but it passed... the corner was wet in a few places but manageable. Unfortunately, however, it started raining and hailing properly after about 1,200'... so we had to make the heart breaking decision to rappel. Oh well, a great day of climbing, we were not complaining by any means!

The next day, we went cragging - just picking the cracks that look good and climbing them... some truly amazing quality splitters!!!
This was like a steeper, longer, and awesomer Outer Limits... wow! 55 ...
This was like a steeper, longer, and awesomer Outer Limits... wow! 55 meters, 30 of which was a perfect hand crack.
Credit: pvalchev
Another *amazing* splitter.
Another *amazing* splitter.
Credit: pvalchev

On day 3, we planned to do Hut Tower, and skied down the glacier. Unfortunately, the skies looked like this, but we kept skiing:
The shitty weather is arriving!
The shitty weather is arriving!
Credit: pvalchev

We made it back to the tent in time for it to start pouring, and total white-out. It snowed for the next 36 hours non-stop:
2 days tent-bound. We watched movies on a tablet
2 days tent-bound. We watched movies on a tablet
Credit: pvalchev

On the 6th day we were planning to fly out... and thankfully the weather cleared, but it was very cold in the morning - between 0 and 10 F... we woke up to this:
Mt Dickey
Mt Dickey
Credit: pvalchev
Denali
Denali
Credit: pvalchev

With a foot of fresh snow, the ski back up to the Mountain House was arduous to say the least. And it hid a lot of the small crevasses... I fell into one up to my waist with one ski, not a biggie. We were very relieved to make it up without any larger crevasse encounters... because the opportunities for that seemed plenty.
Skiing out on day 6
Skiing out on day 6
Credit: pvalchev
I hated the sled by this point!
I hated the sled by this point!
Credit: pvalchev
Skiing up to the mountain house
Skiing up to the mountain house
Credit: pvalchev

After flying out, we went on to a more relaxing part of our vacation... first going down to Seward and hiking around (Lost Lake was the best day trip), also did a Kenai Fjords cruise:
Cruising the Kenai Fjords
Cruising the Kenai Fjords
Credit: pvalchev

It rained a lot, but we did a bunch of hikes, fly fishing for sockeye salmon (didn't catch any though), and lots of chillaxing... after which we went back up to Anchorage and rented a sweet truck camper. We took that up to Hatcher Pass and went rock climbing there for a couple of days since the weather was looking better... Hatcher Pass is gorgeous!!!
After that, we rented a sweet ass camper and drove up to Hatcher Pass
After that, we rented a sweet ass camper and drove up to Hatcher Pass
Credit: pvalchev
Hatcher Pass in comfort :)
Hatcher Pass in comfort :)
Credit: pvalchev

And has some great climbing, too - yes, more granite!
Climbing on the Diamond formation
Climbing on the Diamond formation
Credit: pvalchev
A nice fist/offwidth on which I wished for some wide gear...
A nice fist/offwidth on which I wished for some wide gear...
Credit: pvalchev

It started raining as soon as we finished the last pitch, so we rappelled down in the rain... it was great to go back to the truck camper and dry out, then we even baked a pizza in the oven! Spoiled for life...

After Hatcher Pass, we went down to Homer...
Hatcher Pass dirt road
Hatcher Pass dirt road
Credit: pvalchev

We went sea kayaking, hiking, and more chillaxing...
Homer is awesome.
Homer is awesome.
Credit: pvalchev

And then, it was time to end this trip! Overall, the weather was very rainy, we only had about 4-5 clear days out of 22.. but that seems to be pretty common - and locals complained about this being a very rainy July, even worse than average... which made us glad to get what we could out of it! It was a great first trip to Alaska - and we barely scratched the surface. The Ruth, of course, was a highlight... go check it out! More detailed Ruth trip report: http://sightly.net/peter/trips/alaska2012/ruthgorge/

Peter

  Trip Report Views: 2,757
pvalchev
About the Author
pvalchev is an ice poser from Bay Area, CA / Calgary, AB.

Comments
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T H

Boulder climber
extraordinaire
  Aug 15, 2012 - 03:10am PT
Gargoyle looks the perfect Yosemite archetype, or vice versa.
nopantsben

climber
  Aug 15, 2012 - 07:44am PT
looks awesome... thanks for putting this together!
T2

climber
Cardiff by the sea
  Aug 15, 2012 - 10:07am PT
Beautiful!! Thanks for sharing, that was killer! This is where I want to do my next big trip. What do you think dave? Next year?
jahil

Social climber
London, Paris, WV & CA
  Aug 15, 2012 - 10:49am PT
Wow those splitters look amazing - thanks for putting this together, great pictures!

steve
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Aug 15, 2012 - 10:59am PT
Thanks for taking me home again.

Made me miss it so much it hurt.

You hit so many great places!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Aug 15, 2012 - 11:01am PT
Nice TR and pictures! Brings back lot's of memories.
10b4me

climber
  Aug 15, 2012 - 11:33am PT
Looks awesome. Great pictures
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Aug 15, 2012 - 11:52am PT
sik!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Aug 15, 2012 - 12:03pm PT
Very very nice, looks like a great trip.
Stellar pics, Thanks!!!!!
bergbryce

climber
East Bay, CA
  Aug 15, 2012 - 12:10pm PT
Ruth and Hatcher stoke!
We don't see many TRs from the Great Land. Well done!
pvalchev

Social climber
Truckee, CA
Author's Reply  Aug 15, 2012 - 01:03pm PT
Thanks everyone!

@Donini - I must admit, the first place I heard about the Ruth was the "50 favorite climbs" book, and your write-up on the Cobra Pillar - ever since then I have been hoping to get a chance to go there... have to go back to do the Cobra and the Eye Tooth (we actually had hopes of climbing Eye Tooth if the weather cooperated). You should do a trip report of all your visits to the area with some of your old photos!!!!!

@climbski2 - Reno / the Sierra is home now? That's not too bad, is it? :) I think the major thing I loved there is the complete lack of people everywhere we went... CA is crowded in the summer time, if you are a weekend warrior (but for good reason I guess)
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Aug 15, 2012 - 06:08pm PT
Epic!
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Aug 15, 2012 - 07:51pm PT
Reno is great I plan to stay here. Day drive to everywhere in the western US. A type of freedom you just don't get in AK.

But your TR just drove a steak into my childhood and young climbing years. Talkeetna and TAT, Paul. The Range, Seward .. Archangel valley in Hatchers. Toto was one of my very early leads. A good climb on some of the Rarely easily accessible granite in Alaska. BTW that big white scar and rockfall by Toto (in your link) is just CRAZY!!! That's all fairly new and it was not like that in my day. Massive amount came down there. Scary cause I've climbed the stuff that came down..yikes. Is the memorial plaque at Toto for Steve Garvey by any chance?

In one TR you hit so many of my favorite places. Massive amounts of memories there.

Thanks again

PAUL SOUZA

Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
  Aug 15, 2012 - 08:10pm PT
AWESOME!!

*Added to bucket list* :D
SeanH

Trad climber
SLC
  Aug 15, 2012 - 09:01pm PT
TFPU! Looks amazing. Added to the list.
Hawkeye

climber
State of Mine
  Aug 15, 2012 - 09:06pm PT
nice! TFPU!
pvalchev

Social climber
Truckee, CA
Author's Reply  Aug 15, 2012 - 10:32pm PT
climbski2 - thanks for the nice words again. With only 3 weeks we tried to get a tasting of as much as possible around Anchorage... Toto/Diamond was fun - I didn't even know what we were climbing exactly, but had a rough word description from mountainproject.com for the area - there is now a new shiny guidebook I think for the area but we didn't have it. I was wondering how old that rock scar was, actually - I thought it happened thousands of years ago but then I did wonder about the color... which made it look pretty fresh :-) That is truly terrifying indeed, that it is all so very recent!!! The next morning we climbed on the Monolith, it had better rock :)

Re: the plaque - yes, you are correct, it was for Steve. I was actually curious about what happened and tried to search online but didn't find info - did you know Steve? We both wondered... plaques like this always make me sad.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Aug 15, 2012 - 11:09pm PT
Thank you for taking the time to post this!

Interesting, witty, & fun----to see your adventures in the Ruth Gorge and elsewere in AK.

More reports please!
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Aug 16, 2012 - 01:25am PT
Yes I knew Steve. Pretty much Everyone in the 80's and 90's in AK knew him. He put up some of the best Ice-climbs in Valdez and took Mixed climbs to the highest level for the time. He gave anyone in the era a run for their money. I would suspect 20 percent or so of the ice and rock climbs in South Central AK were his FA's

He was also just an incredibly stoked guy when climbing and would push you farther than you thought you could go and get the best out of you.

An incredible mentor to so many new climbers including myself.

He died in a bizarre situation. His rope (New Edelweiss Stratos 10.5) cut cleanly a foot from the harness on a sharp piece of rock from a routine sport fall.

My last visit to Alaska was for his funeral. Truly a legend and a guy ahead of his time on mixed.

Here is a great article written by another friend about Garvey

http://akwriter.blogspot.com/2005/07/sans-ami.html
the Fet

climber
Tu-Tok-A-Nu-La
  Aug 15, 2012 - 11:20pm PT
Excellent. Thanks for sharing.
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Aug 15, 2012 - 11:28pm PT
YES!!!

sweet splitters, views, you basked in it!

thanks for sharing,
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Aug 16, 2012 - 12:38am PT
Hey T H
My partner and I tried a route up the Gargoyle, right up the wall facing the camera. Or maybe up the pillar just left of center. Dunno, it was back in the early 1980s.

Besides the BIG F*#KING snow avalanches that kept coming down the face, we had problems with massive rock avalanches that scared us to death. We bailed when a refrigerator-sized boulder came bouncing down an overhanging chimney that I was about to lead. The boulder flew right over my head, and narrowly missed my partner who was jugging a free-hanging rope below.

If you get onto the Gargoyle, stay away from the northern part of the west face, there are a lot of avalanches.

We didn't have rock gear, got rained off Denali and turned out attention to the Gargoyle. Ever do a big wall in double boots with an alpine rack?

T H, can you e-mail me a high-res copy of that pic?

An early attempt on the west face of the Gargoyle
An early attempt on the west face of the Gargoyle
Credit: Sierra Ledge Rat
pvalchev

Social climber
Truckee, CA
Author's Reply  Aug 16, 2012 - 01:19am PT
Enjoyed reading that story about Steve Garvey, thanks for sending it, and providing some info on what happened...

Sierra Ledge Rat - that pic is linked from my site, the full resolution version is:
http://sightly.net/peter/trips/alaska2012/ruthgorge/20120704-202648-slr.jpg
Let us know what you ended up climbing there by drawing a line ;-)
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Aug 16, 2012 - 04:11am PT
Yo man
Your photo is a patchwork, too many irregularities at all the wrong places for me to tell exactly where we climbed. And it's been ~30 years. However, I am guessing that we must have climbed up the left side of the little pedestal. We got about halfway up over 4 days.

It would be helpful if you could post a photo of the pedestal without the patchwork. A view from a more northerly perspective would also be usedful.

To the left of that pedestal is a small cone of snow. If you follow that cone vertically to the summit, there is an indistinct groove and a notch in the summit. This is where HUGE snow avalanaches pour off the top. Stay away.

Here's a photo from a more northerly perspective. The black streaks of that avalanche groove are clearly visible (left side of the photo).

Credit: Sierra Ledge Rat

We spent 30 days in the Ruth Amphitheater/Denali area. Climbed a lot but didn't accomplish much... ): Great place, though. We skied the Ruth Gorge unroped (;

Credit: Sierra Ledge Rat
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
  Aug 16, 2012 - 05:41pm PT
Man, the perception of the Ruth Gorge has sure changed.

I remember when Mugs wrote that great article (or was it the Bird) about their FA on the E Face of the Mooses Tooth. They made it sound like overhanging kitty litter. I see these pics and it looks like a new yosemite, but with too much snow...

Ha ha. I myself have fallen up to the waist in little crevasses. Dumb luck for me, anyway. I always was a dim bulb.

That first route looks amazingly high quality. I was surprised to see flora in the cracks.
Alpinista55

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
  Aug 20, 2012 - 04:52pm PT
Nice TR and a real memory actuator. I especially liked the views towards Denali that included Mt. Dan Beard, the scene of my first climb in the Ruth back in 1978. Scott Woolums and I spent 10 days doing the the SE Ridge as total rookie noobs, and had at least one "I almost died" moment.

My friend Leigh attempted a route on the Gargoyle that same trip in '78. They aided up a crack system in the center of the thing until the rock turned into cheese about 10 pitches up. As I recall, they chopped their back-off rap anchor into the rock with an ice ax.

After that '78 trip we spent several seasons up the West Fork and never got to sample the awesome looking cragging down the gorge. In 1980 we sat at the Mountain House and watched John Waterman ski solo across those big crevasses you detoured around, pulling a big sled load. You guys made the right call there!

Thanks for the memories...

Jk
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Aug 20, 2012 - 05:35pm PT
Thanks for a high quality contribution! And nice additions from others too.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Aug 21, 2012 - 12:18am PT
I remember Scott Woolums
Maysho

climber
Soda Springs, CA
  Aug 21, 2012 - 12:29am PT
TFPU Very nice report!

Was up there with Bridwell in 1988. We tried the Bear Tooth off the Buckskin, but had atrocious weather, very early March time, still winter for all practical purposes. Then we flew over to the Ruth Amp. to meet two clients. We did the West Ridge of Moose's Tooth, nicely shown in that photo a few posts up...Then Jim flew off to the Trento Film festival, and I took the clients and did a new route on the Huttenturn (Hut Tower), the South Arete. Base, what we found was that one side of those peaks would have splitters, and the other would have "kitty litter". Hut Tower was that way, the climb up was amazing, the rappel down the opposite side was total junk. We descended all night long, and I vividly remember carving two stopper placements with my ice tool into a flat face of kitty litter. Raddest 24 hours of guiding I ever did...

Peter
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Aug 21, 2012 - 02:16am PT
wow great report, thank you for posting.

Did you guys do a good amount of eating in Talkeetna?
nom nom nom
nom nom nom
Credit: Vitaliy M.

nom nom
nom nom
Credit: Vitaliy M.

This makes me hungry. Will go check the fridge. Awesome report!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Aug 21, 2012 - 02:21am PT
^^^^
Sourdough Sals?
cowpoke

climber
  Aug 21, 2012 - 10:01am PT
Looks like an amazing trip -- Thanks for the report!
pvalchev

Social climber
Truckee, CA
Author's Reply  Aug 21, 2012 - 02:33pm PT
re: 'flora in the cracks' - I was amazed. Many of the anchors consisted of nests of equalized nuts, some of them looked recent but I had never seen nuts so rusted before - with grass growing through them, pretty unreal. Even when we climbed a couple of the pitches were very wet, nice for flora - if it wasn't so cold I bet there would be trees growing out of them... :)

The freeze/thaw cycles there must be nuts and wreck total havoc on the rock, I can see how the varying exposure of the rock to the sun would make for a big difference in rock quality - but there is more to it than that, too. Maysho - carving nut placements with a tool - sounds like a memorable descent indeed :)

Thanks for all of your stories guys, I really enjoyed them. Alpinista - skiing through those crevasses solo makes me terrified just thinking about it - crevasses scare the sh#t out of me even roped up :)

Vitaliy - lots of eating in town, no question. That's the West Rib right? I had something similar there. And the full breakfast at the Roadhouse... amazing.
Alpinista55

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
  Aug 21, 2012 - 07:37pm PT
pvalchev, Waterman told us that after skiing through big crevasses he felt reborn. The next day Scott and I were the last people to see him alive, as he wound his way through a maze of big cracks in the NW Fork of the Ruth.

Jk
pvalchev

Social climber
Truckee, CA
Author's Reply  Aug 21, 2012 - 08:50pm PT
You got me curious. From http://www.alaskanalpineclub.org/Concepts-2.html

" John later disappeared on a solo attempt of a new route on Denali, after discussing with a lawyer the ramifications of staging his own disappearance. You might get real suspicious of any climber who is awarded the John Waterman Award, in 5,000 years. (Added in 2009. We received verifiable proof that John was alive about 5 years ago, in San Francisco. JOHN, you are always welcome at the Alaskan Alpine Club HQ. Any identity. No questions asked.)"

HUH!??!
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Aug 23, 2012 - 01:03am PT
Great photos and great energy... always fun to see people chargin... but better to see people fired up and charging. Psyched you liked Goldfinger and Joe's book. Alaska Climbing book is one of my fav SuperTopo books. Partially because Joe fired me as the layout guy halfway through (I was climbing too much) and created all the cool snow/ice topos. He had little design background but naturally became good and much better than me in just a few months. And he was just a great photographer. And writer... Great to hear his book is still getting people fired up for the big AK adventures.
RP3

Big Wall climber
Twain Harte
  Aug 23, 2012 - 08:29am PT
What an amazing TR. Thanks for posting!
pvalchev

Social climber
Truckee, CA
Author's Reply  Aug 23, 2012 - 09:02pm PT
I bought the supertopo Alaska book the day it came out even though I didn't have plans of going there immediately - it is a piece of art. Met Michelle at TAT (she was there for the summer), I was a bit lost for words. Wish I knew Joe... and he was still around.

Btw, re: John above - does anyone know more about his disappearance? I became curious now about what happened, and whether he is indeed still alive based on that note on the Alaska alpine club site.
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Aug 23, 2012 - 09:26pm PT
I would suggest getting to know the source of the alleged info.

The Alaskan Alpine Club and Doug Buchanan are a great slice of Alaskana.

Representative of quite a bit of oldschool Alaskan sentiment mixed with climbing.
Alpinista55

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
  Aug 24, 2012 - 07:01pm PT
Hey pvalchev,

Scott and I spent the night with John below the mountain house the day before he disappeared. He had just came on foot from Anchorage, pulling a sled load all the way. It was his 2nd on foot approach from Anchorage that year. The first time he had his stove malfunction on the lower Ruth, and turned around and walked all the way back to Anchorage to get it fixed (all this was related to us by John at the time of our meeting).

He had very minimal gear with him, no tent, was wearing a one piece suit similar to what north slope workers would wear, and had a very strange minimalist diet. As I said, we witnessed him skiing through very serious crevasses on what we considered extremely tenuous snow bridges with no safety gear at all, his sled on a short tether behind him.

He told us he was heading up toward the East Buttress via the NW Fork of the Ruth to do a new route on Denali. I have looked down onto the NW fork a couple of times from high on Mt. Dan Beard and it is a maze of BIG cracks. Scott and I watched a Japanese expedition forcing a path up the NW Fork from Dan Beard in 1978. They told us later of taking numerous crevasse falls, and never got established on their route because of the time they spent in the NW Fork.

The morning after meeting John we got up to find that he had left camp ahead of us. We broke our camp and started skiing back up the West Fork to our base camp below Mt. Huntington. As we skied past the NW Fork we saw John's tracks diverge from the ski tracks going up the West Fork, and we could see him about a mile or two distant heading up into the crevasses of the NW Fork pulling his sled. To my knowledge, we were the last people to see him. We related our information to the NPS, and I believe that the NPS flew up the NW Fork to try to find signs of John, to no avail.

Jk
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The Stump - Goldfinger IV, 5.11a - Alaska, USA. Click to Enlarge
An overview of the line.
Photo: Joe Puryear