Trip Report
Ruth Gorge Climbing: Whiteouts, Snickers and Pakistani Mangoes.
Wednesday June 18, 2014 6:23pm
Here you go: Ruth Gorge: start to finish. If you want the formatting to look nicer, I have the pretty much exact same TR on my personal blog I keep for my parents: www.trackingnat.blogspot.com, otherwise read on!
Credit: chick_on_ice

It all starts with the packing of my things and storing them in Hanover. I say goodbye to my Boston mad scientist boss, visit my friends in the throes of final exams at Dartmouth, and eat some homemade sourdough waffles.

Credit: chick_on_ice

My good friend Zebediah Engberg making some waffles for the traditional 'Waffle Wednesday'
Goodbye Boston.

Channeling my inner patriot
Channeling my inner patriot
Credit: chick_on_ice

Pete is pictured to the left rocking some sweet glacier goggles he got bequested by the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club and holding the Vegas shirt that will reappear later in this post (he was my climbing partner for the trip, so you'll be seeing a lot of him). Lorin is seen rocking her sweet purple onesie as she prepares for a marathon 36 hour CAD lab Solidworks push for an engineering final project.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Credit: chick_on_ice

I flew into Anchorage with one massive, 80 liter checked bag (under 50 lbs mind you because I carried the ropes stacked around my neck and rack onboard as carry-ons)

"Why yes sir, this rope is my pillow".

Credit: chick_on_ice

We were greeted by Pete's mom and a giant bowl of homemade, chocolate chip, oatmeal cookies and nectarines at our 1am flight.

Credit: chick_on_ice

The immense pile of gear was pretty intense. Pete decided to practice his figure-4 technique on the basement rafters as a break from packing.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Should we bring the 5?
Should we bring the 5?
Credit: chick_on_ice

Pete's mom treated us like kings and had deluxe breakfasts waiting in the morning. Pancakes, bacon and berries. What more can you ask for?

Credit: chick_on_ice

Costco shopping was eventful. We purchased a 48 pack of Snickers and two giant jars of Nutella along with some cheese, summer sausage and pesto. We're not picky or selective eaters as you can tell.

and some peanut mnm's that sadly didn't make it onto the trip because ...
and some peanut mnm's that sadly didn't make it onto the trip because we were cutting weight on the air taxi
Credit: chick_on_ice

Pete practicing the Jumar setup in his dad's awesome basement/garage gear storage warehouse that's the size of a small house. Make that a medium-sized house. It's the kind of gear basement I will one day own, except mine will feature an automatic gear-retrieval system and have a ski waxing bench and climbing wall.

Credit: chick_on_ice

We set up the Alpine Hammock in the basement to test it out. Thanks to the Alpine Hammock team for supplying us with two of these alpine bivies to take with us! More info here: http://www.alpinehammock.com/2012/10/25/about

Credit: chick_on_ice

Then the 4am drive to Talkeetna, getting in the small bush plane, the flight out onto the Ruth Glacier. All in style. Below is a pic of Denali (tallest mountain in North America) and our pilot.


Credit: chick_on_ice


Then the air taxi (a sweet new Otter) took off and left us on the glacier for 2 weeks.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Flying away.

Credit: chick_on_ice

We probed the area for crevasses and set up our camp. Probing is the dullest thing ever. You walk around with a giant pole and stick it into the ground to see if you feel a massive gaping hole beneath you. It sounds exciting, but it's really not. At least you can see Mt. Dickey behind me which is over a vertical mile in height.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Yup. Super exciting. Cobra Pillar, our original objective is pictured below to my left.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Camp building commenced. This involved sawing blocks of consolidated snow and building a fortress around our tent that looked very much like an igloo someone was building but lost steam halfway there.

Credit: chick_on_ice


The Moose's Tooth is pictured to my left. The snow wall we were building is required to help prevent strong winds from blowing over the tent during storms.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Our human-constructed barrier, our tent, our skis, our sleds and the most gorgeous weather we could have hoped to fly in on.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Our new home. For more than 2 weeks, Pete and I didn't have more than 200' (the length of a full pitch of rock climbing) separating us, because you can't just go wandering on the glacier alone or you'll fall into a big hole and won't get out. I'm glad to report that we didn't murder each other or even have a disagreement throughout the trip. Group and partner dynamics can be a touchy thing, so we were lucky to have a good partnership.

Credit: chick_on_ice

After a brief nap during the hottest part of the day, we set off to see if the iconic Moose's Tooth route Ham and Eggs was in climbable condition. Mind you, at this point we've been up since 4am and had been in Anchorage as of that morning. Things move quick up here and we didn't want to lose the weather window that was fast closing in.

Credit: chick_on_ice

The crux of all glacier travel is avoiding the massive crevasse holes that are everywhere. Above you can see the Cobra Pillar in the background and the non-linear ski track we took to get through the minefield. Below is pictured the icefall we had to navigate up to get to the Root Canal glacier and the start of Ham and Eggs.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Big, dark, scary holes. Snow conditions were not ideal in the evening because the snow was still soft, but it enabled us to get to the base of the route and, if it was in climbable condition, to climb during the night when there would be less rock and ice fall on the climbing route itself. It all makes sense if you think about it.

More churning masses of the glacier.

Credit: chick_on_ice

At least the views are incredible as always, but you had to watch your step. The backpacks were heavy because we brought our ice and rock racks as well as crampons, ice tools, bivy gear and a stove to melt water. We kept the glacier-travel rope taut between us, because we realized the risks we were taking traveling as a party of only two across this terrain.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Pete navigated past some snow bridges on the approach up to the Root Canal. It may seem like you can just step right there, but it's so steep and the snow so deep that I had to take my skis off just to make it up 10 feet.

Credit: chick_on_ice


Pete said: "watch me", then stepped out onto the snow bridging the two sides of the crevasse. The glacier let him pass through, but not without both his ski pole and whippet punching through on both sides of him, so that he had to rely on his balance and the friction of the skins on his skis to get across.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Not pictured is the rest of the Root Canal approach (much longer and steeper than it looks) and the unfortunate condition of Ham and Eggs (we had an inkling that it wasn't in, but decided to check anyway). Around 3am, 23 hrs since we woke up, we turned around at the base and began the snaking descent back to our camp. At least we tried and checked it out!

Credit: chick_on_ice

Navigating back at 3 am. At least it never gets dark in Alaska.
We were glad we went up to check out the conditions, and by the time we got back to our tents more than 30 hrs after we left Anchorage, we were exhausted. But big pushes is what Alaskan climbing is all about right?

Credit: chick_on_ice

A much-needed recovery nap, and we set off to see how things were looking around the corner at Peak 11,300.

Credit: chick_on_ice

To say it was beautiful would be an understatement.

Credit: chick_on_ice

We skied up and climbed up a little knoll to get a better look. It involved some snow swimming to get to the top.

Credit: chick_on_ice

But we made it eventually.

And were rewarded by views of the Tooth and the surrounding Ruth Glacier Valley. You can see the Root Canal and the icefall path we were taking to get there the night before on the right.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Credit: chick_on_ice

Then the fun began. And by fun, I mean our complicated relationship with the weather. We woke up several days to this:

Credit: chick_on_ice

It rained. So we dug out a giant cave for our cooking tent, complete with a bench and a table. I should mention here that our objectives for the trip were anything and everything we could get on, however, we REALLY wanted to get on the Cobra Pillar and the Eye Tooth. Alas, the weather was not cooperating.

Credit: chick_on_ice

We carried a sattelite phone with us to have contact with the air taxi company (so they knew where and when to pick us up) and to check weather forecasts. Here Pete is pictured calling to get some more bad news.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Take a look at the picture above. In front of Pete is the mountain Mt. Dickey. From our camp at its base, it rises over a vertical mile up to the summit. Yup. Over 5000' in vertical gain. There's a route that goes up it called Snow Patrol that's over 40 pitches long (VI WI5+, 5250'). Maybe someday.

Credit: chick_on_ice

We did several skis out when the rain would lift to check out moderate routes like Hut Tower down glacier. These resulted in having to put soaking wet socks and gloves and hats on our stomachs at night to dry them out after we'd get caught in some downpours. Such fun. There's nothing like the feeling of wet socks that you stuffed down your pants.

And we ate our food. Such as honey by the spoonful (pictured below).

Credit: chick_on_ice

There was a little bird we nicknamed 'Stuart', that provided company for us during our weathered, tentbound days. Here he is pictured in all his glory. Pete has over 100 photos of him on his camera. He was a big part of our life.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Then we saw a 12 hr window in the weather forecast. We decided that we had to seize it because there was a storm moving in the next week and temperatures were going to drop.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Small people on glacier for scale.

This was our chance. Unfortunately 12 hrs wasn't a long enough time for us to make an attempt on the Cobra Pillar, no matter how optimistic and ambitious we are. It would be a more than a 24 hr push for us if we did it in a day. Longer if we took our time getting up all the pitches or bivied on route or at the top on the giant mushroom. Goldfinger was a more manageable objective for 12 hrs.

Credit: chick_on_ice

We geared up and decided that our best chance for a 12 hr push after a 3 day rainstorm would be a climb called Goldfinger. It's an 1800' 5.11a climb up the rock formation known as "The Stump" and is absolutely stellar. You can see it pictured above in front of Pete.

Credit: chick_on_ice

It was pitch after 200 foot pitch of incredible, splitter, high-quality rock climbing. Pictures don't do it justice. Below is Pete coming up to my belay on pitch 2 in full stoke mode.

Credit: chick_on_ice

At some pitch that I can't remember, I think it was pitch 6 or 7, Pete was coming up to my belay, but we decided he should just carry on with his lead without us exchanging gear to save time. This allowed me to get some pretty exposure-heavy pictures that give you an idea of how gorgeous it was up there.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Pete is pictured as a tiny orange and neon green dot in the top left corner. Life here is a game of eye spy.

My little point and shoot shows its power
My little point and shoot shows its power
Credit: chick_on_ice

The corner we climbed was just perfection. We did get on the climb the morning after a pretty drenching rainstorm, so 3 of the pitches were wet, but they had just enough friction for the feet for us to be able to get by without problems.

Credit: chick_on_ice

The belays were equally stunning and apart from a couple hanging ones, there were comfy ledges to sit and rest the feet.

Credit: chick_on_ice


I'll try not to bore you with too many splitter dihedral corner climbing photos, but we ended up taking a lot of them. Sorry.

Credit: chick_on_ice


Leading up some pitch and stemming before the transfer to the slabby traverse and my meandering way to the top.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Pete mentioned that there was an eagle flying above us when I was leading a roof. I called bullsh#t, but here's the proof below:

Credit: chick_on_ice

More stellar jamming.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Every pitch was at least 200' (except maybe 2 which were around 180'). There were a couple that were 215', so we got to do some nice, low-key simuling at times.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Snickers were the perfect cheap-man's energy bar on this trip. Worked wonders. It's still edible when it's frozen and it tastes delicious.

Credit: chick_on_ice

If you look very closely in the bottom center of the photo below you'll be able to see our tent. Yeah. Things in Alaska are pretty big. Like very big. Most of the walls in the area to climb are taller than El Cap. Too bad the weather is shitty a lot of the time.

Credit: chick_on_ice

The clouds started moving in, and we could feel the time crunch of our weather window closing in, so we booked up as fast as we could.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Still enjoying life, with Mt. Dickey (the mountain that's a vertical mile in height from the glacier) pictured behind me. Our tent is somewhere way, way, way down there at its base.

Credit: chick_on_ice

The views were clear from one side (clouds were fast approaching from the other), and it looked like a summit day for Denali, so we wished the guys some mental luck from our perch on Goldfinger.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Climbing fast and light is often the fastest option. For the non-climbers reading this, it may be counterintuitive not to bring everything you'll need to survive with you at all times, but often, objective hazards are best past quickly. Yes, you may run it out on a 60' traverse, but you manage to avoid the mushroom cornice above that could obliterate you and your partner. Or you can try going off route to avoid the kitty litter that threatens to bombard and kill your belayer.

Credit: chick_on_ice

The constant mental questions:

In a sea of cracks, which do you choose? Which crimps do you grab, which creditcard footholds do you trust not to crumble and blow?

Credit: chick_on_ice

There are always gremlins lurking in the back of the mind; constantly questioning: 'keep an eye on that', 'how's the weather looking?', 'hmmm... those clouds are moving fast', 'why is there moss in the crack, are we off route?'

But you can't ponder these questions. You don't have the time. Go with the gut. All of a sudden, all those hard life decisions in the real, civilized world start to seem more trivial. Easier. Less stressful. You become a better decision maker, and better at making those hard calls. Because as cheesy as it sounds, that hard conversation you need to have with a hypothetical significant other, or that difficult next career move choice you need to make, are not going to result in life or death. And there are people to support you, coach you, and pick up the pieces when you inevitably have some setbacks.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Pete taking a brief rest before we fired the final pitch to the top.

Credit: chick_on_ice

The top included some 4th class snowy scrambling in which our poor rock shoes ended up buried in knee-deep snow.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Pete scouting the downclimb.

Credit: chick_on_ice

We straddled the top, which is just big enough for two people to sit on top horseback style, snapped some photos and then hastily started descending to beat the weather.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Credit: chick_on_ice

Rope management was okay in the beginning....

Credit: chick_on_ice

And then we got the rope stuck twice. Each with 15-20 min coaxing sessions as we did everything in our power to flick, tug, pull, shimmy and whip the rope down to us. Pleading and begging may have been involved. We almost gave up each time and resigned ourselves to having to jug up the rope, but the rope gods were with us that day, and we managed to get down without having to ascend up.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Below is Pete traversing over to an off-center rappel on a sturdy, foot-wide ledge that was very secure, but the exposure was mind-numbing. We finally finished our last 200' rap and made it to our stashed gear at the base. Check out Pete's black, sooty hands from rappelling the rope over and over again.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Credit: chick_on_ice

Then we skied out as fast as we could in the fading light.

Credit: chick_on_ice

But of course the views were too picture perfect not to take a few more shots. And now a quick monologue on crossing crevasse fields: That slump and thunk sound when a bridge settles or something around you falls makes the heart skip a beat. Did we trigger it? Crossings of snow bridges and the fields are a mind game. How quick? How much time do we have? How soft?

Credit: chick_on_ice

I call the above photo: Moon, Mountain, Mountain Man

We collapsed in our tents as the fog rolled in, and a few hours later we heard the recognizable sound of pit-patting water droplets on our tent, and were glad that we'd made the most of our 12 hr span of weather to get up some stellar rock.

Credit: chick_on_ice

This was where things changed. A storm came in and weathered us in our tents for the rest of our time in the Ruth. Which was a pretty long time (more than a week) to be spending on a 60' x 60' patch of non-crevassed square. Temps dropped. Snow dropped. Hopes of a clearing dropped.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Here is an excerpt from my journal. Warning, it's definitely getting into some feely, philosophizing. That's what you do when you're stuck in a tent. Skip it or bare with me for the cheesiness of it all. You've been warned:

//'I guess I'm coming to the same conclusions that everyone who leaves for the mountains for a while gets: you gain perspective. What truly matters, what you should hold dearly. How silly all those mindgames and social weaving is that you play daily. The mountains make me more straightforward, both with myself and how I treat others. I sometimes get flack for being abrasive or breaking the hard truth too harshly when telling someone what I truly think. But I think it's better to speak the mind than to let things fester in pleasantries until the whole facade collapses.

I'm unashamed for going for things I want. Why not aim high? As long as I'm truthful to myself and others along the way. The mountains definitely keep me grounded, because even the best of us get feelings of self-importance and pomp. But at the end of the day, it comes down to who can suffer the most, who can take care of others when they themselves are hurting, who can make sacrifices in their health, comfort or objectives for the other person---that's the true measure of someone's character. Take someone into the mountains and their true colors shine through or exposes the ugly underbelly of someone's real personality. I'm so lucky to have Pete as my climbing partner. He doesn't have a hidden ugly side. He's straightforward and truthful.

Often, people don't like what they see in themselves when they're left alone with themselves. It's often ugly. No-one is immune, but it's necessary to see.'
//
Credit: chick_on_ice

Pictured is the Eye Tooth after a brief clearing in the clouds. Notice how unfortunately snowy it is :(
It was pretty cold and temps were subfreezing, which brought to mind the quote of a crazy friend of mine: "if you're not solo-aiding in your sleeping bag, it's not too cold to climb". Apparently this has happened before.

Credit: chick_on_ice

A swiss guide named Norbert and his climbing partner Rosa came by our camp for one day and managed to fly out before the really severe weather came down. They brought the party for their last night on the glacier.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Norbert is an IFMGA guide and when offered some dried mangoes we had, we got the response: "I only like fresh mangoes from Pakistan with a spritz of lemon".

Credit: chick_on_ice

He also is missing all the toes on his feet from a battle up K2. Apparently Messner told him after their successful summit that: "K2 is a summit worth losing a few toes for". Norbert was hilarious. He also brought 5 cans of very patriotic-looking Budweiser to share with us. I think Pete and I were the only group to ever fly into the Ruth Gorge without a drop of alcohol.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Sharing the wealth of the Budweiser.

Pete, Norbert and Rosa with the non-Pakistani, non-lemon-sprayed mangoes that didn't live up to Norbert's standards. Also pictured are the American flag-decorated beers.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Norbert pulled out some menthol powder stuff that apparently you're supposed to inhale into your nose. Everyone put their hands out and on the count of three just went for it (there are some hilarious videos of this I'll post eventually). I ended up with everything on my face and not in my nose. One person sneezed, two others that shall remain nameless started crying. I think I won out in the end.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Before Norbert and Rosa left, about a minute before their plane was about to take off (the prop was spinning, the back was loaded and the pilot was ready to go), Norbert says: "Natalie! Have you heard of a selfie? Come here, I'll show you!" Here was the glorious result:

Credit: chick_on_ice

There was much shoveling to be done as we started getting not inches, but feet of snow at night. We made sure someone was always monitoring the snowpack on our tent, so that we wouldn't be buried in the middle of the night. Getting out of the tent and the warm sleeping bag every few hours to dig out the tent is not too fun, but it's the job that needs to get done.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Below are some shoveling photos when it was actually nice out. The whiteout conditions are not pictured because all it looks like is milky white foggy soup.

Credit: chick_on_ice

We went through the 5 stages of the Kubler-Ross model about the state of the weather and our chances of more climbing:

First there was denial
Followed by anger
Then there was bargaining with the weather gods
Then the depression set in (in which I went and shoveled a trench to China and Pete didn't leave the tent for a full 24 hrs)
And finally there was acceptance of our fate.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Pete and I were very lucky to be able to make the most of our 12 hr window and climb an amazing route as Goldfinger. Even though we'd obviously prefer 2 weeks of stellar weather, we were lucky and happy with what the weather gods gave us.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Isn't Goldfinger beautiful? You can start to see where it got its name
Pete and I had to entertain ourselves in the tent. Pete's mustache was growing. He also donned the bequested shirt from Vegas. Ladies: this man is single and a catch. Get after him.

Credit: chick_on_ice

He also likes to eat Nutella in spoonfuls and sometimes even using his nut tool when the spoon got lost in the mess of the tent.

Credit: chick_on_ice


I went after the 5 lb block of cheddar cheese pictured in my right hand.

Credit: chick_on_ice

The leatherman was a good choice for gnawing on things while reading.

Credit: chick_on_ice

We experimented with the amount of water to add to minute rice, and on our third try we struck gold.

Credit: chick_on_ice

There was a brief weather window one evening. Sun? Wait really? "Pete! Pete! Wake up! Come outside!"

Credit: chick_on_ice

We were so psyched to see something besides the whiteout blizzard outside, that Pete donned his tshirt and tights and went cavorting out in the snow.

Credit: chick_on_ice

It's a miracle this boy is still single. Ladies, seriously. This is the man of your dreams. I can hook you up.

Credit: chick_on_ice

I was pretty excited about seeing the mountains peak out as well, so I did my best dancing with wolves impression.... and then promptly fell over. All captured on film by Peter of course.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Credit: chick_on_ice

STOKE. And the neon tights I purchased from the 'under 14' section at REI. Check out the Moose's Tooth and the Eye Tooth poking out the back.

Credit: chick_on_ice

The daily grind. I learned that I'm really good at spending large quantities of time in a tent. It really didn't bother me. Sure, I was bummed we weren't climbing, but I made the most of it and enjoyed the unplugged, chilled, tentbound life living. I read 8 books when I was there on the Kindle I borrowed and had 20 more left. I slept, I thought about life. The usual.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Winter ascents with long tentbound days: I'm coming for you.

I think I've discovered what I'm good at: chilling, relaxing and waiting for weather. Pete didn't deal with the tentbound whiteouts as well and got a bit antsy and then depressed when we couldn't leave our hideout for days.

Credit: chick_on_ice

The townhouse on the glacier. Even in the bad weather, there wasn't anywhere else I wanted to be. The fog was so thick sometimes you could taste it.

Credit: chick_on_ice

You think about things when you're out here for so long. After a while, you can go almost an entire day without the need to talk to your partner, because everything's understood implicitly. You give your partner room and space. Personal space is a coveted thing out here, where you can't get away or run away from your 60'x60' square. To keep the psych up, sometimes people just need room.

I personally recharge mentally and do some self-evaluation at times like these. I think it's beneficial: candor, values, things you should do more of, regrets for things you said when you were in a bad mood, people you care about, people you really should cut out of your life...

Ok. I'm done with the meta-analysis. On with the story.

A climbing pair named Bobby and Zach were dropped off on the glacier the day we climbed Goldfinger. They weathered the entire storm with us, and provided countless hours of entertainment.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Bobby and Zach got a 'veggie/whiskey/scotch' gift parcel drop from their pilot friend one day when the ceiling rose just high enough for the small cub to fly in.

Below the pair are pictured in all their glory. Hopefully after we left they were able to get on at least something, because the entire time we were there, they were weathered in.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Bobby providing a boost. You know how outdoor clothing comes in very obnoxious bright, neon colors? Well there's a reason for that, because when you're out in the mountains, it's the ONLY colorful thing you see. The mountains are pretty black and white. Plus it's a way to locate your partner more easily in a whiteout. The technicolors brightened up my day.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Bobby's best blue steel Zoolander, hair-whipping look. This is another one of those single men ladies. Get after it.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Moose's and Bear's Tooth pictured behind us, along with Goldfinger poking out all snowy. At night and during the day we would hear ear-crushing avalanche noises as the mountains shed the snow that was accumulating on them. It sounded like the loudest roll of thunder you've ever heard that lasts for a minute or so.

Credit: chick_on_ice

There's not much to do when 24 hrs a day you're pretty much just sitting or sleeping in camp. You make the most of any break in the weather. Whether it's to have a tent dance party to old-school Madonna or to take more photos of Pete in his hot, sexy Vegas shirt.

Pete 'stache and all. Girls, get at this.
Pete 'stache and all. Girls, get at this.
Credit: chick_on_ice

Or for Bobby to come tell us good morning at 5pm after we all woke up from a deep sleep.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Sleep schedules are completely arbitrary up here, since it never gets dark. Sometimes we'd think it stopped snowing, so we would do the tried and true 'stick the hand out the vestibule' test, but the noise was just muffled by the several inches already on the outside of our tent.

'Is it snowing Pete?'

'Yup Nat. Go back to sleep'

Bobby saying hi and singing some Madonna to us.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Zach looking stoic. I was the only one without a mustache out of the four of us. I considered drawing one on for solidarity purposes, but couldn't find a pen. The boys said it helps them attract women, but I have my doubts.

A quick note on how awesome my climbing partner was, and what I look for when I'm planning on spending 2 weeks with someone on a glacier.

Credit: chick_on_ice

He's one of the most quiet, humble stoked human beings you'll meet. He's not yet 21, but has the risk assessment chops of climbers much older than he is. He's the kind of partner that stakes out the tent in the middle of the night when the storm is in full rage mode. He does all those little things that are the real legwork for getting up an alpine climb, but that no-one mentions when you hear them talking about their successes. He's also fun to be around and you can spend long days tentbound without wanting to kill each other.

Credit: chick_on_ice

On the day we had to fly out (Pete had to get back to Anchorage and catch a flight to Boston to make it back in time for the summer quarter classes at Dartmouth), the weather turned pristine. OF COURSE.

I'm super proud of my little point and shoot camera, although it's har...
I'm super proud of my little point and shoot camera, although it's hard to take a bad photo out here.
Credit: chick_on_ice

Mildly unfair, but you can't be bitter after 2 amazing weeks. I learned lots, have much more to learn about the big mountains and most important of all, we followed the commandments:

Come back alive

Come back friends

And get to the top

In that order of importance.

Check out the color of this wall:

Credit: chick_on_ice

I was just glad to be able to see the vistas, and that we had a weather window big enough for Pete to get the chance to fly out in time. Otherwise he'd have some explaining to do to his professors about why he couldn't make it to the first day of class...

Credit: chick_on_ice

Bobby and Zach decided to do a quick ski and check out how dangerous the avalanche conditions were. Here they are for scale in the bottom left. I still can't get over how big these walls are.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Shaking out our home of 2 weeks before getting picked up by the air taxi.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Final lamentful selfie before we flew out back to Talkeetna and Anchorage and the civilized world.

Credit: chick_on_ice

For those of you that missed it, this is what I did with the time when I wasn't reading a book or sleeping: vimeo.com/98200604. Enjoy it at my embarrassment. Love you sis!

We had a few days to kill in Anchorage, so we went fishing first with Pete's dad on his boat out in Prince William Sound, and then for salmon on the Kenai Peninsula.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Some humpback whales decided to breach next to us. Natgeo style.

Credit: chick_on_ice

It's pretty awesome to have a climbing partner that's from Anchorage and whose parents own a big boat.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Our catch. (7 cod and 3 ling cod not pictured and we let them go)

Credit: chick_on_ice

Check out this cute otter family that was watching us fish.

Credit: chick_on_ice

We then drove that same night to the Kenai Peninsula, slept in the back of a truck and got up early morning to do some salmon fishing.

Credit: chick_on_ice

The boys were psyched. I was psyched.

Credit: chick_on_ice

The crew at the Kenai River. Apparently Alaskan locals do midweek fishing trips they call 'suicide missions', in which they leave after work, drive to the Kenai, fish all night, and drive back and make it to work by the next morning.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Pete was absolutely slaying it. Notice all the fish at his feet that he caught in just under 3 hours.

Credit: chick_on_ice

our mutual Dartmouth friend that came along for the fishing trip managed to hook a rock.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Our freshly caught dinner. We caught 9 salmon overall in about 6 hrs time. I sent some home to dad for a belated father's day gift.

Credit: chick_on_ice

Ok! Flying out of Anchorage to Boston in about 2 hrs. Will be in the Valley/Tuolumne/Sierras area in about 5 days. Thanks for reading this super long TR!

  Trip Report Views: 3,025
chick_on_ice
About the Author

Comments
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
eKat

Trad climber
  Jun 18, 2014 - 06:42pm PT
WOW. . . fantastic. . . really. . . TFPU!

WOW!

P.S. I want your orange and purple patterned pants!

:-)

P.P.S. This really was beautifully written and your point and shoot did a killer job. Thanks, again.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 18, 2014 - 07:01pm PT
Solid gold girl!!!
An A+++++
Thank you!!!
fluffy

Trad climber
Colorado
  Jun 18, 2014 - 07:32pm PT
Holy shit! Epic!

F*#kin fun hogs is what y'all are

Those are some big mts way to go for it!
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  Jun 18, 2014 - 08:29pm PT
Whoa! content. With fish. Nice work.
stevep

Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
  Jun 18, 2014 - 09:27pm PT
Wow! Great TR. Very jealous. You make the crappy weather almost sound worth it :-)
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
  Jun 18, 2014 - 09:52pm PT
Good effort! Fun stuff. Hell of a place.
W.L.

climber
Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
  Jun 18, 2014 - 10:16pm PT
...WOW.

Yep, this is why I still read this forum.

Probably the single best trip report I have read on SuperTopo, thank you so much for taking the time to post this. Absolutely fantastic! Inspiring! Awesome! I can't think of enough superlatives for this other than AWESOME.

Thank you for posting and taking the time and effort for this, had to be monumental.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Jun 18, 2014 - 10:30pm PT
Sweet pictures and story.
Ed H

Trad climber
Santa Rosa, CA
  Jun 18, 2014 - 11:13pm PT
Wowza!

Things in Alaska are pretty big.

To say it was beautiful would be an understatement.

Great read and pics. Go big!


Will_P

Trad climber
Melbourne, Victoria
  Jun 18, 2014 - 11:43pm PT
I don't where to start. Just a plain awesome TR - finally some competition to Micronut. You sure do get after it, and somehow maintain such a positive attitude - I go stir crazy after 24hrs storm-bound in a relatively comfortable NZ high alpine hut; two weeks in a tent, with one day of climbing would see me out of my mind. But then again, looking at that 'one day of climbing' - such quality maybe satisfies for a little while. Thanks for putting the work in to share this, it's inspiring stuff.
mcreel

climber
Barcelona
  Jun 18, 2014 - 11:43pm PT
A great TR, thanks! That music video in the vimeo link is pretty funny, too.
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
Marcus McCoy from Nevada City
  Jun 18, 2014 - 11:54pm PT
top quality, tfpu!
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jun 19, 2014 - 12:19am PT
What a great trip report, the writing, the pictures, the feel of Alaska. I thought this "long" trip report wasn't long enough. TFPU
bpope

climber
Sunnyvale, CA
  Jun 19, 2014 - 12:23am PT
sounds like a great trip, and the excitement is palpable. thanks for sharing!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Jun 19, 2014 - 04:14am PT
Ah, the classical Alaska adventure. Glad you had fun and came back friends and alive.
yanqui

climber
Balcarce, Argentina
  Jun 19, 2014 - 04:38am PT
I'm SO jealous!
jopay

climber
so.il
  Jun 19, 2014 - 05:19am PT
Great thread, enjoyed a lot. "Gold finger" looks like an awesome climb. I noticed you wearing the new Patagonia Alpinist pack and I'm curious how you liked it.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jun 19, 2014 - 06:55am PT
Fantastic TR! Reads like a novella and the pictures are gorgeous. Let me know if you want any beta on the Cobra Pillar. Also "Shaken but not Stirred" might be a good option if "Ham & Eggs" isn't in.
ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Social climber
SLO, Ca
  Jun 19, 2014 - 08:13am PT
Awesomeness!
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Jun 19, 2014 - 08:36am PT
WOW! what a trip.

Your comment about Stuart being a big part of your life really captures that feeling of you guys being tent bound...to me anyways.

Amazing pictures, stellar TR.
skcreidc

Social climber
SD, CA
  Jun 19, 2014 - 08:59am PT
Outstanding read! A trip to remember for sure. TFPU
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jun 19, 2014 - 09:38am PT
Damn, I knew I had it all wrong… Next time any of my single lady-friends ask me for a cool venue to find single men, I will recommend the Ruth Glacier! Seems like it was popping out there!!!

AWESOME photos! Lots of stoke! LOVED THE REPORT! Glad you ended up joining the forum and hope to see more of your TRs soon! This is what we need here to keep the excitement levels high! Makes me want to get back to the mountains...and to go fishing. I have not gone in a few years. :(
Tami

Social climber
Canada
  Jun 19, 2014 - 11:17am PT
Awesome TR. Totally awesome.


I wish bluebird skies for your next trip !
BFK

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
  Jun 19, 2014 - 11:56am PT
So Sick! TFPU.

You need to post some of those corner pics on the 'best corner' thread! Definitely looks like you found some good candidates :-).
mucci

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
  Jun 19, 2014 - 12:04pm PT
Sweet mustaches.

They demand respect!

Looks like a nice trip.
MH2

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
  Jun 19, 2014 - 12:50pm PT
A treasure house of a TR. Would still be good even without falling down in the snow cavorting.
Travis Haussener

Trad climber
Salt Lake City
  Jun 19, 2014 - 01:02pm PT
Epic!!!!!
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Jun 19, 2014 - 02:15pm PT


Oh sweet jesus yes
melski

Trad climber
bytheriver
  Jun 19, 2014 - 02:18pm PT
one can only try to deal with the weather gods hand,,but after 20 years living in ak. and 2 trips to the ruth,,earlier is better than later [ie. april or may v/s june or july ,] for dry windows,,so glad you got at least one route done,,looked awesone,,
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Jun 19, 2014 - 02:45pm PT
If you have any good detailed photos of the Gargoyle's face, I would appreciate you posting them here.

(The Gargoyle is the big wall on the right in your opening photo.)
pvalchev

Social climber
Truckee, CA
  Jun 19, 2014 - 03:11pm PT
Looks like an awesome trip, and Goldfinger is an awesome "consolation prize"! Way to make the most of the bad weather :)

Sierra Ledge Rat, here is a pic from my trip in 2012 of the Gargoyle (I am pretty sure, unless I'm mis-remembering): http://sightly.net/peter/trips/alaska2012/ruthgorge/20120704-200642-slr.jpg
Naitch

climber
Dark side of the moon via the stairway to heaven
  Jun 19, 2014 - 03:13pm PT
Damn…nicely done! What a trip and TR!
johntp

Trad climber
socal
  Jun 19, 2014 - 03:39pm PT
How many planes did it take to fly in the wardrobe? You are definitely a mountain fashionista.

TFPU!
chick_on_ice

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Jun 19, 2014 - 04:17pm PT
How many planes did it take to fly in the wardrobe? You are definitely a mountain fashionista.

Woah, woah, woah! I pride myself on wearing the same pair of tights and socks on that entire trip. We actually flew in only 25 lbs overweight, which talking to everyone else is apparently very low. Clothing-wise I just wear absurdly colored things and layer them like no other.

Thanks for the feedback guys! This is definitely a less controversial post than my Yemen TR was haha. And I like to try and give Vitaliy a run for his money in terms of TR-narratives ;) seeing as he and Hamik were the first partners I had in California way back when last year when I showed up to climb in the Valley.

Also: Norbert, the Swiss guide that fed us beer and likes his mangoes fresh and with a spritz of lemon is a certified badass as well as a super nice guy: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norbert_Joos. Look at those 8000m ticks!!!

Sierra Ledge Rat, I'll dig through the SD card and get those gargoyle photos to you.
WhiskeyToast

Social climber
Hawaii
  Jun 19, 2014 - 07:41pm PT
Awesome TR and the Video is great. For those who missed it in the TR.


http://vimeo.com/98200604

Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Jun 19, 2014 - 09:07pm PT
Damn Chick . . . that was hot!

You into walls?
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
  Jun 19, 2014 - 09:20pm PT
hilarious video! you can see why you had to probe so much - you needed a freakin' ball room to dance in! Hey... ask Donini about Mt Wake.... I tried to pry it out of him once but his face went pale and he started trembling....
klk

Trad climber
cali
  Jun 19, 2014 - 09:32pm PT
ruith without alcohol?

you need professional help.

the tr was cool tho
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
  Jun 19, 2014 - 09:39pm PT
I missed that part. No liquor? are you fuking nuts???
chick_on_ice

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Jun 19, 2014 - 11:11pm PT
I'm pretty sure modern science tells us that there are no physical benefits of consuming alcohol. I'm not against a beer or two in good company, but it seems unnecessary to bring something that heavy on a trip where we were already concerned about weight. I would much rather bring another couple pounds of salami or cheese or another book. Plus alcohol dehydrates you which just means more work melting snow. I'm lazy enough as it is :)

Did I mention that we also didn't bring any coffee haha?

Yeah...I'm weird. But I think we've established that already. Plus I'm a cheap date! And packing for trips is super easy.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
  Jun 19, 2014 - 11:25pm PT
physical no, but there are mental benefits, especially when day 7 of the fester kicks in. But maybe that is old school and these days there are "lighter weight" alpine style stimulants. Excellent video tho. The surrounding geography can be quite inspiring. On my own Ruth trip one of my most enjoyable days was simply skiing down glacier nder brilliant blue skies listening on my walkman ( a primitive I Pod instrument) to Miles Davis and X. Dickey is a beast eh?
SethKane

Ice climber
Bozeman, MT
  Jun 20, 2014 - 01:52am PT
saw some of Pete's pictures on facebook...looked like one hell of a trip, good work

you guys should head up to the 'banks and come climb some aid lines at prindle!
johntp

Trad climber
socal
  Jun 20, 2014 - 08:41am PT
Yeah...I'm weird. But I think we've established that already. Plus I'm a cheap date! And packing for trips is super easy.

Weird is arguable. Cheap date? Boston to Ruth makes that questionable.

edit: I'm not making fun of you. This is a great TR.
chick_on_ice

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Jun 23, 2014 - 05:24pm PT
I noticed you wearing the new Patagonia Alpinist pack and I'm curious how you liked it.

Jopay, apologies for not getting back to you sooner. It's been a bit hectic out East here. The short summary is that I LOVE the new Alpinist pack made by patagucci. It's phenomenal. Like, so f*#king good. Nothing extra, but everything you need. Especially if you climb ice/mixed/alpine things. The top cinch is well-designed as well as the way it fits. My partner is much taller than I am (I am barely 5' 1"), and it was really quick to adjust when we'd switch leads. Hell, we even led hard pitches in the pack because it wasn't that cumbersome and rides so well on the shoulders and doesn't make you tip out backwards. LOVE it. Plain and simple. It's coming with me right now to the Valley.
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Jun 23, 2014 - 05:49pm PT
Beautiful pics. Thanks for sharing the stoke.
That stache is looking pretty proud, Clanton.
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
  Jun 24, 2014 - 11:18am PT
Fun pics and read. And your climb of Goldfinger? wow!

I'm curious and must simply have missed them in gazing at the pics, but when (what dates) were you there?


Dolomite

climber
Anchorage
  Jun 25, 2014 - 12:38pm PT
Great TR! You got more done than we did the last time I was in there. Everything there is condition and weather dependent. Sometimes two different TRs supposedly describing the same place don't bear much resemblance to each other. And, I admit, loved the vimeo!
chick_on_ice

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Jun 25, 2014 - 01:26pm PT
(what dates) were you there?

Our trip was from June 1-18.

And I posted this elsewhere, but here's a video synposis of the trip if anyone wants things animated:[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihon2ijSL4Y]
PAUL SOUZA

Trad climber
Central Valley, CA
  Jun 25, 2014 - 01:23pm PT
Yowzers!! AWESOME!!

TL;DR....but AMAZING photos!!

:)
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jun 25, 2014 - 03:28pm PT
Chick On Ice. The new Queen of Supertopo. All hail the Queen!


1. Makes me smile
We all know what this feels like.
We all know what this feels like.



2. Makes me want to barf
photo not found
Missing photo ID#364424



3. Makes me want to train
photo not found
Missing photo ID#364425


I don't know your real name young lass, but thank you for documenting and sharing this wild ride. I know how long it takes to think up, write up, upload and finish one of these trip reports (I think I've done about 20 by now and they are all a ton of work). Thank you for making the effort. Its a wonderful way to share the magic of stoke. I hope you stay safe, keep going big, and keep writing.

And by the way. No coffee? I don't care if you're a mormon with a heart condition and a bad kidney. There is no excuse for not taking coffee on an Alaskan full value adventure. Poor form and minus 12 points. I give you a B+ on this TR for that reason alone. I'll send you a 1/4 lb of Hudon's Hood River Blend if you'll just pose it in a few photos in your next report. At least think about it. Mkay?

Scott



Tarbuster

climber
right here, right now
  Jun 25, 2014 - 03:55pm PT
That four-minute Vimeo "Let It Go" is a total crackup Natalie!
Kind of like the maraschino cherry topping this most excellent report.

No wonder you had zero weight allotted for booze, what with the piano, strings and woodwinds to look after ...
christoph benells

Trad climber
Tahoma, Ca
  Jun 25, 2014 - 04:15pm PT
i spent a couple of weeks in may with zach and booby on the kahiltna. we had not 1 storm our entire trip, crazy how bad the weather was in june in comparison!

i heard bobby needs a baby wipe.
2Tru

Sport climber
UK
  Jun 26, 2014 - 05:04am PT
Thank you so much for your excellent trip report.

I was having a hell of bad day at the office but after reading this not only did I cheer up because of the shear beauty of it but your stoic attitude to your endeavours and reframing of everyday troubles gave me strength.
Norwegian

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Jun 26, 2014 - 08:42am PT
my offering to the queen:

i sat and read.
then i re-read.
and i read again, your
wonderful and engaging report.

all the while, eating
cheddar cheese plugs from
the center of many bagels.

now my asse won't even
fit down that isle
that he hoped to lead
his fiance,
instead it bounces
unsightly between
the chairs and other
fixed objects,

the resulting urinary-tract
infection will require
many spoonfuls of cranberry-juice
infused with a new dream,
one where i fit right
between canyon walls
that corral the fight
between a mountain and its matadors.

can i get a clean up in the
dream isle? it is a mess.

and while we're there,
please speak to my supervisor
or whoever it was that
that gave me permission
to die.
jopay

climber
so.il
  Jun 26, 2014 - 08:16am PT
Jopay, apologies for not getting back to you sooner. It's been a bit hectic out East here. The short summary is that I LOVE the new Alpinist pack made by patagucci. It's phenomenal. Like, so f*#king good. Nothing extra, but everything you need. Especially if you climb ice/mixed/alpine things. The top cinch is well-designed as well as the way it fits. My partner is much taller than I am (I am barely 5' 1"), and it was really quick to adjust when we'd switch leads. Hell, we even led hard pitches in the pack because it wasn't that cumbersome and rides so well on the shoulders and doesn't make you tip out backwards. LOVE it. Plain and simple. It's coming with me right now to the Valley.

Thanks for your review of the pack, I not surprised, Patagonia seems to put a lot of thought in their products.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Jun 26, 2014 - 09:34am PT
Hmmm...no liquor, no coffee...yeah, penalty points...

Ha ha.

Great TR! Fantastic photo's and really like the dialog too.

Bobby...from SLC? Great!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Jun 26, 2014 - 07:23pm PT
Sierra Ledge Rat, here is a pic from my trip in 2012 of the Gargoyle
http://sightly.net/peter/trips/alaska2012/ruthgorge/20120704-200642-slr.jpg


Thanks, I was finally able to pick out the route that we attempted on the Gargoyle. My old slides lost all of the detail in the scanning process, even at 4,000 dpi.

Mind of I use the pic on my website?
john jlee

Mountain climber
san francisco
  Jul 3, 2014 - 02:58pm PT
Great article... brings back memories. I spent two weeks in the Ruth in April 1979.
We had pretty good weather and managed to do easy routes on Johnson, Grosvenor, Barille and Grand Asses. I'm not sure why I never went back.
norm larson

climber
wilson, wyoming
  Jul 3, 2014 - 04:27pm PT
Hey nice report. I'd say you most certainly made the best of it. Except for the lack of alcohol. That was dumb. I've climbed that route too. In very much snowier conditions but it was still lots of fun. Rock shoes with ice tools. FA was by Steve Quinlan and Mugs Stump. I also met Norbert a long long time ago in Peru, the year after he lost his toes. Nice guy, he looks older just like I do. Thanks for all the memories. Keep doing what you are doing and please entertain us with more TR's.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Aug 12, 2014 - 05:52pm PT
Bump for the real deal!!!!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Aug 12, 2014 - 07:33pm PT

How did I miss this???

AWESOME!!!
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
Go