Trip Report
West Fork Ruth Glacier, Mt. Huntington East Ridge
Thursday November 19, 2009 4:55pm
Trip: West Fork Ruth - Huntington E. Ridge

Date: 4/1/1980

Trip Report:
The 1980 West Fork Expedition

Mt. Huntington from the summit of The Rooster Comb. The East Ridge ris...
Mt. Huntington from the summit of The Rooster Comb. The East Ridge rises in the center from the Huntington/Rooster Comb col.
Credit: Alpinista55


The concept
My first two expeditions to the Alaska Range were the result of the late night campsite bullshit sessions of a group of rookie climbers from Portland Oregon while climbing on Cascade volcanoes, Smith Rocks trad routes, and Columbia Gorge waterfalls. We wanted big-mountain experiences, but weren’t club joiners or sponsor-seeking pros. We were just a bunch of Oregon boys that loved to climb, and wanted to do it on our own terms.

In 1978 and again in ’79, our teams were composed of two 2-man ropes traveling together on the glacier, but climbing separately on the mountain. That formula worked well, but I thought that having more friends along would make for more fun, and add opportunities to team up with different partners. I began recruiting for a new expedition as soon as we got home to Portland in the summer of ’79.

By the spring of 1980 our team had grown to nine climbers, and a base camp cook. Three were veterans of our previous expeditions, the rest were Alaskan newbies. Our plan was ambitious, to say the least. We would ski into the West Fork of the Ruth glacier via the Hidden River valley, the Buckskin Glacier, and a pass just North of the Moose’s Tooth. We would be air supplied for a thirty-day base camp in the West Fork. After our stay on the West Fork the pilot would return and ferry our base camp over the hump to the Kahiltna glacier. We would follow on foot over Ruth Gap, actually crossing just north of the gap by climbing over Denali’s South Buttress. We would spend another thirty days on the Kahiltna, and then finally ski out to the South through Little Switzerland.

Total duration in the field: 80 days.

Credit: Alpinista55

We turned the apartment I shared with my roommate Dave into expedition Central and began preparing for the trip in January. The expedition would require 640 man/days of food, and to save money we made most of our own. We designed three menus; one for skiing days, one for alpine climbing days, and one for base camp days. Only the alpine rations had freeze-dried components.

My partner Scott Woolums was working at an archeological dig, and managed to score a large artifact dryer, which we converted into a food dehydrator. For two months we cooked and dried meats, beans, noodles, veggies, fruits and breads which we would then combine into prepackaged meals of chili with corn bread, spaghetti with meatballs, or a goulash we called Peter’s Favorite.

We bought fleece by the yard at a fabric store and made our own pants, shirts and booties. Some of us were working under the table remodeling a local outdoor store, and worked out a deal for gear at cost. We begged, borrowed and scammed our way to the airport in Portland, arriving with a backpack, a daypack, and 4 seventy-pound cardboard boxes each, just exactly the Alaska Airlines limit per passenger. Total weight: 3000 pounds.

The Approach

A few days later we were standing on the platform, waiting to board the Alaska Railroad train to Talkeetna. Sharing the platform with us was a Japanese expedition headed for the SE Spur of Denali. They were all wearing matching down parkas over matching nylon one-piece jumpsuits. Their gear was in custom made canvas duffels with the team name embroidered on the sides. The leader had a three-ringed binder 6 inches thick with charts, graphs, route photos, and an hour-by hour itinerary and climbing plan. Next to them, our group of longhaired freaks dressed in homemade fleece standing next to a small mountain of crumpled cardboard boxes looked pretty unprofessional.

In Talkeetna we unloaded our boxes of gear and food and Barbara, the base camp cook onto the platform, where our pilot, Jay Hudson was waiting. Then we reboarded the train, heading for a “flag stop” at milepost 249. A flag stop is anywhere backcountry Alaskans wave a flag at the train, signaling their desire to be picked up. The train pulled to a stop at our milepost and we climbed out onto the snow. The baggage handler passed us our packs and skis from the baggage car, and the train pulled out, leaving us in a cloud of steam in the middle of nowhere.

Milepost 249, Alaska Railroad
Milepost 249, Alaska Railroad
Credit: Alpinista55

Shouldering our 80+ pound loads, we skied off westward into the bush, heading for the Susitna River, about five miles away. The snow was knee-deep powder, the air temperature was below zero, and skiing downhill to the riverbank was a rude awakening to the realities of winter travel on foot in Alaska. No one argued when we called an early end to the day as soon as we reached the river.

80+ pounds of food and gear
80+ pounds of food and gear
Credit: Alpinista55

Camp one, Susitna River
Camp one, Susitna River
Credit: Alpinista55

Approach route
Approach route
Credit: Alpinista55

We spent the next two days working our way down the Suisitna river, across a low ridge to the Chulitna river and into the Hidden River valley beyond, a distance of about fifteen miles. Travel on the rivers was easy in early April, with the river frozen solid and buried in deep powder. Keith Stevens and Scott Shuey did most of the trail breaking, and being out front, decided to follow a pair of moose that seemed to know a shortcut over a ridge into the Hidden River drainage. It turns out that moose can navigate 50-degree slopes rather better than men on skis with 80-pound packs. Even so, after a few wild falls down the moose trail, we arrived on the evening of day three at the Hidden River, our route into the heart of the Alaska Range.


Skiing down the Susitna River on day 2
Skiing down the Susitna River on day 2
Credit: Alpinista55

Following a pair of moose over the ridge
Following a pair of moose over the ridge
Credit: Alpinista55

In three days we had put two frozen rivers, two ridges and 20 miles between the nearest road and us. Flying into the mountains from Talkeetna is an adrenalin rush thrill ride, but its over so quickly. A trip to the mall takes longer if the traffic is bad. Crossing those same miles on foot forces your mind to accept he immensity of the place, the smallness of your self and the serious nature of what you’re about. Dropping down off the ridge towards the Hidden River brought all this into focus for me.

First glimpse of the Hidden River. Note the moose tracks to skiers rig...
First glimpse of the Hidden River. Note the moose tracks to skiers right.
Credit: Alpinista55

The Hidden River Valley from the moose ridge
The Hidden River Valley from the moose ridge
Credit: Alpinista55

The Hidden River threads its way up a classic u-shaped glacier-carved valley, and provides easy skiing to the Buckskin glacier at its head. The floor of the valley is silted in to a flat plain a half-mile wide, scattered with groves of aspen and fir. The river was open in places, the only source of liquid water we would find for the next two months. One more 9-mile day of travel found us at our first glacier camp, at 2100 feet on the Buckskin.

Last free-flowing water for two months
Last free-flowing water for two months
Credit: Alpinista55

Camp 4 above the toe of the Buckskin Glacier, 2100'
Camp 4 above the toe of the Buckskin Glacier, 2100'
Credit: Alpinista55

Once you are skiing on an Alaskan glacier the true scale of your surroundings hits you like a ton of bricks. Its twenty miles to Moose’s Tooth camp from our first camp near the toe of the glacier. You trudge along under your load for hours, and when you look up the landscape seems not to have changed at all. The normal estimates you make on how long it will take to get to point A just don’t work. When it’s your turn at the sharp end of the rope, breaking trail through the powder snow that reaches to mid-thigh, the passage of time becomes truly glacial. We spent days 5 and 6 on the Buckskin, drawing a long straight line up the center of the glacier that finally ended below the massive North Face of the Moose’s Tooth.

Credit: Alpinista55
Credit: Alpinista55
Credit: Alpinista55

The setting at the head of the Buckskin was unreal and incredibly intimidating. The Moose’s Tooth from this aspect is unbelievably impressive. From our camp we could see the camp of Jim Bridwell and Mugs Stump about a mile south. They were somewhere high above doing the first ascent of the North Face. Just to the west, across a final half-mile of glacier littered with ice debris that fell continuously down the North Face, was the pass we had to cross the next day; 1400 feet of 50 - 60 degree powder snow capped by a huge overhanging cornice. At 5400 feet, we spent our coldest night of the approach, with temperatures around -20 F.

Camp 6, 5400' below The Moose's Tooth
Camp 6, 5400' below The Moose's Tooth
Credit: Alpinista55

The next morning we hurried to cross the avalanche zone below the pass, staying well to the north side to avoid any parting shots from the Moose’s Tooth. We all skinned up as the slope steepened, and we skied switchbacks up the center of the headwall. The snow was bottomless, and we all thought the entire slope could slide at any moment. Looking up all you could see was the cornice, overhanging the slope by a good forty feet.

Finally, the snow became too steep and deep to ski, and we wallowed our way straight up, trying to compact the snow into some kind of a footstep. The trough we left behind was waist deep in places. The cornice had a break on the right side, and one by one we popped over the top, thanked our lucky stars to have survived, and gawked at the view that rewarded our hour of fear. From the pass at 7000 feet, the Don Sheldon Amphitheater spread out below us, and vast bulk of Denali towered beyond.

Heading for the pass to the Ruth
Heading for the pass to the Ruth
Credit: Alpinista55

The Moose's Tooth North Face
The Moose's Tooth North Face
Credit: Alpinista55

Looks nasty from here!
Looks nasty from here!
Credit: Alpinista55

Cornice is getting bigger
Cornice is getting bigger
Credit: Alpinista55


Wallowing to the top
Wallowing to the top
Credit: Alpinista55

The Don Sheldon Amphitheater, Denali beyond
The Don Sheldon Amphitheater, Denali beyond
Credit: Alpinista55

Basecamp – West Fork Ruth Glacier

The week of perfect weather we enjoyed on the approach was ending as we descended from Buckskin pass and skied the four miles to the Mountain House. A four-day storm kept us pinned down in the amphitheater, trying to stretch our food out until better weather allowed Jay Hudson to fly in our first resupply. As soon as the sky showed signs of clearing, we hustled up the West Fork to prepare an airstrip.

The six-mile ski tour from Sheldon’s Mountain House to base camp in the West Fork is simply amazing. As you come around the toe of the Rooster Comb and see the North Face of Mt. Huntington for the first time, your jaw drops. There is a reason this face has only had one ascent (props to McCartney and Roberts for an amazing ascent). It is the most frightening north face imaginable, swept several times a day with massive avalanches, with no place at all to hide.

As you ski up towards Huntington the fantastic northern aspect of the Rooster Comb is on your left. One by one you ski past the French summit, the beautiful North Buttress of the main summit, and the broad NW Face of the western summit. Avalanches from the Rooster Comb often sweep out across the center of the glacier, making the ski tour more interesting.

Skiing toward the West Fork
Skiing toward the West Fork
Credit: Alpinista55

Below Pk. 11300 East Face
Below Pk. 11300 East Face
Credit: Alpinista55

Avalanches have the right-of-way on the West Fork
Avalanches have the right-of-way on the West Fork
Credit: Alpinista55

Icefall on the face of the Huntington/Rooster Comb Col
Icefall on the face of the Huntington/Rooster Comb Col
Credit: Alpinista55

We place our base camp at 7000’, directly across the glacier from Mt. Huntington, a half mile from the base of the SW Ridge of 11,300. This position is not quite a mile from Mt. Huntington’s north face, but even so we were dusted regularly by avalanche clouds that rushed across the glacier in a matter of seconds. As soon as we got there in 1980, we dropped our packs, probed the area around camp for crevasses, and then began compacting an airstrip with our skis. We filled black plastic bags with snow and marked the 600’ long runway, then sat back to wait for Jay.

Soon the sound of a Cessna reverberated off the walls of the mile-deep canyon of the West Fork, and Jay arrived with the first load of food and gear. He also brought in Barbara Bradford, our cook, and Jim Opydike, who had been forced to abandon the ski-approach on day two because of a massive blister. Two flights later Jay had all our stuff safely on the West Fork, and we broke out the booze as Barbara took over the cook tent. Much later that night we staggered (or crawled) from the cook tent to our sleeping bags, well fed and liquored up.

Making a landing strip
Making a landing strip
Credit: Alpinista55

Hudson Air Service
Hudson Air Service
Credit: Alpinista55

Taxiway
Taxiway
Credit: Alpinista55

Jay Hudson
Jay Hudson
Credit: Alpinista55

Base camp relaxation
Base camp relaxation
Credit: Alpinista55

Staples
Staples
Credit: Alpinista55

Barbara making breakfast
Barbara making breakfast
Credit: Alpinista55

Some of the crew
Some of the crew
Credit: Alpinista55

Credit: Alpinista55

Credit: Alpinista55

Afternoon excitement, courtesy of Mt. Huntington North Face
Afternoon excitement, courtesy of Mt. Huntington North Face
Credit: Alpinista55

The Climbs

After a few days of sorting food and equipment, we split up into climbing teams and skied off in several different directions. A group of us decided that the SW Ridge of Pk. 11,300 would be a fine warm-up for the more challenging climbs to come. This beautiful line, a 4000’ moderate ridge climb that has since become a classic, was just a half-mile from camp, and was still waiting for a second ascent. It had a great bivy spot in the first col about 1500 feet up the ridge, gets sun all day, and has the best position of any line in the West Fork.

The weather and snow conditions were perfect as we kicked steps up the gulley that leads up to the lower ridge, and we were soon following the wildly corniced ridge upward towards the mid-ridge bivy. Great rock and moderate climbing on the east side of the ridge crest gave us plenty of opportunity to enjoy the tremendous views of the West Fork and Mt. Huntington. At the first col we expanded a small crevasse into a spacious snow cave and spent a comfortable night.

SW Ridge of Pk. 11300
SW Ridge of Pk. 11300
Credit: Scott Woolums

Entrance gully is right out the back door
Entrance gully is right out the back door
Credit: Alpinista55

Heading up the entrance gully
Heading up the entrance gully
Credit: Alpinista55

On the ridge!
On the ridge!
Credit: Alpinista55

Credit: Alpinista55

Credit: Alpinista55

View up the upper West Fork, Mt. Hunter beyond. Note our ski tracks in...
View up the upper West Fork, Mt. Hunter beyond. Note our ski tracks in the center of the glacier
Credit: Alpinista55

The next day began with high-angle neve slopes leading up to a major gendarme, which we passed on the east side. We rapped into the col behind the tower and left a fixed line for the descent. From the high col there is an exciting upward traverse on the steep sides of the knife-edged ridge until it merges into the summit ice fields. We gained the ice field as the sun went down behind Denali’s South Buttress, and we climbed on into the evening. It was amazing fun, two ropes of two simul-climbing parallel lines up the blue boilerplate ice toward the summit as daylight faded into darkness.

Steep snow and neve above the lower col
Steep snow and neve above the lower col
Credit: Alpinista55

Mt. Huntington's French Ridge is a nice backdrop
Mt. Huntington's French Ridge is a nice backdrop
Credit: Alpinista55

Below the tower
Below the tower
Credit: Alpinista55

Climbing around the tower to the upper col, Mt. Huntington North Face ...
Climbing around the tower to the upper col, Mt. Huntington North Face behind
Credit: Alpinista55

Upper ridge and summit of Pk. 11300
Upper ridge and summit of Pk. 11300
Credit: Alpinista55

We arrived at the summit sometime around midnight, and even in the half-light of the April night the views were mind-blowing. Scott Woolums and I were mesmerized by the view of Mt. Huntington’s East Ridge, our intended route, just across the dark abyss of the West Fork. Keith Stevens was likewise scoping out his intended line, a new route up the unclimbed NW Face of the Rooster Comb. All in all, a magical night on what I consider the best line in the area. These days 11300 is descended by traversing to the southeast, but we descended the route without incident and spent several days resting up for the main events.

The Rooster Comb and Mt. Huntington at midnight from the summit of Pk ...
The Rooster Comb and Mt. Huntington at midnight from the summit of Pk 11300
Credit: Alpinista55

Dawn light on Mt Huntington on the descent
Dawn light on Mt Huntington on the descent
Credit: Alpinista55

The Main Event

Scott Woolums and I decided to climb Mt. Huntington’s East Ridge in 1979, after seeing it up close from the top of the Huntington/Rooster Comb col. We had crossed the col in ’79 on the way from the West Fork to Huntington’s South Ridge. The 5000’ East Ridge had only seen one ascent, and that had been siege-style over a period of two weeks in 1972. We wanted to climb it alpine-style in three days. Keith Stevens and Leigh Anderson had their eye on the unclimbed NW Face of the Rooster Comb. Their steep 3000’ mixed line climbs through the only relatively safe area on the broad face of the west summit of the Comb. Like us, they planned a fast, lightweight ascent.

Scott and I blasted off a day before Keith and Leigh. The first order of business was to ascend the face of the Huntington/Rooster Comb col. Climbing this icefall is not for the feint-of-heart. The col is topped by huge cornices and very active seracs, and is swept frequently by huge avalanches. We climbed at night, and moved as fast as we could, using the same line we had climbed twice the previous year. Despite the objective hazards, the climbing is not difficult, and our luck held. We arrived at the col at dawn and settled in for a day of rest and photography.

Huntington/Rooster Comb col
Huntington/Rooster Comb col
Credit: Alpinista55

Setting out for the base
Setting out for the base
Credit: Alpinista55

A little reminder of who's the boss
A little reminder of who's the boss
Credit: Alpinista55

Blue ice on the face of the col
Blue ice on the face of the col
Credit: Alpinista55

Objective hazards above
Objective hazards above
Credit: Alpinista55

The upper icefall
The upper icefall
Credit: Alpinista55

Two climbers nearing the top of the col
Two climbers nearing the top of the col
Credit: Alpinista55

Cornice dance
Cornice dance
Credit: Alpinista55

Top of the col, and still in one piece!
Top of the col, and still in one piece!
Credit: Alpinista55

Camp one, Pk. 11300 SW Ridge beyond
Camp one, Pk. 11300 SW Ridge beyond
Credit: Alpinista55

Day 2 was the crux of the climb. The col rises easily for a few hundred feet, but soon merges into the steep north face of the ridge proper. The face is a series of steep gullies separated by fins of corniced snow flutings. We chopped our way into the first gully and climbed it until the snice in the gully was buried in near vertical powder snow. The unconsolidated snow forced us to burrow through the fin into the adjacent gulley.

We gained a few more rope lengths up the face before tunneling our way into the next gulley to the right. Each time we neared the ridge crest the angle steepened to near vertical, the ice disappeared under the feathery powder, and we tunneled sideways. The exposure was tremendous, looking down the uninterrupted North Face 3000’ to the West Fork. Above and to the right was a massive hanging icecap that could be bad news if we had to go too far right.

Finally we dug our way into a gulley that wasn’t choked at the top with snow, and I found myself leading the last few feet up vertical snice to the crest. It had been a long, hard morning, and my body was near its limit. I forced myself to focus on the next few moves. A fall here was unthinkable, protected only by a snow picket, now half a rope length below me. My head cleared the ridge crest, and six inches in front of my face was a gift from the first acscentionists. A 4-inch loop of 8-year old poly fixed line protruded from the ice of the ridge. I clipped my daisy chain into the loop and heaved myself up and over the edge.

Credit: Alpinista55

Credit: Alpinista55

Credit: Scott woolums

Credit: Scott Woolums


I slammed in a screw to back up the handy loop of fixed line and belayed Scott up. We hustled on up the much easier terrain of the ridge crest, looking for a place to make a bivy. Night fell, and still no ledge. The climbing was steep and everything was rock hard snice. At 11pm Scott gained a small corniced arête that protruded horizontally from the base of the mid-ridge rock band. We were out of options, so we chopped the cornice off the top of the arête, forming a ledge just big enough for the two of us. We settled in for the night, and enjoyed a fantastic display of Northern Lights as a reward for a hard 18-hour day.

Summit day dawned clear and cold, at -20 F. In the daylight the exposure of our perch was heart stopping, with a 3000’drop off either side of our 3-foot wide platform. We had been lucky that the weather had remained fair! Scott led the rock band (all 30 feet of it), and we climbed up onto a mid-ridge plateau that had room to camp a small army. We dropped our packs and set off up the ridge toward the summit.

Camp 2 on the East Ridge. Tokositna glacier beyond
Camp 2 on the East Ridge. Tokositna glacier beyond
Credit: Scott Woolums

The (very short) rock band
The (very short) rock band
Credit: Alpinista55

Above the plateau the ridge narrowed into a beautiful knife-edged ridge of ice, which we traversed just below the crest on the south side. The climbing was fun and the weather perfect, cold with just a bit of wispy clouds blowing past on the light breeze. The knife-edge merged into the bulging side of the summit cornice and Scott led up the final steep bit to the top. Then we were sitting on the summit of one of the world’s classic peaks for the second time in two years, and it was a blast. The clouds fell away and we were treated to fantastic views in all directions. Mt. Hunter to the west seemed close enough to touch in the crystal clear air.

The upper East Ridge, 11,500'
The upper East Ridge, 11,500'
Credit: Alpinista55

On top for the second time in two years! Jay Kerr in the frozen beard,...
On top for the second time in two years! Jay Kerr in the frozen beard, Scott Woolums in yellow.
Credit: Scott Woolums

The view east, Rooster Comb, Mt. Dickey, Mt. Barille, and the Moose's ...
The view east, Rooster Comb, Mt. Dickey, Mt. Barille, and the Moose's Tooth
Credit: Alpinista55

The view west, Mt. Hunter and Mt Foraker
The view west, Mt. Hunter and Mt Foraker
Credit: Alpinista55

The down-climbing back to the plateau went quickly and we spent a comfortable night there, but in the morning the skies to the southwest were looking grey and threatening, so we wasted no time and started a long series of rappels back to the col. Once off the ridge we didn’t slow down, and descended the face of the col in record time. We were back at base in time for dinner.

And the view back down the East Ridge!
And the view back down the East Ridge!
Credit: Alpinista55

From the route we had an excellent view of the NW face of the Rooster Comb, and had watched for any sign of Keith and Leigh. We thought we spotted the flash of a headlamp on the evening we spent on the chopped off arête of camp 2, but it was a mystery where they were now. That night the stormy weather hit, and for the next two days there was no sign of the pair. Once the weather cleared we spotted them coming down from the col. They had climbed the face in two long days, but missed the weather window and got held up by the two-day storm on the top of the col. Leigh had frozen his toes, and was real anxious to get out to the hospital. Luckily, Jay flew in a day later and Leigh left the party.

Anchor at the bivy, NW Face of the Rooster Comb
Anchor at the bivy, NW Face of the Rooster Comb
Credit: Alpinista55

Leigh Anderson at the sitting bivy
Leigh Anderson at the sitting bivy
Credit: Alpinista55

Keith Stevens leading off
Keith Stevens leading off
Credit: Alpinista55

Steep ground, NW Face of the Rooster Comb
Steep ground, NW Face of the Rooster Comb
Credit: Alpinista55

More steep mixed climbing on the Rooster
More steep mixed climbing on the Rooster
Credit: Alpinista55

Ruth Gap and Beyond

Credit: Alpinista55

After thirty days on the Ruth it was time to move on. Jay Hudson made several flights to transfer gear to the Kahiltna, and several team members flew out to Talkeetna, bringing our party down to six. We shouldered packs with 4 days food and fuel and headed west for Ruth Gap.

The upper West Fork is a lonely and seldom visited place. The SE Spur and South Buttress of Denali forms the north wall. The Isis Face towers 7000’ above the floor of the glacier. The much smaller peaks that form the wall between the West Fork and the Tokositna, beginning with the French Icefall, are very active avalanche zones, and they spread fans of debris far out onto the glacier. From our camp just below Ruth Gap, 4 miles up-glacier from our base camp location, we could see the West Face of Huntington rising above the intervening ridge, while behind us the view was blocked by the headwall formed by the beginnings of the South Buttress. Crossing this 2000’ wall of snow and ice was the next day’s challenge.

Skiing on the upper West Fork
Skiing on the upper West Fork
Credit: Alpinista55

Camp below Ruth Gap
Camp below Ruth Gap
Credit: Alpinista55

Morning found us once again wallowing up steep powder snow slopes beneath towering overhanging seracs. Just as when crossing Moose Pass, we were sure that the entire slope was just waiting for an excuse to cut loose and carry us all to the bottom. We climbed as fast as we could make steps in the bottomless powder, and topped out on the buttress in early afternoon. Suddenly the views opened up to the west, and Mounts Foraker and Crossen filled the horizon. Just as we had a year earlier, we set camp on the spot, unable to resist the fantastic setting.

In ’79 it had been a mistake to camp on the Buttress. We woke up in the middle of the night to a bad storm, and ended up trapped there for three days. In 1980, however, the weather was settled and the next morning began another of a long series of cold clear days. We skied down the west side of the buttress, stopping twice to rappel over giant crevasses. A few hours later we moved out onto the main body of the Kahiltna. It was easy to spot the location of the ski trail to the West Buttress by the long lines of sled-pulling climbers trudging along up the center of the glacier.

Climbing over the South Buttress of Denali
Climbing over the South Buttress of Denali
Credit: Alpinista55

Camp on top of the South Buttress
Camp on top of the South Buttress
Credit: Alpinista55

South Face of Denali from the pass
South Face of Denali from the pass
Credit: Alpinista55

View back down the West Fork
View back down the West Fork
Credit: Alpinista55

The year before, when the weather trapped us here for three days
The year before, when the weather trapped us here for three days
Credit: Alpinista55

Jeff Thomas getting ready to dig out the tents
Jeff Thomas getting ready to dig out the tents
Credit: Alpinista55

Skiing below the South Face of Denali
Skiing below the South Face of Denali
Credit: Alpinista55

The main Kahiltna Glacier, and crowds of climbers ahead. Mt Crossen in...
The main Kahiltna Glacier, and crowds of climbers ahead. Mt Crossen in the distance
Credit: Alpinista55

After 45 days of solitude, Kahiltna International was a bit of a culture shock. There were over a hundred climbers there, most wanting desperately to fly out after spending a couple of weeks on Denali. We were still looking forward to another month of mountain living, but none of us fancied hanging around with the crowds on the Kahilta. Scott Shuey, Jim Olson and I hatched a plan to escape southward (the opposite direction from everyone else) and spend two weeks exploring a region known as Little Switzerland.

Everyone else leaving Kahiltna International
Everyone else leaving Kahiltna International
Credit: Alpinista55

Us digging in for another few weeks
Us digging in for another few weeks
Credit: Alpinista55

Credit: Alpinista55

We skied the 20 miles to the Pika Glacier in an easy day. We were cruising on firm snow, double-poling as we lost elevation on the Kahiltna, all the way down to 4000’ before making a hard left up the Pika. The views of Mt. Foraker were amazing on the perfectly clear, sunny day. We were excited about Little Switzerland, an area that had seen very little exploration in 1980. We hoped to do some new routes on the warmer rock faces of the smaller, lower peaks.

Unfortunately for the three of us, we spent 9 of the next 10 days trying to keep the tent from being buried by the constant snow of a major storm that kept us pinned down in camp. Crammed into a small two-person tent, we had one paperback book, one cassette tape for the Walkman, and nearly came to blows over the proper way to prepare a freeze-dried dinner.

When our food and fuel ran out we were forced to return to base camp, with nothing to show for ten day except a single ski ascent on the one clear afternoon in mid-storm. We navigated most of the 20 miles back to base with map, compass and altimeter, skiing up-glacier in a total whiteout. A week later we packed up and retraced our steps to Little Switzerland on the first leg of the long trek out of the range to the Anchorage/Fairbanks highway.

Ready to head south
Ready to head south
Credit: Alpinista55

Mt. Foraker
Mt. Foraker
Credit: Alpinista55

Lower Kahiltna, shirtsleeve weather
Lower Kahiltna, shirtsleeve weather
Credit: Alpinista55

Little Switzerland camp
Little Switzerland camp
Credit: Alpinista55

Pika Glacier
Pika Glacier
Credit: Alpinista55

Rock Spires, Little Switzerland
Rock Spires, Little Switzerland
Credit: Alpinista55

Our route out of the range was complicated. We crossed an unnamed pass in Little Switzerland that led to an unnamed backside glacier. We descended this glacier until we were able to climb up to the east onto heather benches below Whitehorse Pass. The pass led us to a high drainage full of bear sign, a beautiful tundra valley with the ruins of an old miners claim, and a final climb up into the Peters Hills. We followed a creek of beaver dams towards a place on the map labeled Petersville, where a dirt road would finally lead us out to the highway. From the top of a low ridge, we suddenly came into sight of a bustling placer mining operation. As we came down the slope we were spotted by the gold miners below, and were met at the bottom by a pair of bearded miners with very big guns, wondering just who the hell we were, and where the hell we thought we were going.

Once we explained that we were climbers just trying to get out to civilization, the miners warmed up enough to invite us into the cookhouse for lunch. There was a lot of friendly chatter until a guy came in with a gold pan loaded up with the mornings take. They seemed a bit nervous about outsiders seeing their panful of gold, and we decided it was time to thank our hosts for a nice lunch and hit the trail. After another endless day of walking down the dirt road, we were given a lift by a couple of Alaskans in a pickup truck, who stopped the truck every 5 or 10 minutes and blasted away at the wildlife with their rifles.

Unnamed backside glacier east of Little Switzerland
Unnamed backside glacier east of Little Switzerland
Credit: Alpinista55

Climbing heather slopes toward Wild Horse Pass
Climbing heather slopes toward Wild Horse Pass
Credit: Alpinista55

Lonely tundra valley northwest of the Peters Hills
Lonely tundra valley northwest of the Peters Hills
Credit: Alpinista55

Chowing down on canned goods salvaged from a bear-destroyed miners sha...
Chowing down on canned goods salvaged from a bear-destroyed miners shack
Credit: Alpinista55

Later that day we limped into Talkeetna, 80 days after skiing away from the railroad. First stop: the Chevron station for a hot shower and clean clothes. Second stop: the Roadhouse for dinner. Last stop: The Fairview Inn and several pitchers of beer. The 1980 West Fork Expedition had been an amazing success, and the adventure of a lifetime, but the planning for a return trip started over beers at the Fairview that night.

Oh, and that fancy Japanese expedition we met on the train? With no skis or snowshoes, they spent all their time falling into the crevasses on the NW Fork of the Ruth as they ferried their gear toward the SE Spur, and ran out of time before making any progress on the route.

Hudson Air Service cabin, Talkeetna
Hudson Air Service cabin, Talkeetna
Credit: Alpinista55

  Trip Report Views: 12,566
Alpinista55
About the Author
Jay Kerr is a mountain climber from Portland, OR.

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

Trad climber
Woodside, CA
  Nov 17, 2009 - 03:36am PT
Holy Mooses Tooth! This is a killer TR!!!
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Nov 17, 2009 - 12:06pm PT
Eric Shipton sends his kudos!

Batrock

Trad climber
Burbank
  Nov 17, 2009 - 12:23pm PT
This is the hardest send on Supertopo hands down. What ever happened to adventure?
matty

Trad climber
under the sea
  Nov 17, 2009 - 02:51pm PT
Super job!
survivalmademedoit

Trad climber
Grantham, New Hampshire
  Nov 17, 2009 - 08:37pm PT
Jay,

You are a snazzy, bad ass, hardcore. just saw the TR you posted and it looked fantastic-great narative and photos.

"survival" has been a longtime friend of mine- we met in Yosemite in '78, then were in the USAF together from '82 until '86. Survival went to Saudi, and I spent many years jumping out of airplanes, etc. We've kept tabs with one another for all this time.

I'm here with Survival in NM. While be may not be flashing 11's like he used to, he still pretty solid on the vertical stone.

Again, great post.
aguacaliente

climber
  Nov 17, 2009 - 08:42pm PT
This is incredible. This should be a book.
John Mac

Trad climber
Littleton, CO
  Nov 17, 2009 - 09:34pm PT
Amazing TR. Thanks for sharing...
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Nov 17, 2009 - 09:36pm PT
WOW!!
Jay, you've done it again brother.

I can see how much you put into this TR, thanks.

Even though I wasn't on that trip, you sure took me back to when you, Keith and I were so hard core and energetic.

Hanging out with you guys, listening to your tales wide eyed, and best of all, having the honor of climbing with you.

Thanks for the flashbacks and I hope to see you soon.
Your pal forever,
Bruce
Porkchop_express

Trad climber
Springdale, UT
  Nov 17, 2009 - 09:52pm PT
That was an amazing account! I appreciate the work it took to compile all of that! Well done indeed...
John Moosie

climber
Beautiful California
  Nov 17, 2009 - 09:56pm PT
That is a burly story. Thanks for sharing it. Woot !!!
pc

climber
  Nov 17, 2009 - 11:41pm PT
Fantastic Story and Adventure! Definitely make a great book. The photos are so compelling. Climbing fairy tale land.

Major cheers,
pc
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
  Nov 18, 2009 - 02:19am PT
Amazing report - thanks!

I'm still shivering a little.
Anguish

Mountain climber
Jackson Hole Wyo.
  Nov 18, 2009 - 04:45pm PT
Was on Reality Ridge in '75 (42) days and SE spur of Hunting in '77 (walked out Tokositna Glacier) but 80 days is something else. Great report.
Alpinista55

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
Author's Reply  Nov 18, 2009 - 05:23pm PT
Wow, Anguish, walking out the Tokositna... always looked like that would be a nightmare crevasse crawl! When we were on that side of Huntington in '79 we climbed over from the West Fork, just to avoid the nastiness of the Tokositna.

JK
Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Nov 18, 2009 - 10:41pm PT
This is the most badass TR of them all...we are not worthy!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Nov 19, 2009 - 12:01am PT
Rock on Jay......
I've been back to this TR 5 times now.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Nov 19, 2009 - 12:41am PT
Best Alaska TR ever. wow. Thank you so much for the pics and stories. what an epic trip and so many great photos. wow.
tonesfrommars

Trad climber
California
  Nov 19, 2009 - 02:47am PT
holy crap! epic tr. wow
Dolomite

climber
Anchorage
  Nov 19, 2009 - 02:26pm PT
Wow. Epic.

I can't believe this would have so few views and comments if it were back on the main page. But maybe it would, since there's no religion, or politics, or b.s.

Thanks for posting that, man, gives us all something to aim for.

80 days!!! You guys rocked it good.
MH2

climber
  Nov 19, 2009 - 02:37pm PT
All your images are belong to us.

Thanks!
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Nov 20, 2009 - 11:52am PT
That. Was. Awesome.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Nov 21, 2009 - 12:18am PT
Holy sh#t I'm looking forward to finding a free block of time to read this.

The avalanche photos make me tremble, man, tremble!
Marshall

climber
bay area
  Nov 21, 2009 - 03:56pm PT

best. tr. ever.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Nov 21, 2009 - 06:30pm PT
Outstanding account of an audacious and proud outing! Thanks for making the room on the ST for this one, Chris! What a treat.
cleo

Social climber
wherever you go, there you are
  Nov 23, 2009 - 04:24pm PT
WOW!!!!!!!!!!!


Must read again!
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
  Nov 23, 2009 - 06:30pm PT
Now this is what the Taco needs more of; real climbers on great terrain! Great report!!!!!!!!!
Gobee

Trad climber
  Nov 23, 2009 - 07:12pm PT
Proud!
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Nov 23, 2009 - 10:09pm PT
Unreal-I am exhausted reading this. Some tough lads!

Appreciate all the effort that went into this most awesome report.

canoeper

climber
  Dec 31, 2009 - 02:04am PT
I am just a new member and what great stories of amazing adventures.

Congrats to you bold climbers!!

It takes me back where I'd love to be again but nowadays I just settle for long sledding journeys in Canada's High Arctic, the main entertainment sometimes is dodging the Polar Bears on occasion which can get the blood going!!

I congratulate you folks that continue the tradition of great climbs that inspire young and old.This trip report is incredible, I hope you will find the time to write a great book about your super adventure.

PS I'm 61 and have been paddling the British Isles Coastline with a 42ft ocean going canoe, we started last year out of London UK our canoe is based in Orkney Now!!

Website: www.spiritdancercanoejourneys.ca

Best wishes to all and Happy New Year
Slater

Trad climber
Central Coast
  Jan 1, 2010 - 12:09am PT
That trip took a ton of hard work, which you obviously love, and skill, but more than anything else, patience. I just can't fathom it. Well done! Just the trip up Peak 11,300 would have been a lifetime achievement for me! It must have been hard to come back to the regular life after something like that, and you probably got a whole new perspective on life and climbing at the regular local crag/mtns. Thank you for the effort on this TR and for the vintage pictures! Wonderful job.
Emon

Trad climber
  Jan 3, 2010 - 02:31am PT
WOW!

Thanks for an amazing (scary from the couch) TR!

(Roadhouse dinner always tastes great. Can't imagine how great it tasted after 80 days in the field. )
Hoots

climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
  Jan 3, 2010 - 06:14pm PT
Oh my God! That just made my day. Best Trip report ever.
BriGuy

climber
black hills, south dakota
  Jan 9, 2010 - 03:25pm PT
Wow. Thanks for posting this, I finally took the time to read the whole report, very inspiring. Love all the photos of the avalanches. Between reading this report and recently buying the Puryear Alaska guidebook, I am way psyched.
MMCC

climber
New Zealand
  May 6, 2010 - 05:56pm PT
Full-value alpine content. 11 out of 10 for everything including the fantastic writeup. Back to the top of the heap for this one eh?
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  May 7, 2010 - 09:26am PT
Agreed!
Jay is a hard man with a heart of gold.
Not only can he put together a helluva trip, but he can put together a helluva TR!!
mushroom

Trad climber
USA
  May 8, 2010 - 02:47am PT
Absolutely amazing and inspiring!!!!!

Thank you so much for all the effort it took you, I'm sure of it, to put so many photos up. I'm finally getting to a point in my climbing career where an Alaskan expedition wouldn't be out of the question in the next few years and never before had I been able to gain such perspective.

You guys had perfect style and amazing photographs.

F*#k ya forever.

Nick
Paulina

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  May 8, 2010 - 06:26am PT
Wow. Thank you for bumping this to the top again. I had missed it the first time round.

This is the most incredible TR! The best! Thank you!
Alpinista55

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
Author's Reply  May 8, 2010 - 02:10pm PT
Thanks Guys --

I appreciate the kind words. WIsh I was still in the game, because these trips were the best adventures of my life. At 60, my knees are shot and the back is whacked, so my climbing is now purely in the old duffer category. But it won't be long before I shove off for Alaska again, this time aboard my sloop, the Betty Lou. Plans are in place for circumnavigations of Vancouver Island, the Queen Charlotte Islands, and then on to Misty Fiords and Glacier Bay.

Anyway, thanks again. For those who might have missed them, here's my other two TRs:

http://www.supertopo.com/tr/West-Fork-Ruth-DNB-Rooster-Comb/t10482n.html

http://www.supertopo.com/tr/Mt-Huntington-West-Face-Colton-Leech-route/t10483n.html

Later --

Jay
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Sep 2, 2010 - 10:33pm PT
Alpinista55 bump.

Jay has put up some of the best TR's on the taco.

They may be oldy moldy, but they still shine as the great adventures that they were on the day the guys got out of the range!
Tami

Social climber
Canada
  Sep 2, 2010 - 10:45pm PT
Jay Kerr this TR is FABULOUS. SICK time in the mountains; I imagine looking back on it now it seems like an alternate set of dimensions.

I was relieved to see green in the photos towards the end. That was always my great love of being in the mountains; the loss of the colour green..............and then the re-emergence of it into life as the trip wound down.


Thanks for the effort you put into this TR.
MMCC

climber
New Zealand
  Sep 2, 2010 - 11:47pm PT
Yeah man, amazing! Good to see it back.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Sep 2, 2010 - 11:57pm PT
Gets my vote for the best TR on the taco!
Lambone

Big Wall climber
Ashland, Or
  Sep 3, 2010 - 03:17am PT
OMG, this TR...FOR THE WIN! Nice job, and thank you!
Alpinista55

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
Author's Reply  Oct 9, 2010 - 04:22am PT
Thanks for the comments, guys. Glad you enjoyed the TR. What good are adventures without sharing the memories?
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Oct 9, 2010 - 04:29am PT
I hope to see you soon Jay.
Let's go climbing!!!
Allen Hill

Social climber
CO.
  Oct 9, 2010 - 04:48am PT
Fantastic. From making pile clothing to getting home safely makes for one of the very best TR's I've seen here. The photography alone is world class. Thanks!
hobo_dan

Social climber
Minnesota
  Oct 9, 2010 - 09:54am PT
That was great!!!!!!!!
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
  Oct 9, 2010 - 11:52am PT
Bump for one of THE BEST THREADS here on ST!!!!!!!!
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Oct 9, 2010 - 01:41pm PT
Man!, how'd I miss this one, that was one of the most incredible TR's I've read, it seemed like more than hardcore with each page....and it just didn't stop!

That Camp 2 looked like one of the most exposed places on the planet.

I feel totally humbled when I think of how I would think of a 20 mile approach as a measure of my stamina. I wouldn't even rate a comma in a trip report like this. It really is bigger up there!
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Oct 9, 2010 - 06:50pm PT
Very cool "time capsule" expedition report. Lots of ice and snow back in 1980, I bet it is considerably changed in 2010. Share your own Alaskan expedition photos and stories.
Alpinista55

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
Author's Reply  Oct 11, 2010 - 04:35pm PT
Kalimon, I think you are right, much different conditions these days in terms of snow/ice conditions in the Ruth. When we did the 2nd ascent of the North Buttress of the Rooster Comb, the gully was filled with perfect neve and boilerplate ice (except for the crux pitch of vertical rotting ice).

http://www.supertopo.com/tr/West-Fork-Ruth-DNB-Rooster-Comb/t10482n.html

Everyone I've talked to since who has attempted the route has said that the gully was in terrible condition, and to my knowledge, there is yet to be a third ascent.

Some recent TRs that have described the SW Ridge of 11,300 make it sound like a completely different route than what we climbed in 1980. Again, we had fantastic snow and ice conditions all the way up the route. One report I read just read described 4000 feet of trenching up bottomless snow. Yuck!
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Oct 11, 2010 - 06:30pm PT
Great stuff, Jay. I remember emailing you about climbing in the Ruth around 10 or so years ago. Then, a very short while later, my climbing partner and I were on some easy classic in Red Rocks, and, some kids at the belay were worried about the older dude up there, wandering around, off route, with a bunch of old gear. Watched him climb for a second, then told them not to worry as that feller was pretty saavy.

Pretty funny running into you. Remember thinking, hey, this is a small world.

Anyhoo, great TR, good to meet you and thanks for the beta back then. Hope all is great.

-Brian in SLC
Jordan Ramey

Big Wall climber
Calgary, Alberta
  Oct 11, 2010 - 07:40pm PT
Absolutely great TR. Great adventures.
Alpinista55

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
Author's Reply  Oct 12, 2010 - 10:41am PT
Hey Brian... I remember that day. It was on Geronimo, on Jackrabbit buttress. Funny that I was the "old dude" way back then. I don't climb much these days, instead I sail a big blue water sailboat and all the other sailors are 'old dudes", so I don't get that any more ,grin.
highcamp

Trad climber
Bay Area, CA
  Oct 12, 2010 - 11:03am PT
Best TR I've read and viewed. Totally inspirational!
Pcutler

climber
Iowa
  Feb 1, 2011 - 01:02am PT
Super Badass, makes me feel like an incompetent pussy,

bump
snowhazed

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Feb 1, 2011 - 02:01am PT
just wow
Buju

Big Wall climber
the range of light
  Feb 1, 2011 - 11:13am PT
This is spectacular! Thanks for all of the work putting it together!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Feb 1, 2011 - 11:23am PT
Fabulous TR!!! Why this doesn't have hundreds of posts illustrates what is wrong with the ST Forum.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Feb 1, 2011 - 12:10pm PT
One of the Best TRs EVER,
Thanks for your monumental Effort Jay!
Bump for the real deal!
d-know

Trad climber
electric lady land
  Feb 1, 2011 - 12:11pm PT
holy sh!t.

that was the
real deal.

i'll never complain
about long approaches
or heavy loads after
that read!


excellent write up
and amazing photos.

thank you.
emu

climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Feb 1, 2011 - 12:54pm PT
Wow.
Hawkeye

climber
State of Mine
  Feb 1, 2011 - 02:54pm PT
AMAZING!!!

5* STAR TRIP.

THANKS FOR SHARING!
Port

Trad climber
San Diego
  Feb 1, 2011 - 03:29pm PT
Thanks....that was awesome. Im curious what kind of training you did, if any, for an Alaska expedition like this. Did you just go for it?
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Feb 1, 2011 - 04:36pm PT
Alpinista? Train? HA HA hahahaha!!!

Just kidding. Good to see you back on page one Jay!

Bowser

Social climber
Durango CO
  Feb 1, 2011 - 04:47pm PT
That is one fine Trip Report. Thank you for sharing.

TB
east side underground

climber
Hilton crk,ca
  Feb 1, 2011 - 05:05pm PT
unreal, best ever,thanks for the awsome photos,1980 I was a 20 yr old punk hanging in Homer AK fishing for salmon and steelies, did my first climb up some no-name peak in the chugach, nothing to compare with you guys, you are the real deal, cheers!
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Feb 1, 2011 - 07:17pm PT
Best trip report ever! I can't believe how badass you guys are (were?). I am not worthy.
Alpinista55

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
Author's Reply  Feb 2, 2011 - 04:59pm PT
Definitely in the past tense, Fat Dad. I haven't been on the sharp end in the big mountains for quite a while. Body got beat up, you know how it goes. Now I get my thrills sailing off the PNW coast in Betty Lou, a vintage Tartan 37 sloop. Its a great way to get in scary places while always having a warm berth and a flush toilet nearby.

Jk
wbw

Trad climber
'cross the great divide
  Feb 4, 2011 - 04:47pm PT
Fabulous and inspiring trip report.

About five years ago I spent ten days in Little Switzerland. It turns out that July is just too warm to climb in the Ruth Gorge, and we found out that everything is falling down (we're talking rock routes) that late in the year. Joe Puryear and his partner were the only other folks with a camp in the Gorge and he wisely suggested Little Switzerland, so we had TAT transfer us to the Pika Glacier.

Even though we had to sit out an 8 day snowstorm, we managed to get two awesome days in Lil Swiss. We cragged one day and then got up a longish rock climb on the second day before the weather turned to crap again. I will never forget the view of the Infinite Spur on a splitter day.

Your trip report helped me figure the range out a lot better than I previously had. What a trip of a lifetime! Thanks for sharing.
james Colborn

Trad climber
Truckee, Ca
  Feb 5, 2011 - 10:36am PT
An inspiration. Thanks for posting this all up. Great work.
George Bell

Trad climber
Colorado
  Feb 7, 2011 - 10:13am PT
Wow! What a great story on a great trip! The photos are really nice too. Brings back memories of my own attempt on Huntington, you guys are the real deal!! Thanks for posting.
Western Chugach

Mountain climber
Anchorage, Alaska
  Feb 7, 2011 - 09:05pm PT
Wow, Jay, what a trip! I read the brief article on page 157 of the 1981 AAJ, but this was much more enlightening. You indicated that you made a ski ascent of a peak in the Little Switzerland area. What peak was that?
Alpinista55

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
Author's Reply  Feb 8, 2011 - 12:33pm PT
Hey, Western C,

Little Switzerland was a total bust for us in 1980. It snowed continuously for 8 days, keeping the three of us tent bound in a tight-for-two MSR Omnipotent. We had a walkman with a single tape (Linda Rondstadt), one book (James Michner) that we tore up and shared as each chapter was read, and almost came to blows over the proper way to rehydrate a freeze-dried dinner.

The one day it didn't snow, the main peaks at the top of the Pika were still socked in, so we skied up a small peak that overlooked the Kahiltna, climbed a short rock spire to its summit and watched the sunset over Foraker. Sorry, I haven't a clue which peak that was.

The next day we broke camp and skied back to Kahiltna base. The clouds came back and we had to navigate by compass and altimeter for the entire 25 miles in soup so thick that you could barely see to the other end of the rope.

Of course, a few days later as we skied through Little Switzerland on the way out to the highway with no climbing gear or the time to stop, the weather was perfect.

Jk
mariaji

Social climber
Tucson, AZ
  Feb 8, 2011 - 10:50pm PT
Suddenly I feel very, very weak!
TKeller

climber
  Feb 24, 2011 - 12:16pm PT
Wow, what a great TR. Thanks for posting!
telemon01

Trad climber
Montana
  Feb 24, 2011 - 12:30pm PT

great stuff
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Feb 24, 2011 - 12:50pm PT
GREAT TR! Makes me want to get out there even more..
Edge

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
  Feb 24, 2011 - 12:50pm PT
Simply awesome! Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.
MMCC

climber
New Zealand
  Sep 2, 2011 - 12:25am PT
baaaaadaaaaaaaasssssssssss!!!!!!!!
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Oct 13, 2011 - 04:16pm PT
Superwow
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Nov 2, 2011 - 05:06pm PT
OK one more because I think this is my all time favorite.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Nov 2, 2011 - 05:10pm PT
Glad you said that Mike. Jay is an old friend and partner of mine.

He's the shizzle, that's for sure.

At least he was until he bailed on us for a sailboat!

He's now a semen.......
skywalker

climber
  Nov 2, 2011 - 11:10pm PT
Bump! Damn good adventure! All I can say. Inspiring. Thanks for sharing!!! Totally enjoyed it!

Cheers!!!

S...
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Nov 2, 2011 - 11:11pm PT
Survival, is the guy climbing stuff off the boat that was in alpinist an issue or two ago.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
  Nov 2, 2011 - 11:20pm PT
Thanks tons! I remember all this from an old Climbing magazine article.... or was it Mountain mag? Anyway, it was one of those stories that galvanized a young kids imagination. Probably the main reason I eventually made it up there to see for myself.

drljefe

climber
El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
  Nov 3, 2011 - 02:01am PT
Born and raised in the desert. Don't do snow.
Most impressive mission and TR ever. Wow.
That was killer!!!
gonamok

climber
dont make me come over there
  Nov 7, 2011 - 08:48pm PT
Freaking awesome! You make it sound so casual, but your monstrous huevos are showing.... Dam good going
Sewellymon

climber
.....in a single wide......
  Dec 18, 2012 - 03:39am PT
awesome tr bump
gimmeslack

Trad climber
VA
  Dec 18, 2012 - 08:27am PT
Thanks for the bump. This TR is worth a yearly re-read!
Captain...or Skully

climber
in the oil patch...Fricken Bakken, that's where
  Dec 18, 2012 - 08:40am PT
Yeah, it is. SWEET TR, man.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Dec 18, 2012 - 10:47am PT
Well worth the re-read of Ultimate Badassery.

Just one comment - Cap'n Piss Gums wants your TR from the Misty Fjords!

Cap'n Piss Gums says "Yaar and it's a fine day in the Kenai Fjords!"
Cap'n Piss Gums says "Yaar and it's a fine day in the Kenai Fjords!"
Credit: Reilly
Alpinista55

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
Author's Reply  Dec 19, 2012 - 03:46pm PT
Thanks all for the kind comments on our "badassery". Nowadays badass is being redefined by smash and grabbers like John Frieh. Back in our day we planned for months, skied in for weeks, hung out on the glacier for days and days to nab a first ascent that John does in a long weekend from Seattle.

Hey Cap'n Piss Gums, can't wait to get up your way on Betty Lou. Another year or two at the salt mines, and a few more boat projects before she's ready for extended cruising, and I'm on my way north.

MMCC

climber
New Zealand
  May 8, 2014 - 08:33pm PT
I am bumping this mother for its sheer awesomeness. If you don't like this, sue me.
ms55401

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
  May 8, 2014 - 10:41pm PT
never seen anything like this. need time to process and digest.
lars johansen

Trad climber
West Marin, CA
  May 8, 2014 - 10:55pm PT
Wow!!!!!!
Thanks for the bump. I don't know how I missed this the first time. Old school hard core. I'll have to read this a few times. Thanks.
lars
Spanky

Social climber
boulder co
  May 8, 2014 - 11:11pm PT
thanks for the bump I had never seen this before, what a great TR! that is one hardcore adventure. I spent a week in little switzerland last summer and had a fabulous time. I can't believe you guys walked in and out and climbed so much. awesome!
PSP also PP

Trad climber
Berkeley
  May 9, 2014 - 12:04am PT
Amazing!!
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  May 9, 2014 - 12:31am PT
Bump for some badass dudes doing it the right way . . . outstanding adventure!
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
  May 9, 2014 - 12:44am PT
Bump for the most bad-ass Alaska adventure I've ever enjoyed. Thank you for taking the time to post this amazing adventure.
Fuzzywuzzy

climber
suspendedhappynation
  May 9, 2014 - 01:08am PT
Yes. The trip of a lifetime!!!

I recognize some of that immense terrain from Gillette, Rowel, Weins and Bard's circumnavigation in 1978? No survivors of that tour. Goes to show us all to grab onto life and follow your dreams!

You did!!!

Tremendous narrative and photos - thanks!!!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  May 10, 2014 - 06:24am PT
I keep coming back to this TR, too
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
Nevada City
  May 12, 2014 - 11:28am PT
Big Bad Superawesome Tripreport ( BBST )
Alpinista55

Mountain climber
Portland, OR
Author's Reply  May 12, 2014 - 02:46pm PT
Wow, I'm always amazed to check into ST and find this TR bumped back to the surface. Thanks, guys, for the awesome comments. That WAS an awesome time of my like, for sure. We did 6 expeditions to the Range between 1967 and 1985, and only in '78 did we use air to get in and out. I'll never forget the rush of skiing off from the railroad or highway knowing that we had hundreds of miles to travel and weeks of living in the greatest mountains on the continent.

Even though I've pretty much replaced mountaineering with off-shore sailing, you can't keep a climber out of the mountains… I'll be doing a 50-mile off-trail loop through the Wind River Range this August, bagging a few 13ers if the knees hold up.

If you missed these two TRs and liked the 1980 report, you should check them out:

1981 – Direct North Buttress of the Rooster Comb
http://www.supertopo.com/tr/West-Fork-Ruth-DNB-Rooster-Comb/t10482n.html

1983 – East Face of Mt. Huntington Colton/Leech
http://www.supertopo.com/tr/Mt-Huntington-West-Face-Colton-Leech-route/t10483n.html

Later

JK
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  May 13, 2014 - 12:14pm PT
I don't see how I could have missed one of the best TR's I've ever read during so many bumps over the years. Outstanding!

I was creeped out imagining the burrows through snow fins as each gully walled out, with more and more exposure as you keep traversing.

Thanks for taking the time to post it all up and share so many great pictures.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  May 13, 2014 - 12:20pm PT
I have done many climbs with Jay, and was with him on his first El Capitan climb, and I can confirm his badassery first hand.

I have always admired him, from day one.
skcreidc

Social climber
SD, CA
  May 13, 2014 - 12:44pm PT
Damm. Reads like a gripping novel. Excellent tale and thanks for posting it up. Badasses in amazing scenery. The skiing in and out just makes it even better.

Chris
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