American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Eyetooth and Sugartooth, Ruth Gorge

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1995

Eyetooth and Sugartooth, Ruth Gorge. On June 17, Doug Keeting flew Tommi Bonapace, Raimund Haas and me to just below Mount Bradley in the Ruth Gorge. That afternoon, we skied to the gap due east of Mount Dickey to study the smooth west faces of our two peaks, which lie south of the Moose’s Tooth. Tommi and I had first noticed these faces when we climbed the Bottleneck on Dickey in 1988. Mugs Stump and I had in 1987 made an agreement not to interfere in the projects of the other. The peaks around the gap were to be left for him, but tragically Mugs was lost two years ago and so the peaks were now “free.” We skied back to Base Camp, where we were trapped for the next nine days in storm. On July 27, the weather improved. At noon, we climbed to the cirque marked 17 on the D-2 Talkeetna sheet below the Sugartooth, the southernmost of the two peaks. We started up the west face. We climbed three pitches before it began to rain and the rock became too slippery for free climbing. We rappelled and descended to the glacier. Though it had snowed in the night, we set out again in the morning, made good progress despite verglas and got to a little rock band at mid height by the evening. Because the sun had warmed the summit icefield, there were avalanches and so we climbed to get protection from some giant roofs for our bivouac. Although the face was not perpendicular (UIAA VI, A2), the climbing was demanding since water flowed over the edge of the roofs and soaked us. At two A.M., we constructed a three-man sitting ledge under a 20-meter roof. June 29 dawned cold and cloudy. Because of our wet clothing, we waited until noon before continuing. We climbed three lovely, steep pitches through the belt of roofs and got to the south ridge in the afternoon. Because we believed the mountain unclimbed and the weather for the next day promised to be fine, we spent another night on the mountain. On June 30, we climbed the snow ridge and the last five-meter rock pyramid to enjoy the unbelievable view over the southern McKinley region from the summit. We were within shouting range of Conrad Anker and Paul Gagner on the Ghost Wall. By evening of the 30th, we were back in Base Camp. After a rest day, we started up the west face of the Eyetooth, but after climbing eight pitches, we were driven back by a snowstorm. Not until July 7 could we consider an alpine-style climb. Despite low atmospheric pressure and overcast, we started back up with minimal gear. At seven RM, we were climbing the first rope-lengths on lovely granite, while the rock on the 900-meter-high buttress dried. At midnight, having climbed 14 pitches, we settled into a comfortable bivouac, although Tommi first kept on and led another perpendicular rope-length. During the night, it began to snow lightly. Shrouded in clouds, we saw that our only chance was to finish the climb quickly. In steadily worsening weather, we reached the south summit ridge in nine pitches and got to the top. It snowed harder and the wind picked up, but we set off in the dusk and rappelled 24 times through the whole night since we could not consider a bivouac with the scanty equipment we had. At seven A.M. on July 9, we were delighted to get to Base Camp minus one rope and some kilos lighter. Mugs Stump would have been enchanted with the route and we have named it “The Dream in the Spirit of Mugs.”

Andreas Orgler, Österreichischer Alpenverein

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