American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Denali National Park, The Moose's Tooth, South Face, Shaken, Not Stirred

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1998

The Moose’s Tooth, South Face, Shaken, Not Stirred. Jim Donini and I did a new route on the south face of the Moose’s Tooth at the end of May, an ice route that heads directly to Englishman’s Col. 50 Classic Climbs of North America has a good photo of this face on the lead page for the article on the Moose’s Tooth West Ridge. We climbed the prominent couloir that drops straight down from the first saddle (Englishman’s Col) from the left. Jon Krakauer did Ham and Eggs in the ‘70s up the couloir that leads to the immediate left of the main summit, and Bocarde, Charlie Porter, et al did The Moose Antler up one of the rock buttresses on the south side. I can’t believe that such an obvious route had not been climbed, but that seems to be the case. I found no mention in the AAJ and no evidence during our climb.

We left camp at 1:30 a.m. and made a four-hour glacier approach to the base of the couloir. After a final cup of coffee we set off up the couloir hoping to encounter moderate alpine terrain. One hundred meters up the route I got an unpleasant surprise: a 50-meter lead on rotten vertical and near-vertical ice with very poor protection. (The granite up this route is remarkably monolithic with few cracks.) Next Jim led a tedious mixed section that gave us access to the hoped-for moderate mid-section of the route. Two hundred to 250 meters of simulclimbing on perfect névé brought us to what we expected to be the crux of the route, a rock wall that appeared to have no ice from below. Instead we found a deep, hidden cleft full of thick ice that was seldom more than two shoulder-widths wide. Jim led the first, and most difficult, pitch of this section, which went on for 200 meters like a Scottish gully in the high mountains. Fabulous.

When the gully finally widened a little and the angle lessened we expected the easier 45- 50° névé slopes to take us all the way to Englishman’s Col, safety, and a brew of tea (we were utterly parched). They did not.

The couloir turned a corner and above us loomed a chockstone wedged across the gully with a curtain of rotten ice dripping past the overhang created by the chockstone. This was the sting in the tail. A drip of real ice about a foot wide and three inches thick coming down from under the left side of the chockstone, and desperate stemming, thin axe-picking, a solid #1 Camalot, and good sticks above the overhang, made the pitch possible.

The last few hundred meters of the route were not as easy as we would have liked (especially considering our screaming calf-muscles), but eventually we made it to the Englishman’s Col, Shaken, Not Stirred (the route name, in keeping with our booze tradition), for a much- needed rest and brew of tea. We lacked the courage to brave the corniced ridges to the main summit of the Moose’s Tooth, but instead did one more hard pitch (sugar snow over a steep slab) above the Col and plodded the rest of the way to the West Summit of the Tooth. We descended the West Ridge overnight.

Greg Crouch

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