American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Ruth Gorge, Moose's Tooth, Ham and Eggs, Second Ascent and Trade Routifications

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

Moose’s Tooth, Ham and Eggs, Second Ascent and Trade Routification. A picture of the 3,000-foot south face of the Moose’s Tooth in a recent Climbing magazine article about the Ruth Gorge caught my attention. There was a narrow steep couloir on the right side of the face that led straight up to the summit ridge below the true (east) summit. A note explained it was the Ham and Eggs route (Davies-Krakauer-Zinsser, 1975). In May, my partner, Harry Hunt from Anchorage, and I decided to attempt it. We flew to the Ruth Gorge with Talkeetna Air Taxi on May 8 in unsettled weather, but the 9th dawned clear and beautiful. Within several hours, we packed and were making the five- or six-hour approach through the icefall to the plateau below the south face of the Tooth. By mid-afternoon, we caught up with a pair of climbers from Seattle/Fairbanks who were also gunning for Ham and Eggs. The next day the weather was unsettled, and the other climbers said they didn’t have enough food to wait out the weather, so we could attempt the route first.

We started up around 7 a.m. on the 11th. The climbing was straightforward, and very fun. It consisted mostly of 50- to 55-degree snow interspersed with several WI3 steps and one mixed WI4-ish crux. We simul-climbed the snow sections and belayed all steep pitches. There were roughly 17 60-meter pitches to the col. We made it to the summit ridge around 9 p.m. and made the true east summit at 11:57 p.m. After heading down, we took a couple of hours’ break near the top of the couloir in a strange, hoar-frosted natural cave. We started rapping down the couloir around 4:30 a.m. By 9:30 a.m., we were back at the tent. We note the approach route from the Ruth Glacier to the plateau below the Tooth can entirely avoid the icefall if one takes the very avalanche-prone gully to the right (south) side of the icefall. This should not be attempted if the snow is not frozen.

Subsequent to our ascent were numerous (reportedly as many as ten) additional ascents in May and June. Among them were Kelly Cordes and Scott Decapio, Dan Gambino and Pete Tapley, the Fairbanks/Seattle pair (Dale Remsburg and friend Kristy), Mike Davis and a partner, Hunter, from Truckee, and Dave Hart and Brad Gessner. Hart and Gessner managed to forego the Ruth-to-the-Tooth icefall because TAT flew them onto the plateau at the base of the Tooth. Also, Joe Reichert and Rob Hancock repeated the original West Ridge route to the East Summit and descended via the newly-established rap route in the Ham and Eggs couloir. For the record, Carl Tobin and Brian Teale attempted Ham and Eggs back in 1984, got quite high on the route but turned around short of the top of the couloir. In my opinion, Ham and Eggs is deserving of its new-found “insta-classic” status. It’s a fun, challenging, sustained route to one of the major summits in the Alaska Range without an inordinate amount of danger, in the right conditions.

Peter Haeussler, unaffiliated

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