American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Alaska, Alaska Range, Ruth Gorge, Buckskin Glacier, Various Activity

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

Buckskin Glacier, Various Activity. Ben Gilmore, Kevin Mahoney, Mike Wood, Scott DeCapio and I flew to the Buckskin Glacier on September 20. On September 24, the five us made the second ascent of Mooseskin Mountain (Peak 8,300') by skis. Sliding right from the summit, we confirmed it as the best ski peak any of us had been on, with awesome views of the north and east aspects of the Moose’s Tooth and the Ruth Gorge (and great snow!).

On September 28, Gilmore, Mahoney, and I climbed a new route on the south face of Mooseskin Mountain, climbing the dominant gully right of a beautiful granite pillar for six pitches of ice up to WI6. We rappelled from the ridgecrest.

On September 30, Scott DeCapio soloed the 3,160-foot south face of Peak 9,160' (square 15, Mt. McKinley A-2 quad map). This is believed to be the peak’s first ascent. The peak rises from the last northern arm of the Buckskin Glacier’s west end, about three miles north-northeast of the Moose’s Tooth’s summit. Climbing in early morning darkness on “miles of 50- degree snow, with lots of little ice steps and easy mixed up to about 70 or 80 degrees,” DeCapio needed about three hours for the ascent. He down- climbed for the descent and informally dubbed the peak “Canadian Rockies Peak,” based on its similarity to Mt. Assiniboine, with its black sedimentary rock.

Gilmore, Mahoney, and I started up a new route on the Moose’s Tooth early on September 30. Our route began by climbing the snow gully between the Moose’s Tooth and Bear’s Tooth for 1,600 feet. The gully steepened, and we climbed five ice pitches (grade WI2-4) farther up the gully, before we got to the water-ice system we’d spied from the glacier. This system followed a large right-facing corner and was fed by the summit snowfields. The wall here faces southeast, and catches a lot of radiation. It was in many ways similar to the system Carpenter, Twight, and I climbed on Mt. Bradley in March, 1998, but this time we were there at the end of summer, right after the ice had formed. The guess about timing paid off in excellent ice conditions for nearly all of the climb. In fact, only one pitch required that we use our extensive rock rack; most of the time we relied on our six ice screws. The first day we climbed nine pitches to a bivouac underneath a “sub-formed” icicle, which the next morning I aided around via a blocky, discontinuous crack system (A3). Mahoney took over and led a couple of difficult, but excellent, ice pitches that took us to the top of the corner system we were following. At this juncture, I reassumed the lead for what I considered one of the cruxes: climbing on the route’s only truly bad rock (5.8 R) for 40 feet to a tension traverse to gain the next ice system. To end the second day, we climbed two pitches off the line of ascent to a large snow ledge (dubbed the “Aurora Theater Bivy” for the spectacular display of northern lights) and the view of the lights of the village of Talkeetna out in the distance. The third day we rapped back to the route, left two packs and headed to the summit. The corner system we followed finished with two pitches of steep snow (meltwater feeder slopes) and topped out right on the main summit of the Moose’s Tooth, which we gained at 1:45 p.m. We completed 16 200- foot rappels (mostly V-threads) to get back to the snow gully, which we downclimbed, reaching our skis five hours after leaving the summit.

As yet, the route has not named itself, so we are simply calling it the Southeast Face.

Steve House*

*Recipient of an AAC Lyman Spitzer Climbing Grant

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