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North America, United States, Alaska, Ruth Gorge, Mt. Barille, Northeast Pillar, Baked Alaska

Mt. Barille, Northeast Pillar, Baked Alaskan. Eighteen-year-old Scotty Thelen and I left Valdez at noon on June 29 and raced to Talkeetna to catch Talkeetna Air Taxi into the Ruth Mountain House. The whole state had had a month of predominately clear weather, and with any luck I could squeeze another trip in. An earlier trip into Little Switzerland left me wanting more. After landing we packed the sleds and headed around the corner to the base of the Cobra Pillar, only to find fixed ropes on the Austrian route. The Cobra scared us off, so we skied back around past the Russian route, Forever More. Just past a steep drainage is a smaller face on the shoulder of Barille, the northeast pillar. We quickly agreed on a route up the corner on the edge of the face. We fixed the scary bergschrund crossing and, after 40 hours of funky weather, headed up with a large rack. The Ruth had taught me the value of large pieces, and the rack included gear up to a #5 Camalot and a #7 Big Bro. Steep, shallow hand cracks led to easier climbing and great ledges. Five pitches led to a perfect bivy ledge, where we strung the fly and waited out weather until morning. Further moderate climbing took us up a large chimney and up the face proper to steep double cracks, where we were glad to have the large pieces. We topped out on the pillar’s large table-like top, 1,500 feet from the summit of Barille but an obvious ending point. We enjoyed the view and waited for evening cooling, since our descent route was exposed to snow and rock fall. Seven 60-meter rappels dropped us right back to our start, with no rock fall. The cloud ceiling descended with us, and that was it for our Alaskan summer. Our route, Baked Alaskan (IV+ 5.10 A2) had superb crack climbing of every size and great ledges. After a number of trips I’m finally feeling somewhat comfortable in the Land of the Giants.

Brian Teale