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North America, United States, Alaska, Alaska Range, Denali National Park, Ruth Gorge, Mt. Wake, East Face

Ruth Gorge, Mt. Wake, east face. The high pressure that centered over Alaska for three months brought clear skies and superb climbing conditions. Two weeks earlier in the Ruth, I attempted to solo Shaken Not Stirred on the Moose’s Tooth, while J.J. Brooks and Charlie Sassara climbed Ham and Eggs.

Local crab fisherman Pete Lowney and I head from Valdez back to the Ruth with several objectives in mind. We end up at the base of Mount Wake and spot the obvious center route up the east face. Though the route looks exposed, in early April it’s still frigid, and the face looks locked up. We strike out on April 6 and, after surmounting a big crack, are committed. Right up the center of the face, moderate climbing with sparse pro finds us bivied before the gully entry. Second day we enter the gully, and Pete leads a little WI5 pitch. Superb climbing, rock pro, and long runnels of 45° to 55° water ice, with the occasional M4 crux. Second bivy in a great spot to the side, and the isobutane stove goes out. Last time I take one stove up a route this time of year. Third day we bust a move for the top, waterless, super moderate climbing, changing from granite to the summit caprock. The exit that was obvious from the plane isn’t from the route, so we just follow the ever-steepening ice to a vertical crux. One pitch from the top, our pilot Paul Roderick flies by, and I feel like I can reach out and touch his wing. We summit and race the clouds to the Wake-Bradley col, but they catch us and we bivy in a crevasse. No stove, low on food, and socked in on the backside of Wake. I tell Pete this is a classic Alaska Range situation, and we could be in this crevasse for days. We discover that our body heat can melt ice chips we place in ziplock bags, which saves us from serious consequences.

The Alaska Range is kind this spring, however, the clouds lift, and we descend uneventfully. The next day it snows in camp and socks the mountain in, but we are safe and vow to return.

Brian Teale