North America, United States, Alaska, Ruth Gorge, London BRidge, Miss Keli, and Various Activity

Publication Year: 2004.

London Bridge, Miss Keli, and various activity. We (Iwan Wolf, Urs Stöcker, Markus Stofer, Bruno Hasler) took advantage of the first sunny day to fly into the Ruth Gorge with Talkeetna Air Taxi, on May 7. We set up our base camp at the base of Mt. Dickey’s southeast ridge. During the next couple of days accumulating snow created severe avalanche danger, which forced us to abandon our original plan to climb Mt. Johnson’s east ridge. The impressive red pillar of Mt. Dickey’s south face caught our attention instead, but after two days on the wall, we turned around because of technical difficulties and bad rock. On a second attempt, we made our way up in teams of two and climbed nine pitches, totaling 480m. The difficulties did not surpass 5.9 A3 M4 50°. The quality of the rock became worse and worse, until we felt like we were digging in deep sand. A No. 5 angle, hammered into crack- less rock, could be retrieved with one finger. Belaying was impossible. As the rock did not seem to be improving, we turned around again, and finally combated Mt. Dickey on skis by the west-southwest ridge. Via Pittcock Col and Mountain Hut we then cruised down to BC.

As Iwan, Urs, and I approached our next project, the nearly l,000m-high west face of London Bridge, Markus headed back to Tal- keetna. Urs mastered the first pitch through tricky, unstable ice structures. Parts of these ice structures broke when I was following. The route became more friendly as we made our way up, only to confront us again with a challenging exit at the end. We succeeded in doing an attractive first ascent with the rating 5.9 WI4 M6+. The scenic route allows efficient climbing in good conditions. Descending over the Coffee Glacier and Coffee Glacier Col, we did not encounter exceptional difficulties. Back in BC experienced glacier pilot Keli Mahoney offered us two six-packs of cold beer. However, on May 28 Keli died in a plane crash. In her honor we named our route “Miss Keli.”

Next we set up camp on the West Fork Ruth Glacier. On May 24, shortly after midnight, we left to climb Mt. Huntington’s French Ridge in an uncompromisingly light alpine style— without technical equipment, sleeping bags, or a tent. The climbing on the French Ridge turned out to be very challenging, with the snow being badly bound. Possibilities for belaying were scarce. The ridge was full of dangerous cornices, and I experienced a breathtaking fall. After 24 hours of non-stop climbing, we had to bring our adventure to an end only 50m below the summit because objective dangers were too high. Nevertheless, we succeeded in a speed ascent of [most of] the French Ridge, compared to the five days normally necessary for this route. We descended the West Face Couloir to the Tokositna Glacier and then flew to the West Fork Ruth Glacier. It was snowing so heavily that we had to use a compass and GPS to find base camp.

Bruno Hasler, Switzerland