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North America, United States, Alaska, Ruth Gorge, Hut Tower, Tower Couloir to Werewolf-Hut Col

Hut Tower, Tower Couloir to Werewolf-Hut Col. James Mehigan and I aren’t keen on beach vacations, so we traveled to Alaska in April, just in time for the end of a two-month high-pressure spell. On the day we arrived the wind swung to the south, which, according to a local climber, brings two types of clouds: serious and accumulating.

We gave ourselves just two weeks to pull off the first ascent of the couloir leading to the col between the Werewolf and Hut towers (6,700' and 6,200'), but pulled it off in a 23-hour continuous push, battling subzero temperatures, falling snow, and marginal ice conditions.

The crux section of the climb involved a struggle with an overhanging chimney that was shrouded by a veil of vertical powder snow. Running through the powder snow, though, were four-inch-wide tentacles of semi-consolidated snow-ice that made the route possible. It included three pitches of stout Scottish Grade VII, with the second-from-last pitch being much like the moves out of the cave on Darth Vader (VII, 8) on Ben Nevis.

Tower Couloir, 500m, ED, Scottish VII, A1.

Oliver Metherell, U.K.