American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Mt. Bradley, The Sum of Its Parts; Heavy Mettle

Alaska, Central Alaska Range

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Peter Doucette, UIAGM
  • Climb Year: 2013
  • Publication Year: 2013

Silas Rossi and I established two new climbs on Mt. Bradley (9,104’). The first, completed on April 17, was a 49-hour camp-to-camp effort that resulted in the Sum of Its Parts (4,000’, Alaska Grade V AI6 M7 A2). The route climbs Bradley’s southern aspect via an obvious large cleft just right of the Gift (Blitz-House-Twight, 1998). Our line begins on a steep ice ramp that leads into a beautiful mixed corner capped by a roof at ca 800’. Mixed climbing to M7 and some creative aid out the roof allowed us to gain a major chimney system that continues the full height of the wall. The climb meets the west ridge just 300’ below the summit. Our descent lasted through the night, after a faulty stove added to the appeal of an immediate return to base camp.

The quality of the climbing was exceptional and offered many varied challenges. The Sum of Its Parts was climbed in 28 pitches, with a brilliant rope-stretching finish that we dubbed “The Mind Shaft” due to its straightforward appearance but mentally jarring exit. One of the climb’s defining sections was climbing the left wall of a wild chimney for 500’ at AI6 (mandatory AI5+ R). These pitches involved overhanging “s’nice,” nearly show-stopping anchor difficulties, and a fair number of exclamations by both of us on lead.

Ample rest, a fresh foot of snow, and casual days of ski touring affirmed our intentions on an impossible-to-miss line of ice that we’d stared at from camp since our arrival. On April 25, we clicked into our skis at 2 a.m. to approach the striking line with plans to beat the early morning sun on the lower portion. This line is located on the north side of Bradley’s east ridge. Heavy Mettle (4,600’, Alaska Grade V WI5+R M6 A0) begins by ascending the major couloir through short bands of rock (M6) between the prominent east ridge and Welcome to Alaska (Charon-Faure-Moulin-Ponson, 2002).

From high in the couloir we traversed left into a large corner system just below half-height on the wall. Our route follows this corner for 1,800’ of “s’nice” and water ice spackled into the back of the corner, eventually joining the east ridge at ca. 8,300’, about 800’ below Bradley’s summit. Upon meeting the ridge we continued up and over the summit by what we felt was the path of least resistance. This included one rappel to cross a gap in the ridge and avoid large cornices. After descending the ridgeline toward the Bradley-Wake col, we post-holed for eight hours toward our Ruth Gorge camp, which reaffirmed our belief that skiing is a far superior method of travel, no matter how rewarding the line of post-holes looks over your shoulder. We arrived back in base camp 43.5 hours after starting (including a three-hour rest stop).

Both new routes are sustained in quality. An incredible stretch of good weather and a deep desire to make the most of our first trip to the Ruth Gorge contributed to great outcomes. Silas and I are extremely grateful for the support of our sponsors, friends, and climbing community for making this trip possible.

Peter Doucette, UIAGM

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