Alaska Seminar: Linden Mallory & Team on the Ruth Glacier!

Posted by: Linden Mallory, Pete Van Deventer | May 04, 2014
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Mount McKinley
Elevation: 7,300'

The little town of Talkeetna, Alaska, was beginning to wake from its quiet winter slumber when we arrived yesterday evening. The long warm evening calling out locals and climbers alike to relax on the outdoor patios along the main strip. After dropping off our gear we grabbed a quick bite at the legendary West Rib Pub, enjoying some excellent caribou burgers as our last meal before heading into the mountains.

The morning was perfectly clear and calm and after checking in with the National Park Service we headed over to the airplane hangar at the Talkeetna Airport to finalize our gear preparations - spreading warm clothes, bags of food, skis, and climbing gear across the floor of the hangar, taking careful count of everything, and then miraculously packing it all back up into our bags. By early afternoon we were ready. We traded out our jeans and flip flips for high tech synthetic shells, pulled on our boots, and clambered into the ski plane - a turbo prop with skis known locally as a Beaver - and took off for the Alaska Range.

As soon as we climbed above Talkeetna, the incredible mass of the Alaska Range loomed in front of us over the dash board of the plane, crowned by the recognizable summits of Denali, Mt. Hunter, and Mt. Foraker. We flew above the landscape of thinning forests and lakes and gradually the formidable wall of mountains began to fade into series of valleys, ridges, peaks, and glaciers. When we reached the toe of the Ruth Glacier we made a gradual turn to the north and flew right up the center into the Ruth Gorge - a stunning stretch of glacier lined by the massive granite walls of Moose’s Tooth, Mt. Dickey, and Mt. Braille. North of the Gorge stands the Ruth Amphitheater - a huge glacial cirque surrounded by massive peaks, including the summit of Denali high above. After making a few extra circles because the views were simply too stunning to pass up, we landed on the glacier near the Mountain House, a small hut perched on a rocky outcropping in the middle of the glacier.

We unloaded the plane, said goodbye to the pilot, and opting for the true McKinley experience, set to work establishing our camp on a shallow ridge to the west of the Mountain House. After getting ourselves settled in, we took advantage of the good weather to spend a few hours reviewing glacier travel skills and crevasse rescue techniques. Once the sun finally began to creep behind the nearby ridgelines, the temperatures began to sink and we found ourselves pulling out our parkas and adding layers - despite the warm weather it is still early season in the Alaska Range.

We are all settled into camp after an excellent dinner and getting ready for bed despite the sun still being high in the horizon, not much darkness up here this time of year. We are planning on leaving our Base Camp here early tomorrow morning and traveling back into the Gorge to scope out some potential climbing objectives before we set up camp. We are all doing well and very excited to be in the mountains!

RMI Guide Linden Mallory & Team

Leaving for the Ruth Glacier, Alaska. Photo: Linden Mallory

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