Alaska Seminar: Linden Mallory & Team Explore the Ruth Gorge

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

A thin covering of clouds rolled into the Ruth Glacier last night just low enough to brush the summits of the surrounding peaks. The clouds acted as an insulating layer, preventing the previous day’s heat from fully dissipating overnight and we awoke early to relatively mild temperatures. The warmer temps softened the blow of waking up early and breaking camp - not the most pleasant experience when the thermometer hovers in the single digits - and soon we had everything packed into our backpacks and sleds and were skiing down the Ruth Glacier as the first ray of sunlight reached us. We spent the day traveling downhill, dropping from Mountain House northwards into the center of the Ruth Amphitheater before veering to the east and making a large 180-degree turn until we were eventually headed south down the Ruth Glacier and into the heart of the Ruth Gorge. This early in the season the glacier is still covered in a thick layer of winter snow, smoothing over the crevasses and undulations in the glacier and among the travel very smooth and straightforward. 

Soon we entered the Ruth Gorge proper, a “narrow” stretch of glacier (still almost a mile wide) that is reported to be close to 3,000’ deep, and walled by massive rock walls on both sides, the highest being the East Face of Mt. Dickey which rises an impressive almost 5,000’+ above us, whose summit remained shrouded in clouds. We traveled down the Gorge, occasionally stopping in awe to admire the landscape around us, until we reached an altitude of about 4,600’ at the entrance to a side valley that is framed by “747 Pass” - a gap in the rock walls purported to be large enough to fly its Boeing namesake through. Here, we established our camp, just as the temperatures warmed enough to begin softening the surface snow and slowing our progress across the glacier. We spent the remainder of the afternoon establishing our camp in the center of the flat glacier that runs through the Gorge and brushing up on various climbing skills and techniques. If the weather holds, we are in a good position to make a push through 747 Pass and climb the glaciated West Face of Mt. Dickey tomorrow morning before returning to our camp here in the Gorge.

RMI Guide Linden Mallory & Team

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