2004 Golden Piton Awards: Alpine Ice

Ben Gilmore and Kevin Mahoney, Arctic Rage, Moose's Tooth
Our award for best full-conditions alpine climb of 2004 goes to Ben Gilmore and Kevin Mahoney for Arctic Rage on the east face of the Moose’s Tooth in the Ruth Gorge. These New England climbers, age 33 and 35, respectively, have chalked up quite an Alaskan record, including the second ascents of the huge Czech (a.k.a Slovak) Direct on Denali’s south face and the Wall of Shadows on Mount Hunter’s north buttress, and new routes on Denali (Common Knowledge, with Bruce Miller, 2001) and the Moose’s Tooth (Southeast Face, with Steve House, 2000) — all done in fast alpine style.

The Moose’s Tooth’s east face, rising nearly 5000 feet from the Buckskin Glacier, was first climbed in March of 1981 by Jim Bridwell and Mugs Stump via The Dance of the Woo-Li Masters, one of the most futuristic technical alpine ascents of all time. Previous attempts had tackled the wall as a summer big-wall climb, but the Woo-Li masters changed the game plan and accomplished the feat in late-winter conditions on ice.

Gilmore and Mahoney began on the 1981 route, but climbed straight up the imposing upper headwall where Stump and Bridwell followed ice ramps up and left to finish on a prominent eastern buttress. As with their predecessors, the 2004 team climbed the wall in frozen-up March conditions — and appropriately, the trip was partly funded by a Mugs Stump grant. The line was almost entirely ice — “or something that at some point was ice, or at least resembled ice,” as Mahoney put it — taking a near plumb line to the top of the face.

The pair free climbed all but a few feet of the route over three days, finding desperately hard climbing, huge runouts, and difficult anchors in the Tooth’s notoriously crumbly granite. They hit the summit ridge in a storm and whiteout so severe they couldn’t identify the top of the peak, and spent one more day making 26 rappels down the route.

The 5000-foot east face of Moose’s Tooth.

 


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