Rare Autumn New Route in Ruth Gorge

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Left to right: Mt. Grosvenor, Mt. Johnson, Mt. Wake, and Mt. Bradley. The new route on Wake is hidden in this view. Photo by John Frieh / johnfrieh.com

Left to right: Mt. Grosvenor, Mt. Johnson, Mt. Wake, and Mt. Bradley. The new route on Wake is hidden in this view. Photo by John Frieh / johnfrieh.com

11/5/12 - John Frieh and Jess Roskelley snagged a new route on Mt. Wake in the Alaska Range in late October, climbing the south face in a three-day trip to the Ruth Gorge. The two Pacific Northwest climbers flew to the Ruth Glacier in late afternoon on October 21 and scoped possible lines to attempt before darkness fell. The next morning they started up their route, climbing an ice fall to the col between Mt. Wake and Mt. Johnson, with a crux serac passage of AI4 and mixed climbing on crumbly "Cracker Jack" granite. Above the col, they climbed moderate mixed ground up the south face to reach the summit right before sunset. They were back at their skis 15 hours after leaving, and they flew out the following morning. They called the route The Cook Inlet (4,500', V AI4 M4).

Autumn ascents in the Alaska Range are unusual, but if you can put up with the reduced daylight and deeper cold of post-equinox climbing, you may be rewarded with less avalanche danger and, of course, no crowds.

Frieh, from Portland, Oregon, has made a specialty in recent years of "smash and grab" new routes in Alaska, waiting for a great weather forecast to book his flights into the mountains. Earlier in October, he did a new route in this style on Mt. Burkett in southeast Alaska with Doug Shepherd. Roskelley, from Spokane, Washington, has ticked several notable Alaskan climbs, but this was his first new route in the Alaska Range. He is the son of John Roskelley, who was one of America's most successful alpinists in the 1970s and ’80s, with first ascents on K2, Uli Biaho, Gaurishankar, Great Trango Tower, and other Himalayan giants.

Date of ascent: October 22, 2012

Source: John Frieh