A moderate entrance into the mighty Alaska Range
THE CENTRAL ALASKA RANGE IS HOME to the Kahiltna Glacier’s huge peaks — Denali, Foraker, and Hunter — and the towering granite spires of the Ruth Glacier. The Ruth, at times more than a half-mile thick, flows 35 miles from the southern flanks of Denali (20,320 feet) south to the Chulitna River, and is guarded by Mount Dickey (9,545 feet) in the west and the Mooses Tooth (10,300 feet) in the east. On the latter’s south face, you’ll find the Ham and Eggs couloir.
In July 1975, Thomas Davies, John Krakauer, and Nate Zinsser battled vertical slush in pouring rain to establish this direct to the summit. During their 33-hour sufferfest, the trio aided through several wet-rock pitches, with one rope-management snafu leaving Zinsser briefly pinned under a waterfall. Fortunately, locals discovered April and May offer frozen conditions in the couloir. So when the second ascentionists, Peter Haeussler and Harry Hunt, climbed the route in early May 1999, they required only 25 hours for their all-free ascent.
With moderate climbing on a grand alpine wall, the 3,000-foot Ham and Eggs has become an entrance exam for aspiring alpinists. While the hike from the glacier was once the most dangerous part, Talkeetna Air Taxi pilot Paul Roderick in the 1990s pioneered the “Root Canal” dropoff, about 100 yards from the toe of the climb.
From the wall’s base, traverse an exposed snow slope, and then tackle 50 feet of granite (5.6). The second pitch ends with a traverse into the couloir proper. The first crux comes at P3, where a wedged boulder creates a 30-foot ice overhang. Mellower climbing leads to the base of the seventh pitch, the route’s technical and psychological crux. Here, either head left through an exposed 50-foot tier of overhanging icicles or right through a 5.9 face, in either case regaining the (narrowed) couloir for the next several pitches.
Navigate a potentially awkward chimney on P10, and things open up above P12. After the couloir, a final, blue-ice bulge guards the West Ridge, which leads to the top. Enjoy fantastic views from the wildly exposed Mooses Tooth summit, and then rappel the route via mostly fixed anchors.
Guidebooks:Alaska: A Climbing Guide, by Michael Wood and Colby Coombs (Mountaineers Books, 2001); Alaska Climbing, by Joseph Puryear (SuperTopo, 2006)
Equipment Shop (Anchorage): Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking — (907) 272-1811, alaskamountaineering.com
Season: Late April through May (with early May typically best)
Rack: Twin 60m ropes, ice tools and crampons, eight ice screws, full set of wires, cams to 3”, runners, and cord
SHOW US YOUR CLASSIC PHOTO OF HAM AND EGGS AND WIN A GRAMICCI 4-1 REVERSIBLE PERFORMANCE T-SHIRT. Gramicci's (gramicci.com) reversible longsleve is breathable cotton on one side, and wicking polyester on the other. Plus,"Backpacking Shoulder Seams" reduce strap rub, and pit holes offer ventilation.
Ham and Eggs topo © Joseph Puryear courtesy of supertopo.com. CLICK HERE to purchase the guidebook Alaska Climbing by Joseph Puryear