Major New Route on Alaska's Mt. Dickey

The 5,000-foot northeast face of Mt. Dickey in Alaksa, showing the new route. Photo courtesy of Mark Allen /
The 5,000-foot northeast face of Mt. Dickey in Alaksa, showing the new route. Photo courtesy of Mark Allen /

4/6/12 – At the beginning of April, John Frieh from Portland, Oregon, and Doug Shepherd from Los Alamos, New Mexico, completed a huge new ice line on the northeast face of Mt. Dickey in the Ruth Gorge of the Alaska Range. The two climbed the ca. 5,000-foot face in two long days, and then descended during the middle of their second night out.

The new route, No Such Thing as a Bargain Promise (Grade VI, WI5 M6R), crosses over a 2008 French route up the northeast ridge called Move Your Ass and Your Mind Will Follow, but is completely independent of that line.

Frieh and Shepherd flew onto the Ruth Glacier on March 30, started climbing on April 1, and flew back out on April 3, the morning they returned to base camp. Frieh has succeeded on a couple of such wait-for-the-weather, “smash and grab” ascents in recent years, including two new routes on Burkett Needle in southeast Alaska.

Below is Frieh’s account of the Dickey climb: “On March 30, Doug and I flew from Talkeetna to the Ruth Glacier below Mt. Dickey in the Ruth Gorge. We spent March 31 skiing around the Gorge, checking out possible routes and allowing the unsettled weather to move through. After some discussion we finally agreed to attempt the unclimbed northeast face of Mt Dickey. On April 1, we crossed the schrund at 7 a.m. and were immediately faced with challenging terrain to negotiate: Thin ice, vertical to overhanging since, and snow mushrooms made for slow progress and minimal gear placement options. After a full day of climbing, we only had 3,000 feet of climbing to show for our efforts. We chopped a bivy ledge and settled in for a chilly night. “Day two started with us climbing up to our hoped exit off the face, only to find enormous snow mushrooms chocking the chimney system. Rather than bail, we opted to traverse north around the northeast ridge, hoping to find a different exit off the face. A 30-meter rappel landed us in a runnel system splitting the north face of the northeast ridge. We followed this up to the seracs that overhang the true north face, nicknamed “Walmart.” After a brief food, water, and psych-up break while still sheltered from Walmart, we blasted two quick pitches through the seracs onto the summit slopes. After some trudging we reached the summit around 8 p.m., 37 hours after crossing the schrund.

“We descended the west ridge of Mt. Dickey and around 1 a.m. on the 3rd we reached our camp back on the Ruth Glacier. Later that morning Paul Roderick of Talkeetna Air Taxi picked us up and brought us back to Talkeetna to make for a brief four days in the range.”

Dates of ascent: April 1–3, 2012

Sources: John Frieh, American Alpine Journal