Guided Climbing in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge
An Alpine Climber’s Paradise
The Alaska Range is an incredible alpine range with innumerable options for all levels of alpinists. We typically offer custom climbs and trips in the area known as Ruth Gorge, but many other options exist. The Ruth Gorge is contained within Denali National Park and the Alaska Range and is well known for it’s high quality alpine climbs at altitudes ranging from 7,000 – 11,000 feet. Therefore, a lengthy acclimatization period is not necessary. This allows our trips to be shorter and affords for the ability to attempt a number of different climbs, including the classic Ham and Eggs Couloir on the Moose’s Tooth.
After arriving in Anchorage we travel to Talkeetna- a historic and funky town that comes alive with climbers every summer. From Talkeetna we board a ski plane and take a stunning flight into the Ruth Gorge. Snow, ice and granite dominate every view. We establish base camp near the landing zone and begin training for the climbing to come.
The SJMG/AK Connection
Winter in the San Juans bears many similarities to alpine climbing in Alaska. Cold temperatures, steep climbing and altitude closely resemble many of the challenges climber’s face in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge. As a result, San Juan Mountain Guides have run numerous successful climbing trips and expeditions to the range – on routes such as Ham n’ Eggs and Shaken not Stirred on the Moose’s Tooth – to the SW Ridge of Peak 11,300. The combination of our experienced, AMGA Certified Guides and local knowledge of the Alaska Range gives you the best chance for success on climbs in this range.
Gary is extremely professional yet he didn’t let us go without having a lot of fun. I never felt unsafe or that he wasn’t looking out for us, whether it was feeding us (great cook!) or making sure we were taken care of. He adapted to changes. He kept the team focused and on track at all times! – J. Morse. Private Trip 2010
Ruth Gorge Objectives
There are many options for trips in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge. We generally only offer private trips for small teams. We can organize programs and itineraries for climbs from 5 days to two weeks. Call 970 – 325 – 4925 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the best itinerary for you!
Sample Climbing Objectives
- Ham n’ Eggs Couloir on the Moose’s Tooth
- Peak 11,300
- Mt. Dan Beard
- Mt. Barrille
- Mt. Dickey
- Other custom peaks and climbs
Ruth Gorge Equipment List
- Duffel Bag: A 100 + liter gear bag made of rugged material.
- Backpack: Approximately 45 – 55 L – Alpine Climbing Pack. Guides’ pick: Osprey Variant 52
- Sleeping bag: Down bag rated between 0 to -20 degrees Farenheit with compression stuff sack. Guides’ pick: Neutrino Endurance 400
- Sleeping pad: 1 full length air mattress and 1 foam half pad. Guides’ pick: Thermarest Prolite 4.
- Bowl, spoon, cup: Plastic/lexan
- Pocket knife: 2-3 inch blade, simple, light
- Small thermos: Very nice to have for hot drinks.
- Water bottles: 2 liters combined capacity; bottles or bladder. Guides’ pick: Nalgene or Osprey
- Water Bottle Insulators: Mandatory
- Pee Bottle: Bring an extra bottle specifically for this.
Clothing and Personal Equipment
- Climbing boots: Insulated double boots or insulated climbing boots with a zippered gaiter. La Sportiva Spantik or Scarpa 6000 or similar. Please contact us with questions or further recommendations.
- Socks: 3 pair of medium to heavy weight wool or synthetic blend socks.
- Base layers: Synthetic t-shirt and synthetic underwear
- Mid Layers: Versatile fleece mid-layer. Guides’ Pick: OR Centrifuge Jacket
- Soft shell pants: Warm enough for cool mornings and nights, yet light enough for warm days. Guides’ pick: OR Cirque Pant
- Soft shell jacket: Your workhorse jacket with a hoot. Guides’ pick: OR Alibi Jacket
- Insulated vest: down or synthetic. Guides’ pick: OR Transcendent
- Hard shell jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation. Guides’ Pick: OR Axiom Jacket
- Insultated Jacket: Warm down or synthetic jacket with a hood suitable for Alaska climbing. Guides Pick: OR Virtuoso Hoody
- Hats: One pile hat, one buff, and one baseball cap. Bring a balaclava too.
- Gloves: 3 pair. One heavy with gauntlet, one mid-weight, and one lighter weight glove.
- Sunglasses: Category 4 lenses
- Goggles: Mandatory
- Sunscreen and lip balm: water/sweat-proof. At least SPF 50.
- Headlamp: With extra batteries. Guides’ pick: Black Diamond Spot
- Toiletries: Toilet paper, baggie for used TP, toothbrush/paste, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
- Personal first-aid kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
- Hand and Foot Warmers: Bring a few of these packets.
- Stuff sacks: for convenient packing
- Digital Camera
- Book/Magazine: For down time at camp
- Lunch food: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…
- Snowshoes: With adjustable trekking poles
- Harness: Adjustable leg loops are essential.
- Locking carabiners: 3 locking carabiners
- Non Locking carabiners: 6 – 8 non lockers, wire gate preferred
- Slings: 1 double length and 2 single length spectra slings
- Crampons: Step in crampons that fit well on your boots. Guides Pick: BD Sabretooth
- Ice Axes: 2 technical ice tools with BD Spinner leash and 1 extra pick
Training & Follow Up Climbs
As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great climbing trip.
1Before Your Trip
Climbers who would like to schedule a Ruth Gorge custom program or climb with us must have also previously climbed with SJMG in the San Juans on ice climbs in the area. In certain circumstances we can accept climber’s with documented previous experience on other similar technical routes and climbs. The best preparation and training assumes not only a strong background in ice climbing skills (ability to comfortably follow WI 4/4+) but also required is excellent cardiovascular fitness and previous experience on long multi-pitch rock and ice routes. As mentioned earlier, the San Juans represent one of the premier destinations in the country to gain this type of experiential background and skill level.
For the Ham n’ Eggs climb you should be ready for:
- Backcountry travel and life on an Alaskan glacier
- 15 – 24 hours of climbing and descent in technical terrain
- Cold temperatures, fickle weather, delays, and other factors beyond control
2Follow Up Climbs
I found this to be a great experience and enjoyed all of the personnel and guides associated with San Juan – particularly Matt Pickren! – Steve K. 2011 Private Program
Talkeetna, Alaska: Getting There
Talkeetna, Alaska is the gateway to Denali National Park and the myriad of mountaineering objectives found within. The small historic town swells during the climbing season (April – July) as mountaineers from all backgrounds attempt climbs in the Alaska Range. The town boasts a few good restaurants, hotels, and plenty of small planes!
Flights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Anchorage, Alaska. We will pick you up at the airport in a rental car, or you may arrange your own transportation to Talkeetna.
Driving: Driving to Alaska is an experience like no other. If you’re into the “full experience” consider driving up to Alaska on the AlCan. It might just turn out to be the highlight of your trip!
- Seattle, WA to Anchorage, AK: 34 hours
- Ouray, CO to Anchorage, AK: 48 hours
Hotels: If flying into Anchorage early you’ll want to arrange lodging for at least 1 night in Anchorage. Beyond that we’ll be staying in Talkeetna for 1 night. We arrange for lodging in Talkeetna, typically at the Swiss Alaska.
- Cost Includes:
- Guiding and trip leadership with AMGA Certified Guides
- Round trip Transportation from Anchorage to Talkeetna
- 1 night of lodging in Talkeetna
- Bush flights from Talkeetna round trip
- Breakfasts and dinners on the mountain
- Group camping and cooking equipment (tents, stoves, etc.)
- Group climbing equipment (ropes, etc.)
- Not Included:
- Transportation to Anchorage, AK
- Additional hotel costs before or after the program
- Personal Lunch Food
- 3% land use surcharge
- Trip cancellation insurance – recommended
- Personal alpine climbing clothing
- Costs associated with early returns, weather delays, or other factors beyond our control
- Guide gratuity
- Registration and Cancellation:
- You will need to fill out our Domestic Registration Form, cancellation policy agreement, and liability waiver, and send it to us with a 50% deposit as early as possible prior to the course date. Balance is due on the first day of the course. Please click on our Registration/Travel link to access the required forms.
The guides were professional, knowledgeable, and friendly. The office staff was also great and very helpful. Thanks for a great trip and I look forward to more trips with San Juan Mountain Guides. – Trevor Y. Chicago Basin 14′ers 2011