Expedition Report written by Peter Doucette
Silas Rossi and I just returned from the Ruth Gorge where we established two new climbs on Mount Bradley 9,104’. The first, completed on April 17th, was a 49 hour (camp to camp) effort that resulted in “The Sum of Its Parts,” Alaska Grade V, AI6, M7, A2. The route climbs 4,000’ to the summit on Bradley’s southern aspect via an obvious large cleft just right of “The Gift” (Blitz-House-Twight, 1998). Our line begins on a steep ice and mixed ramp that leads into a beautiful mixed corner that is capped by a roof at ~800.’ Mixed climbing to M7, and some creative aid out the roof allowed us to gain the major chimney system that continues the full height of the wall. The climb meets the west ridge just 300 vertical feet below the summit. After leaving camp at 4:00 AM on April 15th, we topped out Bradley at 9:00 PM on the 16th with the sun low on the horizon and promptly began our descent via the Bradley/Wake Col. The descent lasted through the night and deposited us back as base camp at 5:00 AM on the 17th. A faulty stove added to the appeal of an immediate return to basecamp.
The quality of the climbing was exceptional and offered many varied challenges. Because of the nature of the cleft we followed, however, route finding was not one of these challenges. “The Sum Of Its Parts” was climbed in 28 pitches, to a brilliant rope-stretching finish, we dubbed “The Mind Shaft” due to its straight-forward appearance but mentally jarring exit. One of the climb’s defining sections included climbing the left wall of a wild chimney for 500’ that went at AI6 (AI5+ R). These pitches involved past-vertical “snice,” nearly show stopping anchoring, and a fair number of exclamations by both of us on lead. It was one of the most amazing single features we encountered on the trip.
Ample rest, a fresh foot of snow, and casual ski touring days affirmed our intentions on an impossible-to-miss line of ice that we’d stared at from camp since our arrival. On April 25th, we clicked into our skis at 2:00 AM to approach the striking line with a sizeable rack and plans to beat the early morning sun on the lower portion of this independent line located on the north side of Bradley’s East Ridge. Our second route, “Heavy Mettle,” Alaska Grade V, WI5+R, M6, A0, 4600’ begins by ascending the major couloir through short bands of rock (M6), between the prominent East Ridge and “Welcome to Alaska” (Charon-Faure-Moulin-Ponson, 2002).
From high in the couloir we traversed left into a large corner system just below half height on the wall. Our route follows this corner for 1800’ of “snice” and water ice spackled into the back of the corner to eventually meet the East Ridge at ~8300’, (800’ below Bradley’s summit). Upon meeting the east ridge we continued up and over the summit by what we felt was the path of least resistance. This included one rappel to cross a gap in the ridge and avoid large cornices.
We climbed “Heavy Mettle,” basecamp to basecamp (below Mt. Dickey) in 43.5 hours with a 3 hour “rest stop” between the hours of 4:00 and 7:00 AM on the 26th. We summited at 1:00 PM and again descended the ridgeline, west, down through the Bradley/Wake Col, below the south face and eventually back up the Ruth Gorge to camp. We returned to camp at 9:30 pm. The final eight hours of post-holing reaffirmed our belief that skiing is a far superior method of travel no matter how rewarding the line of post holes looks over your shoulder.
“The Sum Of Its Parts” and “Heavy Mettle’’ are excellent and sustained in their quality. An incredible stretch of good weather and a deep desire to make the most of our first trip to the Ruth Gorge contributed to great outcomes. Silas and I are extremely grateful for the support of a 2012 Polartec Challenge Grant, and the sponsorship of Sterling Ropes, Outdoor Research, Brooks-Range Mountaineering, and Snap MyLife. We thank everyone for the generous backing. Also, we’d like to thank friends in the climbing community for sharing their experience, photos, and other helpful information. This trip would not have been possible without everyone’s contributions.