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Ruth Gorge

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Gargoyle, The 
Moose's Tooth 
Mt Wake 
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Stump, The 

Ruth Gorge  

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Location: 62.95864, -150.69263 View Map  Incorrect?
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Administrators: Jared LaVacque, Dommelhiemer, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Steven Lucarelli on Jun 12, 2007
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Picture taken from near the base of the Stump look...

Register with the NP Mountaineering Headquarters in Talkeetna, AK before climbing in the park!


The Ruth Gorge is an enormous alpine playground with an almost infinite number of routes both climbed and unclimbed. The gorge itself is approximately 10 miles long and just over a mile wide. Running north to south it is lined on either side by numerous steep intimidating mountains that are a dream come true for some or a nightmare for others. Routes in the gorge range from moderate snow climbs such as the Japanese Couloir to unrepeated superhuman test pieces like the Wine Bottle Route.

Seasons vary and route conditions all depend on the weather and temperatures. Generally April and May are the best months if you intend to climb snow and ice routes as it is usually still cold enough to keep everything solid. Once June starts approaching the temps will begin to rise with the longer days and all of the peaks start to fall apart. Ice fall, rock fall and avalanches are a daily occurrence in June and July and traveling on the glacier can become very problematic as more crevasses open up and snow bridges get smaller and weaker. But June and July are typically the better months for rock climbing offering dryer rock and longer warmer days.

The rock quality in the Ruth Gorge varies drastically like no where I have ever been. On one end of the scale the rock can be bullet hard like Yosemite and at the other end it's more like climbing clumped together kitty litter. Most of the rock quality falls somewhere in between and if your climbing a long route you'll probably get to experience it all. There are some great classic routes like Goldfinger and the Cobra Pillar to be done but there is also tons of short craging to do if you want to stay closer to the ground for a day. Just make sure you take a good look at what lies above your intended route as it might be right in the path of a snow slope or icefall.

A few final notes for those that maybe visiting the Alaska Range for the first time are as follows. Glacier travel skills are mandatory for anyone going to the Ruth or anywhere else in these mountains. Ski's are highly recommended as they can span small crevasses and distribute your weight over a much larger surface area. Bring extra food and fuel because your return flight date off the glacier is not guaranteed if the weather deteriorates. And the most important thing is bring extra liquor because it goes fast (especially if there are mountain guides around)!

Getting There 

Getting to the Ruth Gorge is a relatively easy task if you have planned properly and the weather cooperates. The typical process for most involves flying into Anchorage and taking a shuttle to Talkeetna which is about a 2.5 to 3 hour van ride. Once in Talkeetna you will need to register with the ranger station, and check in with whatever air service you are flying with. I think most of the air services in Talkeetna can provide you with white gas, sleds and radio's at an additional cost. Then you wait, and if the weather is good you should be on your way to the Ruth and if not you'll probably be on your way to the bar.

There are several options for where to land in the Ruth Gorge but they are mostly determined by what climbs you want to do and the conditions of the glacier. Earlier in the season it is possible to land right in the Gorge or even on the Root Canal Glacier if Mooses Tooth is your objective. As it gets later in the season most of the air services will only land at the Mountain House and unless that is where you want to set up base camp you'll probably have to drag your stuff down to the Gorge. And remember that just because you got dropped off in the Ruth Gorge that doesn't mean that they will be able to pick you up there. So be prepared to take your gear up to the Mountain House for pick up just in case.

Depending on where your base camp is located most of the approaches are pretty short and can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 or 3 hours. The crevasses get much worse as you get closer to the edges of the glacier so be prepared for some possible time consuming navigating. It took my partner and I about 3 hours to get across the crevasse field to the Gargoyle and it was only about 200m wide.

Climbing Season

Weather station 38.1 miles from here

10 Total Routes

['4 Stars',6],['3 Stars',2],['2 Stars',1],['1 Star',1],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Ruth Gorge:
Shaken not Stirred   WI5 M5 Steep Snow     Mixed, Ice, Snow, Alpine, 15 pitches, 3000'   Moose's Tooth
Ham & Eggs   WI4 M4 Steep Snow     Mixed, Ice, Snow, Alpine, 10 pitches, 3000'   Moose's Tooth
Japanese Couloir   Steep Snow     Snow, Alpine, 3000'   Mt. Barrill
Goldfinger   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, Alpine, 12 pitches, 2000'   The Stump
Browse More Classics in Ruth Gorge

Featured Route For Ruth Gorge
A shot of the crux pitch, photo by Georg.

Goldfinger 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c  AK : Denali National Park : ... : The Stump
This route is easy to underestimate. While on the glacier, the Stump appears tiny next to all of the giants that surround it. The route being “only” 12 pitches long, I thought that this thing was going to be a quick romp up the granite. In addition, in preparation for this route, one of my partners and I climbed several routes in Red Rock of similar length, one of which had a similarly difficult crux pitch. I know what you are going to say, Red Rock is softly graded, and that anyone who clim...[more]   Browse More Classics in AK

Photos of Ruth Gorge Slideshow Add Photo
The impressive 5,000 foot Southeast face of Mt. Dicky with a TAT plane in the foreground dropping a group off.  May 2007
The impressive 5,000 foot Southeast face of Mt. Di...
Clear view of Denali from the Ruth Gorge.
Clear view of Denali from the Ruth Gorge.
Mt. Bradley. Showing its north and east faces.  May 2007
BETA PHOTO: Mt. Bradley. Showing its north and east faces. Ma...
The photo was taken from the Root Canal glacier.  Mt. Huntington is on the left and Denali is on the right.
The photo was taken from the Root Canal glacier. ...
This is what happens when the planes can't fly or when you get back to Talkeetna!
This is what happens when the planes can't fly or ...
Where most Alaskan climbing trips begin and end.
Where most Alaskan climbing trips begin and end.
Base camp for Team Lucky Mushroom.
Base camp for Team Lucky Mushroom.
Crevasses everywhere!  Looking south down the Ruth Gorge.  Photo taken near the Gargoyle.
Crevasses everywhere! Looking south down the Ruth...
Landing in the Ruth Gorge.
Landing in the Ruth Gorge.
We didn't bring enough of this stuff.  This was our only bottle and it was gone in less than a day.
We didn't bring enough of this stuff. This was ou...
Bare boned Grosvenor, Johnson, Wake
Bare boned Grosvenor, Johnson, Wake

Comments on Ruth Gorge Add Comment
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By Dan McCabe
Jan 27, 2013
Someone needs to add Mt. Johnson; what an amazing history of climbing on this peak - Chouinard, Stump, Sassara, Borjon, Sweeney, Bocarde. Heck, it would make a great book.
By Brian Prince
From: morro bay, ca
Nov 22, 2013
On the Mt. Johnson note, I definitely agree, here's Doug Chabot's account of his and his partner's attempt at the east buttress.


A bit of The Elevator Shaft's history and its first ascent (with Jack Tackle) account by Chabot.