Picture taken from near the base of the Stump look...
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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 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 For the Denali National Park area.
Weather station 38.1 miles from here
10 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',6],['3 Stars',2],['2 Stars',1],['1 Star',1],['Bomb',0]
Classic Climbing Routes in Ruth Gorge
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Ruth Gorge
Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Ruth Gorge:
Featured Route For Ruth Gorge
The Harvard Route
WI3 M6 C1 AK
: Denali National Park
: ... : Mt. Huntington
The classic line on Huntington. The first ascent took 3 weeks, the current speed record is around 13 or 14 hours. Time required will largely be dictated by conditions. If the upper ice face isn't a dangerous slab and the lower angle sections allow for fast travel doing the route in a day camp to camp is a reasonable objective, however this is oftentimes not the case. The description here is from late May 2014, a year with incredibly good conditions. This description will make much more sense if ...[more] Browse More Classics in AK
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.
And Henry Barber and Yvon Chouinard climbing together? Anybody got info on their attempts?
A bit of The Elevator Shaft's history and its first ascent (with Jack Tackle) account by Chabot.