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Routes in Devil's Thumb

Direct East Ridge 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
East Ridge (via Southeast face) 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Plumb-Stuzman (Northeast Rib of the North Face) T 5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Type: Trad, Alpine, 6000 ft, 55 pitches, Grade VI
FA: Bob Plumb, Dave Stutzman, August, 1977
Page Views: 4,763 total, 57/month
Shared By: Ken Trout on Jan 5, 2011
Admins: Jared LaVacque, L. Von Dommelheimer

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The North Face Goes Down- Sorta!

I met Bob at work in the orchards, just before their North Face Expedition to the Devil's Thumb. I knew Dave from Camp IV, Yosemite. Two years before on my first Grade V, the Gold Wall, Dave crapped on me from 500 feet above. We were friends! - My girlfriend Karen and I got to see their slides and hear the whole story as soon as they returned to Wenatchee from Alaska.

The Northeast Rib might be a lot better than some past AAJ and magazine articles have suggested. Dave and Bob gave me the idea to avoid the lower north side and approach from the glacier under the East Ridge of the Thumb, do the whole thing in late day sun with rock shoes, and rappel back down rib to the boots and glacier gear stashed at the base.

Today, most parties are flying in to the thumb via Temsco Helicopters out of Petersburg.

Bob and Dave had no air support. They started a month of perfect weather with two training climbs; the first hammerless ascent of Mt Slesse's Northeast Buttress, and the second clean ascent of the JLowe-Abalakov grade VI on Bonanza Pk.

Afterward, they rode the ferry up to Petersburg, found a man with a boat, and hiked from Thomas Bay all the way in to the Witch's Cauldron.

A brief summary of the teams schedule starts with five days up the Baird to base camp in the Witch's Cauldron, three days on the route, two days back to camp and then out to Thomas Bay.


They started climbing the face with the aim of doing the summit headwall. After a couple thousand feet, warm weather rockfall, a recent tragedy on the face, and wet rock convinced them to make a long traverse left, almost to the icefall, and then up to the base of the Northeast Rib.

About twenty pitches led up the rib to the sunny summit ridge. A free rating of 5.10a and the use of rock shoes is what I remember hearing about. Their first bivouac was at the base of the ridge and maybe another near the summit. They described good climbing and relaxing evenings enjoying the view.

To see Alaska's current weather use the FAA aviation cameras . Getting to know the dozens of webcam sites throughout Alaska can help decide when to book a flight for "smash and grab" mountaineering.

Temsco Helicopters has a long history of flying climbers in from Petersburg.