Peak(s):  11,300
Date Posted:  06/04/2014
Date Climbed:   05/26/2014
Author:  kansas
Additional Members:   AlpineDude
 An Alaskan Testpiece  

Peak 11,300-Alaska Grade V, 5.8 M4-5, 60 Degree Ice
Vertical Gain 4,400 ft

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11,300


"Just because a peak doesn't have a proper name, doesn't mean it is not worthy. With neighboring peaks called the Mooses Tooth, Mount Silverthrone, and the Rooster Comb, this striking peak has been largely overlooked by climbers. For years it was only contemplated by hard men in the know. But attention shifted when Steve House picked the Southwest Ridge of 11,300 as his favorite in the modern day tick list - Fifty Favorite Climbs. It instantly became a classic and "11,300" is now attempted several times each season. By all means the Southwest Ridge is a superb ridge climb, offering Cassin-like climbing at a lower elevation and less commitment. The rock is excellent and the climbing never too difficult, yet continually challenging. And the peak's location at the confluence of the West and Northwest Forks of the Ruth Glacier provides an unreal backdrop for a true technical mountaineering ascent." - Joe Puryear, Alaska Climbing

It seems to me that in every climbers career there is a fork in the road, some choose to make it about lists, altitude or collecting peaks while others take to the technical road and focus on difficulty and skillsets. I've always wanted the latter but wasn't sure how to get there from Kansas. Last year after an ascent of Liberty Ridge (my personal Everest) with this same team I discovered maybe we were capable of more. But what's the next step? How do you bridge the gap between Liberty ridge and something like the Cassin on Denali? Fortunately, Keegan's job at the AAC gives him the chance to talk with world class alpinists on an almost daily basis. 11,300 kept coming up in these conversations, a peak none of us had ever heard of seemed to be the go to for all the people in the know so we set our mind to it and started planning.

We landed in Anchorage at around midnight and had a local Talkeetna cab company drive us an all the gear up to Talkeetna, arriving at around 3am and promptly went to sleep at the TAT bunkhouse (free) The next morning we walked on over to TAT and were surprised to learn we could fly into the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier right away. The plane ride was one of the most memorable parts of the entire trip, seeing these famous peaks up close from the air was a jaw dropping experience.

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Our Taxi

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View down the Ruth


One of the best things about choosing 11,300 is that the plane lands you at basecamp, a mere 20 min walk from the start of the route. We arrived to bluebird conditions and went about setting up our camp. Lesson one from this trip: ALWAYS bring a cook tent and turn it into a palace. This tent was critical in keeping our sanity over the next 9 days. We had a cooking table, chairs with armrests and cup holders all formed from snow in a comfortable environment. Even though I love these guys, I couldn't imagine being trapped in the sleeping tent with them during a storm.

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Lower part of 11,300 from camp

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Chillin on day one

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The Palace

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Mt Huntingtion 5,000ft North face

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Descent route

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Denali from camp

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Rooster Comb



We were fortunate enough to have Chris Tomer's help for weather forecasting and we knew Sunday would be a weather day with a few inches of snow so we sat in the snow palace all day, ate and drank as much water as we could in preparation for a Monday morning start. At some point Sunday afternoon a team came down from the peak and we had a chance to discuss the route with them. They had completed the climb in around 32 hours, it was apparent they were badasses though so we planned for a little longer on route but it still got our hopes up that we could do it in less than 48. That evening we went through all the gear for our climb and had a discussion about how much food to bring. We settled on one meal plus a handful of candybars and snacks to get us through the 2 days on route, knowing we would finish the climb a little hungry but we wanted to keep pack weight down as much as possible. The plan was to carry an ultralight 2 man 4 season tent, 2 closed cell sleeping pads and 30 degree sleeping bags for a bivy setup. Over the course of the winter we had tested this system in some rough conditions at altitude and been pleasantly surprised how well it worked with insulated pants and big puffy jackets. We also brought along a jetboil with 2 cans of fuel to make water, people knock the jetboil in these conditions, but it's always served me well. The whole setup may seem a little minimalist for Alaska, but 5.8 climbing in Spantiks and crampons with a full pack is not the same as a day of 5.8 at North Table, weight matters.


We got up Monday morning brewed up and started off on the wonderfully short approach, after a short glacier crossing we reached the access slope to gain the SW ridge. The initial slope is a pretty straightforward 50 degree snow climb. Immediately after gaining the ridge is the first 5.8 headwall. In planning and training for this climb I had thought of it like many ridge routes in Colorado. You know the theme, lots of snow to cross followed by a simple 15ft step of rock then more snowy ridge. Boy was I wrong, all of the rock pitches were around 100ft of solid climbing. The ridge never relents, you are either pitching out rock or climbing ice the entire way, very very few places to rest or take it easy. It was "in your face" climbing all the way to the summit from here. But hey, that's what we signed up for, right?

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Slope to gain SW Ridge

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First Rock of the route 5.8

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Keegan working through some of the easier mixed

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Working through second rock band

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John leading the way to the next set of difficulties

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View up the ridge


The climbing was fun, engaging and never overly difficult. John did a masterful job of leading the hardest pitches, the Red Dragon really is a stud and shines in stuff like this. Keegan and I would take over for the snow, ice and easy mixed portions. Before we knew it, 16 hours had passed and we were only at the first col, about 1,900 feet up the route. The fresh snow had slowed us down a little and the team of 3 was taking some time with all of the rope work. Disappointing to only make that much progress on day one, but we felt good and there are very few good bivy sites on the route so we called it a day and dug in for the night. We made some water and ate our only real meals in anticipation of being able to finish the route the following day with one more possible bivy on the way down.

We got up the following morning, I ate a snack sized snickers and a Fastbreak bar to fuel myself for the day. Then headed up to the S gully towards the next technical section of the route. The approach was 55-65 degree ice for about 1000 feet and worked the calves pretty hard.

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Lower S Gully

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Upper S Gully

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Climbing to the Notch


After the S Gully the route requires an 80' rap down an overhanging headwall to the 2nd col. This rap is the "point of no return" once you drop onto the second col, retreating would require M6+ and direct aid climbing back up the rap route. Now we were committed to the summit and the standard SE Ridge descent. Just past the second col is the crux of the route, an odd chimney with chokestone mantle, as usual John dispatched it pretty easily and we were past the final technical rock of the route.

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Denali

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John with Denali over his shoulder

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Keegan on 2nd col rap


The never ending Alaskan daylight this time of year has a way of really screwing with you and makes time seem endless. Somewhere after the last technical pitch of rock I started to completely bonk (granted, I had only eaten 300 calories for the day at this point) We looked at the watch and discovered we had been on the go for 19 hours and were still almost a thousand feet below the summit. Unfortunately, given the nature of the route, there was nowhere to rest so we plugged uphill on 60+ degree ice for another 2 hours. I was an absolute mess at this point, lack of food, exhaustion and stress had completely broken me. At one point I clipped direct into my tools to rest and actually fell asleep for a few seconds. Not a moment too soon, John pops his head over a small rise near some rocks and asks if I'd still like to find a place to rest because he had found a small ledge...I don't think I've ever been so happy on a mountain before. After 21 hours of climbing it was time for a second bivy. We were a mere 600 feet below the summit, but given the conditions of the route it was likely to be a hard won 600 feet of ice. The small ledge wasn't big enough for the tent so we tied into the anchor, threw down the sleeping pads and got in our bags for an open bivy near 10,700ft at 3am.

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High on upper ridge

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Packing up from ledge bivy


We slept through the snow and wind for 5 hours or so, got up for the start of day 3 and each of us ate what little food we had left. I'm pretty sure my meal consisted of a single snack sized snickers bar. As we started up the final ice slope to the summit it became apparent the bivy had been a good idea. After 2 days of hard climbing on minimal nutrition this final slope turned out to be an endless treadmill of soul crushing ice. All 3 of us struggled upwards slowly until the slope eased back onto the summit. Finally, after 41 hours of climbing in 2 , days we were standing on top.

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Summit


They always say "The summit is only halfway" I've kinda rolled my eyes at this phrase when applied to 14ers and such. But for the first time in my life I honestly felt like we were only halfway on a peak. The Southeast Ridge descent route consists of tricky routefinding up top followed by at least mile of frontpointing ice traverse, then 10 SNAFU prone double rope alpine raps, once you've worked through all of this, you still have to run the gauntlet under a large menacing sarac across the final descent glacier back to camp.

The summit was extremely cold and windy so we snapped our photos and immediately started across the summit to find the SE Ridge route. We were crossing a layer of knee deep windslaboriffic snow on the summit, the snow conditions gave me some serious pause but we managed to find the top of the descent route. Conditions were deteriorating quickly and a shortly past the summit we found ourselves cliffed out on top of the ridge, unable to see the way down in near whiteout conditions. At this point we decided to dig in on the summit and wait for better conditions. John dug a 4' deep pit, we set up our simple tent and climbed inside to come up with a gameplan. With the poor visibility we weren't even 100% sure we were on the right descent ridge, after a couple hours things began to look better so we headed out again down a different ridgeline trying to find a way through the summit crevasse fields. After a couple hours it was obvious we were off track and only making the situation worse, once again the weather started to move in on us so we beat a hasty retreat back up to the summit and set the tent up again.

By this point we were getting a little concerned, we knew a storm was on the way and we were already a day late getting down. Wandering around out there in a whiteout was just too risky but we couldn't afford to sit around and wait either. We hadn't really eaten in 2 days and needed to get down before getting trapped up there in a large Alaskan storm. I got the sat phone out and gave Chris Tomer a call, he was a little shocked to hear we were sitting on the summit Wednesday evening and expressed how important it was for us to get down NOW. I explained the situation with visibility and the complex nature of the route and begged him to find something in the next 12 hours that would give us a window of clear skies. Tomer came through like a champ, said there should be a window of visibility sometime between midnight and 6am but the storm would be upon us by noon, so we had better move. We did our best to get comfortable in the tent and tried to catch some sleep while waiting for some clear skies. We slept a little and checked the conditions regularly until about 5 am when the sun broke out and gave us our first real shot at getting off the mountain. At the start of day 4 we roped up and headed out for our one shot to get down.

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The descent is this ridgeline


The route wasn't too difficult to find once we had some clear skies and as soon as we gained the ridge proper we all breathed a huge sigh of relief. Even if the clouds moved back in, we could still follow the ridge down.

Shortly after gaining the ridge we were forced off of it by cornice and snow conditions, by far one of the most physically difficult parts of the entire climb was the mile descending ice traverse loosing 800ft of elevation along the way. It seemed like forever on frontpoints, the ice went from bulletproof to rotten every few feet, but after a couple hours we managed to regain the ridge lower down to start the raps.

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Starting the long run of raps down to the glacier

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One last rap


At the end of the ice traverse is a 2000ft rocky ridgeline that must be descended, luckily we found the first rap anchor immediately and started down after a quick break to brew up some more water. The most miraculous part of the entire 4 days were these 10 double rope alpine raps that went off without a hitch, John managed to find another rap anchor at the bottom of each and the one time we got a rope hung, Keegan managed to get it free with ease. At this point we needed something to go our way and I'm glad it was the raps. On number 7 of 10 the storm finally caught up with us and it began to snow pretty hard, but once past the raps all that was left was the glacier walk back down.

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Looming Glacier


The one major concern we had about this descent was the large hanging glacier looming above the route once you get to the glacier. The guidebook simply says "Descending this glacier takes about 30 minutes but it's a total roll of the dice as to wether you will survive" We roped up and moved as fast as our exhausted body's would take us across the gauntlet. Descending the glacier was a little trickier than anticipated since there was at least a foot of new snow on it, but we managed to get through in good time with the only real issue being horrific balling of crampons. Our bodies were too weak to deal with much of anything by this point but 11,300 wasn't going to give us anything for free and made sure we suffered all the way back to camp.

I expected us to celebrate in some way arriving back at camp but nobody really said anything. This was Thursday, we hadn't had more than a candy bar per day since Monday, we were worked, totally worked and exhausted, our feet were trashed to the point of barely being able to walk from not being able to dry them out. We all tried to eat a little bit and then hit the sack as the snow started to dump.

Friday morning we woke up to a foot of new snow and it showed no sign of stopping, we called TAT for our flight out only to have them tell us it was highly unlikely given the weather. This same routine went on for 3 more days, I'm pretty sure the all the ladies at Talkeetna Air Taxi know me by name now seeings how I called them every couple hours for a ride. We received about 3' of snow between Thursday and Saturday and the West Fork of the Ruth is a difficult place for the pilots to land so we had no choice but to wait it out. You'd think after 8 days together (half of that time spent spooning) Keegan, John and I would be at eachothers throats, especially the last 3 days of being tentbound in the storm at basecamp. The opposite was true, we got along famously the entire time and kept eachother entertained, even after the last batteries died and we couldn't watch anymore movies in the cook tent, but really, with Keegan's taste in movies, that's prolly a good thing. The storm turned out to be the worst May storm in almost 20 years, fortunately the West Fork is fairly well protected and all we had to deal with was snow.

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Tents buried by storm

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Packing the runway


Sunday finally dawned clear and gave us a real shot of getting out, TAT instructed us to build a horseshoe shaped runway mile long and 20' wide by compacting the snow with our skis..."well at least we will have something to do today", I thought. 8 hours and more sore feet later we had the most beautiful runway I've ever built, but still no air taxi. Finally, at 7pm on of the pilots decided to roll the dice and come get us, they had been afraid of getting stuck in the new snow all day. The sheer joy of finally getting off of the glacier was overwhelming as Paul came in for a landing we hooted and hollered like little kids...even if he didn't bother to use the runway. That night at the Fairview Inn we enjoyed the best beers of my life.

11,300 is a real mountain, a real alpinists testpiece, we had to draw on all of our knowledge, experience, skill and spend a lot of time leaning on eachother for support to get through this one in one piece. We walked out of there with some sore feet, numb fingertips and one hell of an experience. I honestly feel like my knowledge and experience doubled on this single trip, many future doors have been opened and the climbing possibilities now seem almost endless. Is that the direction I want to go? If you asked me now, I'd say no, but I said the same thing after Liberty Ridge last year.

"Once the memory fades, you can talk yourself into just about anything."



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35


Comments or Questions
Jay521

Wow!
06/04/2014 23:53
LOVE Image 14


lodgling

Strong work
06/05/2014 00:18
Wow, really glad I clicked thru to this. Great report, writing included. Glad you all find that weather window. Sounds dicey.


crossfitter

Wow is right!
06/05/2014 00:23
You always hear the broken record about how much more intense Alaska is than Colorado, but this report really shows some next-level mountaineering. If I ever get up there I'm bringing at least 3x as much food as you did!


Somewhat of a Prick

The prominence of those peaks...wow
06/05/2014 00:34
Nice job man, this is sick.

How did this compare to Bross?


BillMiddlebrook

Very nice
06/05/2014 00:38
Excellent photos, Darrin! Beautiful

And, of course, congrats on climbing in such a spectacular place.


rijaca

Not enough photos (j/k)
06/05/2014 01:07
Well done, Darrin!


Brian C

So awesome
06/05/2014 01:25
Congrats on an awesome accomplishment.


Mike Shepherd

14
06/05/2014 01:35
Picture #14 looks like something out of my imagination. Somehow if I could get a fullsize that would be great. It will make great wall paper.


Dave B

Red pants
06/05/2014 01:51
Not sure what else to say other than that trip looks like it was fucking amazing.


MountainMedic

Hot Damn
06/05/2014 03:41
You fucking stud. Nicely done.


SurfNTurf

SFH would be proud
06/05/2014 04:13
Nice job guys, you put in the work and earned it. Proud to call y'all friends. This looks like it was a good warmup for Keegan.


Trainer Keri

I SECOND HOT DAMN
06/05/2014 05:14
I'd like to say I didn't worry at all but lots of people seem to have text evidence....congrats to all 3 of you!!!!! Your HARD WORK paid off with an experience of a lifetime!!! BEAUTIFUL AMAZING PHOTOS!!! And CHRIS TOMER is AWESOME...I mean LOOK AT YOURSELVES!!! YOU'RE CLIMBING IN ALASKA AND LOOK GREAT DOING IT!!! XXOO


Vicki hale
Just effing WOW
06/05/2014 05:43
This would make a great movie👍
CONGRATULATIONS GUYS!!!
So proud of you😉👏


lordhelmut

job well done
06/05/2014 05:50
What was the post-climb beer of choice?

Where do you think you'd be right now if you called Kathy Sabine instead?


dillonsarnelli

look at your trip report
06/05/2014 14:43
Darrin, well done man! This is some amazing stuff. Glad you all made it back safe and that all your training in crap conditions paid off. Let me know when HTB round 2 is because I can't wait to hear about this. And Keri said at Look at Yourselves in her comment, haha! nice job crew!


12ersRule

Holy cr*p
06/05/2014 14:54
You're in the big leagues now!


tlc123331
Hot D*mn
06/05/2014 14:59
And all you have done is made me want to tackle Alaska even more!


KeithK

That's it?
06/05/2014 15:01
I thought it would be more dramatic...


speth

Epic climb is epic
06/05/2014 15:14
Awesome report dude, sounds absolutely crazy. What were the sunset/rise times? I didn't consider that piece of the puzzle for an Alaska adventure!


mtgirl

Pic #14
06/05/2014 16:13
Agreed, pic #14 is fabulous ! Being that I will never have the skill nor the balls to attempt something like this........I think I shall superimpose myself in the pic along the ridge and call it good. Awesome job. Now THIS is mountaineering !


Kitten

Great pictures
06/05/2014 17:07
Awesome report, I am glad I clicked on it. Good jobs guys!!


Greenhouseguy

Nice Job
06/05/2014 17:56
Incredible pictures, Darrin!


martinleroux

Well done
06/05/2014 19:06
Looks like we were there just a week earlier than you. Have a look at http://www.meredith-leroux.org/2014/Alaska. Took us 4 days as well. We also thought the crux was the 1/2 mile traverse/descent from the summit down the SE ridge to the start of the rock rappels... we also got caught in a whiteout up there.


TomPierce
Excellent
06/05/2014 21:14
Darrin, I'd heard of 11,300 several years ago, thought a few times about trying it but have since moved in a different direction. Your TR reflects your team's really impressive accomplishment, everything I'd heard about the mountain is confirmed with your report. Great job!
-Tom


kansas

Thanks!
06/05/2014 21:33
All of your kind words mean a lot and I'm glad you all enjoyed the report.

Matt-I'm not positive on the sunrise/sunset times but we never remotely needed headlamps on the entire trip, 10pm-2am was the coldest time of night but there was still plenty of light to work with.

Brian- The Fairview Inn really only had one quality beer-Mirror Pond, so we tried to empty the Keg.

Martin- Spectacular Pictures! I wish the skies had been that clear for us. Good to see you had the same feelings about the route as we did. Congrats on your climb!


Ridge runner

impressive
06/06/2014 03:02
Nice work guys! Those are some incredible pictures you have there. The decent ridgeline looks a bit spooky; good thing you got that weather window. And I'm hungry just thinking about going that long on such little food!


EatinHardtack

Damn fine
06/06/2014 03:22
Damn fine indeed.


DArcyS

awesome
06/06/2014 17:13
You guys encompass the spirit of true mountaineers. Congratulations on a great ascent!


doggler

Yup
06/07/2014 15:44
Thanks for taking us on the journey. Sick story.


thevagabond

Excellent
06/08/2014 19:35
Well done Darrin, this looks like an absolutely incredible climb.


jblyth

Good stuff
06/09/2014 15:46
Thanks for sharing this incredible adventure. Alaska ain't no joke!


SpringsHiker

Crazy Good
06/09/2014 22:01
What a great adventure--congratulations on pulling off a big one!


jkirk

11301
06/10/2014 22:50
This is known as ”Mount Kudlich” - quad shows 11301'
http://listsofjohn.com/peak/32955
The name appears in Alpina Americana circa 1914.


kansas

Kudlich
06/10/2014 23:59
John, in all my research on the peak the only reference I saw to Kudlich was on Google Maps, I wondered if there was some source to back that name up. Good to know it's actually called that. Though in the alpine world, everyone still refers to it as 11,300, not sure why that's the preferred name climbers and the guidebooks use.


I Man

Nice Work Boys
06/18/2014 19:28
I've been looking forward to reading this, glad I finally got a chance to. What a great route! Alaska is a whole new game, true big mountains. Colorado might be fun, but this is where its at!!

Congratulations on stepping up your game big time. Hope to see you guys soon, Darrin and Keegan.


Sassara
Snickers?
07/15/2014 18:55
You guys are such knuckle heads. Next time trade in the sleeping bags for something to eat.

Congratulations on sticking it out. ”That” was a fine adventure. Charlie


alpinista55
Brings Back Memories
05/26/2015 18:35
Nice TR, Boys! My buds and I did the 2nd ascent of the SW Ridge in 1980, and the 1st ascent of the current descent route the same year. We descended the SW Ridge after our climb, having left a fixed line at the 2nd notch. We bivied at the 1st col, and climbed to the summit in a 19 hour day, leaving our camp in place at the 1st col. We arrived at the summit at midnight, and were back at our bivy by 10am. We had perfect conditions for the climb and had a blast. Definitely the best moderate line in the West Fork. After 11,300 we went across the glacier and did the 2nd ascent of Huntington’s East Ridge, and a new route on the NW Face of the Rooster Comb. Here’s a link to our TR:

http://www.supertopo.com/tr/West–Fork–Ruth–Glacier–Mt–Huntington–East–Ridge/t10480n.html

Later!



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