My first memories of Alaska are perhaps still the most striking of any I have – it happens so fast, the mountains rising up beneath the airplane, a vast and savage wilderness of rock and ice stretching to the horizon, so rugged, clean, and beautiful. Despite travels all over the world, Alaska remains one of the most compelling places I’ve ever been climbing. The central Alaska Range is indisputably home to some of the best alpine climbing the world has to offer, and surprisingly, some of the most accessible as well. With a network of immense glaciers, the range is full of exceptional places to land an airplane. Where climbing in the lower 48 generally involves a day of hiking to get to a route, often times in the Alaska Range a plane can land you within a few hundred meters of your dream climb. And, as it turns out, the Alaska Range is chock full of dream climbs.
During high season, climbers flock from all over the world to test their skills against the towering peaks, soaring ridges, and alpine grandeur of the range. Many come to court “The High One,” and to attempt the 20,320’ summit of Denali. But what many climbers fail to realize is that not all of the Alaska Range is high-altitude, cold, and harsh. Far from it, the other peaks of the range are home to some of the best alpine climbs anywhere, and most of them are well below 14,000’.
On the peaks of the Ruth Gorge alone, one can find a lifetime of opportunities. Multi-day ridge climbs like the Southwest Ridge (V 5.8 60°) of Peak 11,300’, magical lines of ice like Ham & Eggs (IV AI4) and Shaken, Not Stirred (V AI5) on the Mooses Tooth, and sweeping snow climbs like the Japanese Couloir (III 55-70°) on Mt. Barille, or the West Face (II 35-40°) of the magnificent Mt. Dickey litter the area.
Outside of the Ruth, the aggressive perfection of the West Face Couloir (V AI4 85°) and the Harvard Route (VI 5.9 A2 70°) await the serious alpinist on Mt. Huntington. Giant Alaskan classics like the West Ridge of Mt. Hunter (AK Grade 4, 5.8 AI3), as well as plenty of moderate undertakings like the Radio Control Tower (II 45°), the Southwest Ridge (IV 5.8 60°) on Mt. Francis, and the North Couloir (IV AI4) on the Mini-Moonflower are all lurking a short distance from the Kahiltna/Denali Base Camp.
To the south of Denali, a treasure trove of dreamy alpine rock climbs bask in the sun in Little Switzerland. Routes like The Throne’s Lost Marsupial (III 5.8), the South Face (III 5.8 45°) of Middle Troll, and the Gargoyle Buttress (IV 5.10a) on Royal Tower are all waiting a half hour from a base-camp on the Pika Glacier. And of course for anyone truly feeling like climbing the line of their life, Denali’s Cassin Ridge (AK Grade 5, 5.8 AI4) beckons everyone who lays eyes on it.
In addition to all of these, there are still hundreds yet to be done. Exploratory climbing on terrain untouched by man can still be found in the wilds of the Alaska Range. The opportunity for first ascents abounds, and anyone with some patience, a sense of adventure, and the ability to climb steep snow and moderate rock and ice has a good chance of ascending one of the many unnamed and unclimbed peaks in the range. As the author of new climbs on new peaks in the Alaska Range, I’ve got some ideas.
Every trip into the range is something special. I love the Alaska Range, and I’d love to take you there. Come join me for some of the best climbing in the world.
1:1 – $550/day*
2:1 – $280 pp/day*
*Pricing does not include airfare, food, etc.