Skiing and Climbing Alaska’s Remarkable Ruth Gorge

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By Scott Rinckenberger

When I was invited on a mission to spend two weeks climbing and skiing the Ruth Gorge in Denali National Park, I knew I’d have to bring some pretty serious equipment. Fortunately MSR was willing to help outfit the expedition. I’m exceedingly thankful for the gear, but that’s not all I picked up from the MSR HQ before my departure. I also ran into a long time friend, and while I was being told to “be safe” by nearly everyone who heard the plan, it was the words from my friend Diane which put me on the right track for the trip – “Listen to the mountains.”

Our plans included climbing lofty alpine walls in the Ruth Gorge, and climbing summits from their less-technical sides for some dizzying ski mountaineering descents.  If you’ve never seen the Ruth Gorge, it is one of the world’s truly remarkable landscapes. The granite walls rise up 5000′ almost vertically from the glacier, giving the Ruth the feeling of an amplified version of Yosemite, with a floor of perpetually moving ice, and  the tallest mountain on the North American continent as it’s source.

I was joined by Alaskan locals Tobey Carman and Cortney Kitchen, Jackson Hole native Patrick Wright, and my longtime skiing and climbing partner, Matt Henry from Washington. As the official photographer for the expedition, I’ll let the photos tell the story.

After a three day wait and our share of beers in the town of Talkeetna, which serves as the jumping-off point for flights into the Alaska Range, we were granted a brief weather window and were able to get a Talkeetna Air Taxi flight to the Ruth. Photo: ©Scott Rinckenberger

After a three day wait and our share of beers in the town of Talkeetna, which serves as the jumping-off point for flights into the Alaska Range, we were granted a brief weather window and were able to get a Talkeetna Air Taxi flight to the Ruth. Photo: ©Scott Rinckenberger

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The Unpredictable Alpine

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By Jewell Lund

“Should we take bivy gear?”

I peered up at the dauntingly sheer granite face of Mt. Huntington, the scale of which overwhelms base camp on the Tokositna Glacier. Standing so close to the mountain, I knew the colossal face was foreshortened. Traversing the systems all the way across the West Face could take a few hours, or more than a day. Who knew?

“Um. Bivy gear could be nice?”

The enormous west face of Mt. Huntington.Photo Jewell Lund

The enormous west face of Mt. Huntington. Photo Jewell Lund

This conversation has actually started via email a year ago. A friend had connected Chantel Astorga and me, knowing our mutual interest in alpine climbing. Pictures and ideas were bandied about regarding Mt. Huntington in the Alaska Range. We’d heard rumors of stellar rock quality and nightmarish corniced ridges, and most importantly promises of adventure. In November 2013, Chantel and I were in the same town and finally chatted in person. It was clear that we were inspired by similar objectives, and we decided to try climbing together. Mt. Huntington 2014 was written in the books. Read More →

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Fuels Around the World: Finding Stove Fuel In A Foreign Country

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Planning for an international adventure—whether it’s trekking in the Himalayas, bikepacking the Alps, or hiking through Pakistan—requires extra consideration of gear, especially stove options. While you can fly with your stove, you can’t fly with most common stove fuels. Which may leave you asking:

How do I find the stove fuel I need in a foreign country? And, what other types of fuel can I use?

Multiple things come into consideration when deciding which stove to take in the first place—region, trip duration and season all factor in. And it’s important to thoroughly research the specific locations you’re headed to (travel forums are a great place to start). But here are the basics to know when planning to take your favorite stove abroad with you. Read More →

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Moab’s 5 Best Hikes: You Don’t Have To Be Extreme To Get Moab’s Best

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Story and Photos by Hilary Oliver

Driving down Moab’s main drag, the signs and advertisements would have you believe you can’t really experience or enjoy the surrounding desert unless you rent a Jeep, buy a skydiving session or pay for a guided raft trip. All those extreme sports are certainly fun, but they come with a hefty price tag and are completely unnecessary for—and, some would argue, are a distraction from—getting to know the true transforming beauty of Moab’s red rock country. With just your own two feet, you can get up close and personal with some of the most spectacular desert scenery in the Lower 48. Here are my favorite hikes, from quick to more interactive backcountry.

Delicate Arch - Fitz, Tep and Brendan-1 Read More →

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Off-Belay: Colombia Climbing

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Climbing in the digital age presents a philosophical dilemma. With an abundance of information on the web regarding peaks, routes, and beta – the present day adventurer has a decision to make.

On one hand, climbers can take advantage of resources such as SummitPost, MountainProject and other sites that offer full trip reports. Those who choose this path will be well-armed with pertinent information. Information which undoubtedly increases their likelihood of success during the outing. However, it’s not unreasonable to raise the consideration that extensive research detracts from the purity of a climb. It’s easy for online beta to spoil a summit view with a photo from the same vista (always taken on a day with perfect weather), or to suggest you crimp with your left and flag right before committing at the crux of a route. Read More →

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Off-Belay: Panama – Searching for Cesar

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Story and Photos by Carson Bowlin

Story telling is deeply woven into the culture of climbing. Every crag has a first, followed by tales of triumphs and innumerable defeats. Traveling with climbing gear allows one to glean these stories, obtaining a key to communities that may otherwise be difficult to access.

With surf-softened hands we arrived in Panama. Hard-earned callouses were on their last legs but our resolve was strong to get back on the rock. Two months and over a thousand miles prior, we had received beta in the form of a cellphone photo about a unique rock wall in the heart of Panama. The image depicted sweeping horizontal lines that emerged from thick foliage. We were intrigued, and after a last hurrah of beach fiesta in Bocas del Toro, we set out toward the mountains in search of this compelling crag. Read More →

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Ode to the Shoulder Season—Skiing and Rock Climbing at Washington Pass

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Dana skinning towards Liberty Bell Massif on a warm May morning.

Dana skinning towards Liberty Bell Massif on a warm May morning.

Photos and Story By Leif Whittaker

By the middle of May, when winter’s final curtains of snow are pelting the North Cascades and warm afternoons are growing longer each day, we in the Northwest are aching for the full brunt of summer. It has been eight months since we last wore boardshorts and flip-flops. All the ski resorts are closed, but the trailheads and crags are still buried in a thick layer of winter’s residue and it will be another month or two before the highest arêtes and dihedrals are completely dried out. For many of us, the shoulder season is a frustrating interlude between two joyous extremes—deep powder and hot rock. However, as I discovered during a recent trip up Liberty Bell, the shoulder season is not a mere delay; it is a unique mixture of two opposing forces and, when combined correctly, the resulting concoction can be wonderfully potent. Read More →

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Eric Larsen Reaches the North Pole!

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MSR ambassador Eric Larsen and expedition teammate, Ryan Waters, reached the geographic North Pole last night, successfully completing their Last North Expedition! The pair has spent the last 53 grueling days traversing 480 miles of frozen Arctic Ocean via snowshoes and skis, becoming only the second American team in history to complete the crossing. The team reports that while they’re exhausted, they’re overjoyed to have achieved the end. At MSR, we’re proud of Eric’s and Ryan’s accomplishment and congratulate them on the extraordinary feat.

The last 19 miles of their journey posed the greatest challenges, as fractured ice required them to put on dry suits to swim from one small frozen peninsula to the next, all through near-whiteout conditions. Today, they’ll be picked up and flown back to Resolute, Canada, where they’ll rest for the next few days. Read More →

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Off-Belay: Costa Rica – The Pura Vida Lifestyle

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Entering Costa Rica offered a stunning visual of a country that chooses to cherish its environment.  The aesthetics of a healthy landscape are obvious and this vitality seemingly permeated through individual personalities and communities alike. Enthusiastic to soak in the tranquility we headed to the mountainous cloud forests of the northeast to explore the stunning Rio Celeste. Flowing with a hue unmatched in liquid beauty, the river cascades through boulders and basins protected by dark green jungle walls that hold the mystery of this unique place. Days passed by as we took in the surrounding landscapes via Land Cruiser and on foot. Our worn legs eventually carried us back to lingering evenings highlighted by traditional meals of rice, beans, chicken and plantains we collectively prepared. Pura vida lifestyle had quickly set in and from the easy reaches of our hammocks strung out beneath the flawless nighttime sky we could only imagine what was to come. Read More →

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Eric Larsen’s Last North Expedition (Day 47): Bears, Mental Struggle, and the Fierce Beauty of the Arctic

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 “I couldn’t decide if the Arctic Ocean was trying to swallow us whole or create the worst road block in history. It’s frustrating, scary and overwhelming all wrapped up into one big polar mess of emotions… Still there are few moments when I am not completely in awe of the beauty and power of this place.” –Eric (Day 32)

Eric Larsen and expedition partner Ryan Waters have reached day 47 of their Last North expedition, an attempt to break the unsupported ground speed record to the North Pole. Last week they crossed the 87th parallel, marking a distance milestone that sends them into the final stretch of the 500-mile journey. They have 102 miles to go.

The duo is finally making decent distance each day, sometimes reaching 17 miles via skis or snowshoes across improved ice conditions and under clear skies. Since the start of their trip, momentum has been bogged down by nearly impassible ice and whiteout conditions, as they struggled to make only 2 or 3 nautical miles, pulling sleds that felt like “dragging anchors across sand.”

Still, their daily reports haven’t been fully wrought with despair. Amid the seemingly austere and desolate swath of frozen planet, they’ve described a dynamic environment where nature is constantly shifting, drifting, and redesigning her icy architecture. Read More →

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