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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Gear Archives: Diving Deep—The Evolution of the MSR® Snow Fluke

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Blog_Fluke Catalog pic_April 78 copy

Some people love snow flukes: skiers who want a low-profile anchoring device that fits in their packs; mountaineers traveling in softer or uniform snow conditions; rescue guides or climbing pairs who may need to anchor with only one free hand. As snow protection gear, the fluke definitely has its place, and it’s been part of MSR’s history from nearly the beginning.

It goes back to 1969, soon after Larry Penberthy founded Mountain Safety Research, Inc. to support the work he began with The Mountaineers of independently reviewing climbing equipment and making gear that was safer and easier to use. Penberthy published his findings in the Mountain Safety Research newsletter, which also sold third-party and MSR brand gear. The first two pieces of gear featured in the newsletter were Edmont cold-weather gloves and MSR first-generation snow flukes. Read More →

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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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Best Camping Knot: How to Tie the Taut-Line Hitch Knot

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Whether you’re guying-out a tent, hanging a bear bag or tying a load to your pack, the Taut-Line Hitch is one of the handiest all-purpose knots for backpackers and campers. It’s so easy and versatile, in fact, that MSR Category Director Steve Grind wonders: “Why doesn’t every single outdoorsy person know and love this knot?”

Once set, the Taut-Line, a rolling hitch knot, can be adjusted to increase or slacken tension on an anchored line, and it holds fast and secure under load. Even astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery used this knot on their repair missions to Hubble Space Telescope.

Here are the four easy steps that will make you a pro at using this knot the backcountry.


Step 1: Anchor and Coil

Pass the rope around an anchor point, and run the rope’s free end parallel to its standing line. Coil the free end around the standing line twice, each time looping back toward the anchor. 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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Gear Archives: The Simple Perfection of a Good Bowl

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The new MSR Alpine Nesting Bowl

The new MSR Alpine Nesting Bowl

In the 1970s and 1980s, focused on using the latest technologies, MSR made its early cookware of the lightest modern materials available—titanium, aluminum and non-stick aluminum. While carrying the lightest possible gear was the priority of most backpackers, the MSR product development team recognized the undeniable benefits of stainless steel as well, which was more durable, conducted heat more evenly, and ultimately was more affordable than aluminum or titanium. Read More →

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MSR Kitchen Sets: Behind The Gear

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MSR Alpine Kitchen Set

Product Manager Steve Grind answers a few questions about the design and performance of the various sets of kitchen tools offered by MSR.

What is the process behind deciding which utensils go into each set (Ultralight, Alpine, Alpine Deluxe)?

We’re always working to understand our customers as well as we can, and the customer for one product is often different in some ways from the customer for another product, even within a single product line. In the case of a kitchen set, we know that users are likely to cook differently in a base camp or car-camping scenario than they are in an ultralight backpacking one, and this informs what we design and what is included in each kit. Read More →

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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Evolution of the MSR XGK EX Stove

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Model 9 Stove

Photo of the original MSR Model 9 stove (simply called the “MSR Stove”) from the April 1973 MSR Newsletter.

Trusted by mountaineers everywhere as the world’s most reliable extreme-condition stove, the MSR XGK EX stove is still remembered by many as the MSR Model 9. Originally introduced in 1973, the Model 9 stove has evolved along with material and manufacturing technologies, and its current incarnation—the MSR XGK EX stove—still remains the number one liquid fuel stove choice on expeditions worldwide.

Remote Fuel Revolution

The Model 9 was the world’s first remote-burner component stove. The remote-burner design was developed in response to MSR’s finding that Acute Mountain Sickness and other altitude-related health problems were related to a climber’s poor hydration level, caused by the inability to melt snow on traditional stoves. Several years of field and in-house stove testing by MSR had demonstrated the increased performance and reliability that remote, pump-pressurized liquid-fuel tanks could deliver, especially at altitude.

While white gas and stove and lantern fuel were recommended, this stove could also burn non-leaded and leaded gasoline if the screen was cleaned every two quarts. Additionally, it could burn alcohol “if the air inlets of the burner are mostly closed with foil.” Lightweight (at 12 ounces), compact, and reliable, the MSR Model 9 stove quickly became the gold standard in mountaineering after its release in 1973. Read More →

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