ZAN Member Tells Story of Ruth Gorge Climb
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Michea Westbrook, a CPC-IT at Anchorage Center (ZAN) embarked on a much anticipated climbing trip this past May. John Sikes, a longtime friend and ER nurse from Kodiak, Alaska, joined him on the week-long excursion. The pair took off from Talkeetna, Alaska, in a ski-equiped C185 and headed for the Ruth Gorge area of the Alaska Range.

The small plane dropped Michea and John on the Root Canal Glacier, situated at the foot of the huge south face of the Moose's Tooth. After a day of waiting out weather, the two left their tent at 2 a.m. to take advantage of the frozen conditions and climb the Ham and Eggs Couloir that splits the south face. What ensued were 16 hours of climbing rock, ice and snow up the 2,500 foot couloir. After a long effort through all the technical difficulties, the two decided to head down after reaching the top of the ridge on the Moose's Tooth. Some of the challenges endured during the climb included one lost glove, one lost contact lens (with no spare), being completely soaked after the first two hours, and getting the ropes stuck during one of the many rappels down.

The next day a ski plane transferred Michea and John to their next objective. Surrounded by the many mile-high rock giants that line the Ruth Glacier, the pair set up their camp in the shadow of Mt. Dickey. The next few days involved resting and skiing around the glacier "sightseeing". One afternoon brought the two of them skiing the 10 miles up to and from the Ruth Amphitheater. There, they hung out at the famous hexagonal hut that Don Sheldon built in 1966 by flying all the pieces in by Super Cub. 
The climb up Mt. Dickey was less technical than the Moose's Tooth, but twice as high. Roped together, Michea and John left their tent at 11 p.m. and skied up 747 Pass to access the West Face of Mt. Dickey. The route consisted of mostly steep snow, up to 55 degrees, with the occasional rock outcropping to overcome. After clambering over a few cornices, and John punching a leg through one into the open air below, the two made the final push up to the summit just before 7 a.m. A brief stop was made at the top to melt water with a stove, call home, and call their air taxi for pickup the next day.

After a week in the Ruth Gorge, Michea and John managed two successful climbs and attained a lifetime of memories. This coming May, Michea hopes to join another friend on a climbing trip up Denali.


More pictures of the trip can be seen at