Late last month, Todd Tumolo and Dusty Eroh completed the first ascent of Neve Ruse (V AI5 R/X, 4,000′) on the relatively untraveled North Face of Mt. Bradley (9,104′) in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge. On May 6, nine days later, Tumolo teamed up with Josh Hoeschen to climb another mostly new route, The Fire Escape (V AI4 5.6 65 degrees, 4,000′), this time on the east face of Mt. Johnson (8,460′).
Neve Ruse (V AI5 R/X, 4,000′)
Tumolo flew into the Gorge on April 23 and met up with Eroh, who was already climbing in the area. The duo took a few days to scout their objective on Mt. Bradley and skied to its base each day before committing to climb the route on April 26. “We had some snow on the twenty-fourth that we were concerned about,” says Tumolo. “We watched a lot of snow spindrift and pour down the route so we decided to give it a day.”
The two climbers left camp at around 4:00 a.m. and reached Mt. Bradley’s base at 7:30 a.m. in good conditions with temperatures around 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The first few pitches climbed technical neve on slabby rock that nearly initiated a retreat. Once at the top of the neve, they continued up a difficult corner system where they cleared ice out of cracks to place protection.
After completing the last technical pitch a little after midnight, the duo chopped a bivy in the snowfield about 1,000 feet from the summit. They got about three hours of sleep before waking at 6:00 a.m. and heading for the top.
Eroh and Tumolo summited Mt. Bradley at around 1:00 p.m. From the summit they descended the west ridge, rappelling over a cornice at the Bradley/Wake Col. They then down climbed to the bergschrund and jumped a small snow bridge. They were back at camp 39 hours after they’d left.
The only other route on the north face of Bradley is Spice Factory (Alaska Grade V: 5.10R WI5 M7), climbed in 2005 by Canadians Louis-Philippe Menard and Maxime Turgeon. One thousand meters off the deck, Turgeon took the sharp end, exhausted and nearly defeated. He started up a featureless and slabby face, hardly able to find pick holds or protection.
Scrickk! The dull tip of my blade just ripped from its catch, my hammer hit me right on the lip, and I was off….,” Turgeon wrote in Alpinist 15. “‘That’s it!’ I thought. ‘This is the end! The psychological belay won’t hold this fall. We’ll both end up down the bergschrund.’ But the free fall slowed, the small blue strand got tight and my body slammed against the wall, soundly reminding me I was still alive. For once, LP cursed at me: ‘Tabarnak, Max!’
Menard and Turgeon successfully completed Spice Factory in 55 hours, the boldest route either of them had climbed.
The Fire Escape (V AI4 5.6 65 degrees, 4,000′)
Hoeschen and Tumolo made a one-day ascent of Mt. Johnson on May 6, establishing a new route in the process. The Fire Escape climbs roughly 1,500 feet of The Escalator (Alaska Grade 3: 50 degrees, 4000′) before veering right. The remainder of the route climbs 2,500 feet of new terrain through a short rocky section, linking up a snowfield to a snow ramp and finishing on the summit. They descended the north ridge to the Grovsenor/Johnson Col.
Todd Tumolo, John Frieh, Alpinist 15
Alden Pellett contributed to reporting.