Death Scree Ridge
So we are about midway through our ten day Alaskan outback adventure and loving the remote beauty. Alaska is remarkable – and so vast it’s hard to comprehend. We were there in July/August, and the sun would dip down into the horizon and then come back up again. In Anchorage, families were going out to dinner in daylight at 11pm just to “take advantage of the daylight,” as they told me.
We got to a beautiful area where we chose to camp for the night and were taking stock of our plan for the next day. We knew we had to get over this ridge ahead of us but not quite sure which was the best way. Around seemed longer but dangerous and straight up and over sounded pretty scary, too. Roddy, Ross and Craig scouted out the ridge way and debated options while Josh and I hung back and watched them, listening as they discussed our fate the next day. Neither of us thought going straight over sounded like fun but those guys have more climbing experience so we let them have at it. In the end, yes, the answer was straight up and over, as we could not fully see by eyesight or map the full extent of the “going around” direction. The thought of this climb the next day was weighing heavily on me that afternoon and evening. Still, we were camped by a small waterfall and river and took the opportunity to bathe and enjoy another incredible evening together in the wilderness.
The next morning we packed up and headed straight up. This was a sharply inclined mountain of rock and scree and the entire climb was bouldering on all fours, keeping close to the mountain for fear of falling. It was difficult to say the least. What made it even more so was the fact that many of the rocks and boulders were not attached to the mountain. That meant that every single step took that much longer – we had to pull on the rocks to see if they were safe, and many of them simply fell out and fell down. We climbed five across so that no one got hit by boulders.
I was about 10 feet from the ridge and so grateful to be done with this anxiety filled climb. Just ahead of me was a large boulder that jutted out of the mountain – too far for me to go up and over. Getting vertical was not possible; with a 50 lb pack it would have pulled me backwards and the thought of having to lean past vertical with little to hold on to had me terrified. I had to climb around the boulder before going up, so I tried the right side first. Every rock I grabbed came out of the mountain and fell far below. I literally pulled everything within my reach and there was nothing left to the right. I tried the left. Again, every single rock or boulder within my reach was loose and fell out of the mountain. I was stuck. And exhausted.
And there he was again, Roddy to the rescue. He was a few feet below me and saw that I was out of options other than dangerously climbing down and over and starting up again. Thankfully, he’s a strong guy (and he’s also climbed Denali) and told me that he was going to give me a giant push on the count of three to get me up and over the boulder. I was scared, I admit it – I did NOT want to risk falling backwards but I trust these guys I climb with -with my life. On the count, he pushed, I reached, and over the boulder I went. I got to the ridge, which ended up to be a knife edged ridge with nearly the same climb down the other side, and sat and shook there for a while as we all sat in silence, contemplating what we had just accomplished. Thus we named this “Death Ridge.”