icons/avalancheicons/bootscompassfacebookicons/gloveshandsicons/hearticons/helmeticons/ice axeinstagramminusmountainicons/pathsMap Pinplusicons/questionicons/guideicons/ropeicons/gogglesicons/stafftenttwitteryoutube
Ham Eggs1 1024

Tasty Ham and Eggs Climb Launches Alaska Season

Mad­ness Guide Alan Rousseau writes in with some great images and descrip­tion of an ide­al climb of Ham and Eggs in the Alas­ka Range.

I just wrapped up my first of three planned Moun­tain Mad­ness expe­di­tions into the Alas­ka Range for the 2017 sea­son. Rett and I climbed Ham and Eggs, on the Moose’s Tooth, which saw its first ascent in 1975 by John Krakauer, Thomas Davies, and Nate Zinss­er. Giv­en the tech­ni­cal stan­dard at the time, and con­di­tions encoun­tered, it was an epic bat­tle to the sum­mit with a tent-to-tent time of 33 hours from the hang­ing glac­i­er that is now home to the root canal airstrip. It was more than ten years until the route saw its sec­ond ascent. It saw a flur­ry of activ­i­ty after that and quick­ly attained clas­sic sta­tus. It is now con­sid­ered a great intro­duc­to­ry route for those look­ing to climb tech­ni­cal routes in the Alas­ka Range. A high lev­el of fit­ness, and effi­cien­cy in WI3/4 ter­rain are pre­req­ui­sites for this route. 

Ice climb­ing. Alan Rousseau photo

Rett and I did some ice climb­ing togeth­er in Ouray this past win­ter to work on refine­ment of ice climb­ing tech­nique in prepa­ra­tion for Ham and Eggs. After climb­ing with Rett in Col­orado for a few days, I felt con­fi­dent he could climb well enough to accom­plish the route in good style. 

Since spring has been show­ing up ear­li­er and ear­li­er in the Alas­ka Range, I sug­gest­ed to Rett we aim for a mid-April start date. Meet­ing in Anchor­age on April 12, we were pleas­ant­ly sur­prised to be com­fort­able with­out wear­ing jack­ets. The fore­cast couldn’t help but put a smile on our faces: high pres­sure for the fore­see­able future, with mid-day temps of 30 F at 7,000’.

Friend­ly faces at the Tal­keet­na Air­port. Alan Rousseau photo

We arrived in Tal­keet­na the fol­low­ing morn­ing and checked in with the friend­ly folks at Tal­keet­na air taxi. They told us they could fly us on the glac­i­er in one hour. So after a check in at the ranger sta­tion, we did a final weigh-in and loaded our kit onto the plane. It takes about thir­ty min­utes to fly from the air­port in Tal­keet­na to the Moose’s Tooth. As we approached our land­ing site, Paul Rod­er­ick (pilot) banked the plane hard and cir­cled us in for land­ing. He set the plane down on the hang­ing glac­i­er just a five minute walk from the start of Ham and Eggs. 

Fly­ing in to Moose’s Tooth. Alan Rousseau photo

After get­ting the duf­fles out of the plane we start­ed set­ting up camp, dig­ging in our cook tent, and build­ing snow walls. Rett was feel­ing good with our ini­tial bump in alti­tude, so we decid­ed we would wake up ear­ly the next morn­ing and try to climb. After a 4:30 alarm sound­ed we cooked up some break­fast, drank some cof­fee, and by 5:45 we were off to the races. After a half hour we had crossed the bergshrund and made our way through the steep snow slabs that guard the first pitch. Ham and Eggs” is pri­mar­i­ly a 50-degree snow climb with a hand­ful of steep­er rock and ice sec­tions to add to the excite­ment… and expo­sure. The sum­mit ridge requires care­ful tra­vers­ing on a heav­i­ly cor­niced ridge. From camp to the sum­mit is 3,000’ of ver­ti­cal gain. Rett and I made good time up the route find­ing it in favor­able con­di­tion. We even stopped at the col for thir­ty min­utes to brew up some cof­fee. Nine hours after leav­ing camp we stood on the sum­mit. There was no wind, and it was warm enough to hang out with­out wear­ing gloves. I was sur­prised that my phone had full ser­vice on the sum­mit, so both Rett and I put in calls to our wives, enjoyed the view and start­ed mak­ing our way down the sum­mit ridge. After revers­ing the sum­mit ridge, 15 or so (we lost count) rap­pels got us back across the bergshrund and only about five min­utes from camp. We arrived back in camp about 14 hours after we left. After eat­ing some piz­za and enjoy­ing some bour­bon we called it a day.

Steep snow climb­ing. Alan Rousseau photo

The fol­low­ing day we lounged around camp, looked up at the route we had climbed, and soaked in the views of Denali and Mount Hunt­ing­ton. We con­tem­plat­ed climb­ing anoth­er route, but with some uncer­tain­ty in the fore­cast we decid­ed that we had done what we came to do and it would be best to get out before we got stuck. In order to fly in and out of the range, pilots need ide­al con­di­tions with good vis­i­bil­i­ty most of the way from Tal­keet­na to the glac­i­ers. Some­times with large storms it can be up to a week where no planes fly. For­tu­nate­ly for us, despite a cloud bank in the foothills the next day, a plane came to pick us up and brought us back to town. 

Kickin’ back enjoy­ing the view. Alan Rousseau photo

~MM Guide Alan Rousseau