1st ascent, Moose Tooth, East Face, There's a Moose Loose aboot this Hoose', (1400m, ED 4, M8, A2, AI 6) 3rd and 4th May 2008.
Back in Talkeetna after a brilliant trip on the 'Buckskin Glacier'. Matt & Jon Bracey climbed a new route on the amazing East face of the Mooses Tooth. “There's a Moose Loose aboot this Hoose” climbs the obvious big fault line to the right of Arctic Rage (Mahoney-Gilmore, 2004)
Setting out on the 3rd May in good weather they found excellent conditions enabling fast progress up the initial easy ground before the line narrowed into a series of steeper pitches on snow ice. By midday the weather had deteriorated and they suffered an alarming bombardment of constant spindrift for nearly two hours with Matt almost suffocating at one point. Thankfully this eventually eased allowing them to continue.
Above, the gully reared up into an overhanging amphitheatre with spooky snow mushrooms hanging threateningly all around them. Some cunning route finding by Matt followed by a hard pitch of mixed and aid climbing saw Jon at the lip of the roof. After an eternity psyching up, Jon eventually committed to the thin ice curtain above and somehow avoided a big lob into space.
The difficulties continued above with Matt pulling off a very hard and serious lead that thankfully found them a small snow patch out to the left to bivi on. Tired after an 18 hour day, they brewed up for a couple of hours and sat in their sleeping bags for a while before continuing.
The morning greeted them with ok weather and the crux of the route. A sustained overhanging pitch up less than perfect rock, which Matt dispatched in good style. After 3 more pitches they gained the upper snow slopes of the North ridge and stashed most of their kit to continue on, only to be stopped c. 100m below the summit by a menacing serac. Happy with their efforts they started the long descent and made it back to their skis by 1am after another 18 hour day.
1st Ascent, Mount Grosvenor, North Face, "Meltdown" - ED3, V, M6 R, 1300m 10th May. 2009.
" The Ruth Gorge is hugely impressive" Matt said on his return from the range. "With massive walls of over 1000m and glaciers that snake their way over high passes. Everything a climber could need is here..."
"From base-camp the huge east face of Mt Dickey looms above, then a view south looks over several major north faces - Mt Bradley, Mt Wake, Mt Johnson, Mt Grosvenor, Mt Church, it's an awesome site."
The Matt together with Jon Bracey started their trip with a new route, now named "Meltdown" on Mount Grosvenor on May 10th. The crux was a steep ice runnel leading to the summit ridge, where they encountered a steep unprotected pitch of rotten ice and poor ignimbrite rock.
1st Ascent, Mount Church, North Face, "For Whom The Bell Tolls" - ED2, V, Grade 6, 1150m 12th May, 2009.
Climbed a new line on the north face of Mount Church leading to the east ridge. The crux of "For Whom The Bell Tolls" was a steep snow-filled chimney. Matt said, "The final ridge proved to be far from easy with big cornices and steps of very unstable 'ignimbrite' again.”.
1st Ascent, Mount Hunter, North Buttress. The Cartwright Connection (M6, AI6, 5.8, A2) 13th - 18th May, 2011.
The route is named in memory of British Alpinist Jules Cartwright, who was sadly killed whilst approaching the Cassin Route on the Piz Badile in 2004.
Mount Hunter (4,442 m) is around 8 miles south of Denali (Alaska's highest mountain) and the 1200m face of the North Buttress is described as the 'technical showpiece' of Mount Hunter.
Unrelenting spindrift avalanches and gusting winds constantly blasted and buffeted their portaledge. The small cocoon of safety on this harsh and hostile mountain was slowly being engulfed as they nervously watched the snow level rise up the fly walls. It had taken five of the toughest days climbing of their lives to get to this point and chances of reaching the top of the North Buttress were quickly diminishing. There was nothing they could do about it and the forecast was for more snow and stronger winds over the upcoming days.
After their previous recce, the first day on the wall went smoothly and things were going to plan. That night was less so as they realised the perils of hanging the portaledge on a 60 degree ice slope. They were awakened by the bang of the ledge as it suddenly collapsed and transformed into a hammock ! On day 2 they faced many uncertainties with finding a way through some very complex and steep terrain full of overhanging snow mushrooms. Matt fought hard, leading all day and finally getting them in position below the steepest rock band of the climb at about 2am. By overcoming these difficulties confidence grew and for the first time ever they started to think there might be a small chance of getting up this climb! Day 3 was steep and scary.... thinly iced slabs, overhanging cracks, loose rock to aid climb up, a pitch of vertical ice and more, finally getting to bed at 6am. Day 4 they joined the Moonflower route. Their own new route was on. It just needed a little luck with the weather. Day 5 it snowed and wind blew.....
After being trapped in the ledge all day, at 9 pm they sensed a slight lull in the storm and could see glimpses of the sun through the clouds. Both were thinking exactly the same thoughts..."this might be the one and only chance. Let's take it ". With no food left there was no point in playing a waiting game. They quickly packed a stove, spare gloves, warm jackets and a minimal rack. The goal, to reach the top of the Buttress. 500m and 13 pitches of climbing above them. Both knew the chances of success were negligible.
Two pitches later the snow started up again and they were battling hard against forceful spindrift. The cold was almost unbearable but somehow optimism and unwillingness to give in was winning through. In a dream like state of exhaustion at 5am they finally stood at the top of the face. Few words were said with no real comprehension of what they had just achieved. They had to start abseiling with haste. 38 abseils and 14 hours later they were back on the glacier and collapsed, having been awake for 36 hours. They named the route 'The Cartwright Connection' in memory of Jon's good friend Jules as it was his vision to attempt this line.