Americans complete Alaska's Tooth Traverse

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 06/06/2012
Rocky Moose's Tooth (left) and Bear Tooth from southwest. Lindsay Griffin Collection

Renan Ozturk and Freddie Wilkinson have completed a four-year project of traversing the skyline ridge on the east side of the Ruth Gorge, from Sugar Tooth to the West Summit of the Moose's Tooth.

The traverse starts from Expresso Gap, north of Mt Cosmic Debris, and first climbs the South Ridge of Sugar Tooth (ca 8,000'), a route put up by Ozturk and Zack Smith, during their first attempt on the traverse in 2009.

On that occasion the pair climbed over the summit of Sugar Tooth and up the South Ridge of Eye Tooth (ca 9,000'), following the top section of Steve House's little repeated route Talkeetna Standard.

Ozturk and Smith then continued along the "insanely exposed" ridge towards Bear Tooth (10,070') but stopped on a small, previously unclimbed summit they named Missing Tooth. From this point the climbing ahead looked just as difficult and exposed, and after a cold night they retreated.

In 2010 Wilkinson joined Ozturk and Smith for another attempt, but the trio first decided to check out one of the unknowns on the traverse, the unclimbed South-southeast Face of Moose's Tooth from the gap north of Bear Tooth.

Approaching via the Root Canal Glacier, the three climbed this previously attempted line, naming it Swamp Donkey Express (5.9+ and A2+). One aid pitch took Smith six hours to lead. However, a later attempt on the traverse failed before reaching Eye Tooth.

The three were psyched for another attempt in 2011, when Ozturk suffered severe injuries skiing over a cliff. He'd recovered - just - in time to accompany Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin on the first ascent of the Shark Fin on Meru Central (nominated for a Piolet d'Or), while Wilkinson would head off to India for the first ascent of Saser Kangri II (awarded a 2012 Piolet d'Or).

This May, with Smith unable to take part, Ozturk and Wilkinson completed the project in five days, despite the Alaska Range having been subjected to one of the snowiest winters in recent years.

They didn't reach Bear Tooth until day four, spending a little over a day on the heavily corniced Eye Tooth-Bear Tooth connection. Repeating Swamp Donkey Express proved demanding, and the pair only reached the summit of Moose's Tooth at 11pm.

Continuing through the night, they reached the West Summit, and then spent another 12 hours descending via the West Shoulder to the Ruth Glacier.

Difficulties of the Tooth Traverse were rated at 5.10R A2+ and M5



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