OverviewThe Ham and Eggs couloir is about 18 pitches (3600 linear feet, 2500 vertical feet) of mostly steep snow with a few short spots of steep, sometimes even overhanging ice. The very first pitch is the crux, being mostly class 5 rock.
Getting ThereTo get there you must fly in from Talkeetna. The flight is about 1 hour, maybe a little more, over some spectacular scenery. The plane lands you either down on the Ruth Glacier, which is a good basecamp location for doing other routes (Dickey, Barille, Dan Beard, etc), or the plane can take you up on the higher glacier right below the Ham and Eggs route. This eliminates the dangerous and long approach from down below, but also limits your options. Basically, if you only want to climb the Ham and Eggs route, or Shaken Not Stirred, then this is a good option.
Route DescriptionSince we started down on the Ruth Glacier, I'll start from there. On day 1 we moved from our basecamp, up through the crevasses (very dangerous, stay sharp, my partner fell into one and it took him an hour to get out), then up through the "hidden gully" onto the flat spot just past Shaken not Stirred. We used snowshoes on the lower part, then crampons for the 1000 foot gully, which had one tricky spot, then switched back to snowshoes for the rest of the walk up to our high camp location.
The day was about 9 hours.
Day 2: We started early, and traversed straight over to the start of the route. This was a mistake. We should have descended down to the glacier and walked over to below the route, then started from there. Instead, the traverse involved snow-covered slabs that cliff out in spots several hundred feet above the glacier below. If you slip there, you'll slide and fall a long ways. It's more dangerous, but faster because you stay high and don't descend and have to regain the height.
Once at the base of the actual couloir, the route appears to have 3 different starts. From far away, it looks like you can just go straight up the blob of snow and ice to the right, but when we were there that blob was like day-old shaving cream and impossible. The far left looked like hard rock climbing, so we went straight up the middle. We followed a right-leaning rock ramp that had enough frozen moss on it to get a few picks in, but not much else. My partner put in a .75 camelot about halfway and then ran the rest out to the top. I still don't know how the hell he got up that bit. Of course, we should've gone left up the more straightforward and protectable (although still 5.8) rock.
The rest of the route is very easy to follow, just keep going. You can't get lost. There is steep snow, with a few steps of steep ice here and there. Depending on conditions, you may have a few rock moves at times (we did), but there are belay anchors every 200 feet or so. You may have to uncover them from the ice or snow, and we didn't find them all on the way up, but on the way down we did.
Pitch 2 and 3 are fairly narrow, with a steep step in each pitch. Pitches 4, 5, and 6 widen out considerably and are mostly snow.
Pitch 7 or 8 has a longer ice section, then you traverse right.
Pitch 10 or so has a very narrow ice chimney, which I thought was the second hardest spot on the route.
Pitches 11 - 18 ease off in angle with fewer ice steps and more snow.
The last 2 pitches widen out a little and the final pitch has a lot of windblown ice. At the very top, we used an Abalokov, which we doubled to rap off.
We didn't go the rest of the way up to the summit, which is a few hundred feet of snow off to the right, because the snow was deep and it was getting late. So we did 18 raps back down and then descended back down to the glacier before walking over and going back up to our high camp.
Most of the rappel anchors were solid, although a couple required some maintenance and some backing up.
We did the route in 16 hours round trip.
Day 3: We descended back over to the top of the "hidden gully" and then did a few sketchy raps back to the glacier. Another couple of hours of negotiating the crevasses (not falling in this time) and we were back at our basecamp. I think day 3 was only about 5 hours.
Essential GearWe brought 2 200 foot skinny ropes, with rock and ice gear and a couple of pickets. Nothing was in our packs for day 2 except bivy jackets, water, and powergel (and Butterfinger bars).
We had: Integral Designs MK1 XL tent, MSR Denali snowshoes, Wild Things Bivy Parkas, titanium pitons, lots of abalokov cord.
Fast and light.