The Mooses Tooth is a popular "hard mountain" in the Denali area. It's located on the east side of the Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier. While the altitude is not great, especially considering its huge neighbor Denali, the Mooses Tooth stands out for its stark vertical walls, elevator-shaft like couloirs and razorblade ridges. There are no "walk-ups" on this mountain; all routes require substantial technical climbing and have considerable objective danger. The mountain is a popular testpiece for high-level climbers and compared to other mountains in Alaska, you don't always get the same solitude as you would somewhere else; in other words, in prime season and good weather you may be sharing your route with another party or two.
The "easiest" route on the Moose's Tooth is the West Ridge, but it's by no means easy by any normal standards. Not only is it a fairly technical climb (extensive climbing on approximately 50 degree snow/ice, bergschrund/crevasse crossings, etc.) but it has a high degree of objective danger from avalanches, cornices, crevasses, falling seracs and every other alpine danger you can think of. In addition, it is almost impossible to actually reach the true summit of the Mooses Tooth by the West Ridge. Most parties are happy to get to the West Summit ; the true summit involves hours more of tedious climbing along the knife edged, corniced ridge crest, up and down and over and under and doing it all in a single day from high camp is really a feat.
The snow/ice couloirs of the south face are technically more difficult, but in all likelihood you're much more likely to summit this way than via the West Ridge. Ham and Eggs is generally considered to be the easier of the two commonly climbed couloirs and is normally rated at grade 4. The couloir gains approximately 2,500 vertical feet to a deep col below the true summit of the Mooses Tooth; from there the summit is about 6 more pitches of steep snow climbing. The couloir itself is usually a mix of snow and ice, except for the very first pitch which is low level grade 5 rock. Depending on conditions, the ice can be quite vertical or even overhanging and the route then feels more like grade 5; at all times it is very sustained with no spots less than 45 degrees. The couloir is 17 pitches long and each one, miraculously, features a rappel anchor which if you locate will save a huge amount of time, energy and equipment as you descend.
The other couloir is Shaken, Not Stirred; it is similar in character to Ham and Eggs but generally considered even harder, presumably because of more sustained and steep climbing. It's also farther from the summit and I don't know whether it has rappel anchors or not, but I suspect they are much less reliable if they do exist than the ones on Ham and Eggs.
The north and east faces have also been climbed a few times, but i don't know much about them except that they are extremely technical and strenous routes with very high objective danger.
The only realistic way to get to the Mooses Tooth is by flying in on a ski plane and landing either on the Ruth Glacier or on the smaller tributary glacier (Ruth Canal as someone reffered to it) if you are doing one of the routes on the south face. Flights are based in Talkeetna, which is about a three hour drive from Anchorage. You must make reservations in advance to fly in and out with one of the air taxis in town (there are several). Some of the taxis actually have a van that will pick you up in Anchorage with all your gear, which saves a lot of money and trouble because that way you don't need to rent a car...the service might cost you an extra hundred bucks but it's worth it...
Unlinke McKinley and Foraker, no permit is required for the Mooses Tooth, however, it is highly recommended that all climbers register at the Talkeetna Ranger Station before setting out.
When To Climb
Generally, the best weather and often the best conditions in the Alaska Range are found in May. Keep in mind that May is a very variable month, and the weather can vary from extremely cold (30 below at night isn't uncommon even at the relatively low altitude of Mooses Tooth) to very warm . June is good too but it can sometimes be a bit too warm, causing the couloirs on the south face to become dangerously unstable and exposed to rockfall and wet avalanches. From about mid July on, the "Alaska Monsoon" begins - a period of fairly warm but very wet weather, with heavy snowfall in the mountains and very high avalanche/cornice danger. Climbing after Independence Day is generally not recommended and seldom done. Sometimes, if you're lucky you can run into some nice weather in September, but that's a gamble.
camping is allowed everywhere, but can be problematic on many of the routes, esp. the ones up the faces. For example, you can't camp anywhere in the Ham and Eggs Couloir, so you need to climb the entire 2,500 vertical foot couloir (and down, unless you want to bivy up on the summit ridge) in a single day - that's 18 pitches of ice up to grade 5 in difficulty. In other words: plan accordingly and get out early!
the following site publishes climbers' weather reports for Mount McKinley, which gives you a pretty good idea of the conditions you can expect on Mooses Tooth. There is no info on snow/ice conditions - for that you'll have to talk to the rangers in Talkeetna or someone who's been on the mountain.
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