The Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier is one of the most spectacular gorges on earth. Buttressed on either side by solid granite cliffs that tower 5,000 feet above the glacier’s surface, this gorge is not only a spectacular sight, but offers world-class mountaineering challenges.
The Ruth Glacier covers the bottom of the mile-wide Gorge with ice up to 3,800 feet thick. The glacier descends from 5,200 to 3,200 feet through the 10-mile gorge, traveling at 3.3 feet per day, a relatively fast glacial pace.
The Ruth Icefall
is a 10-squre-mile section of the Ruth Glacier near the bottom of the Great Gorge. It is virtually impassable in the summer after the snowmelt.
Several mountains line the walls of the Great Gorge:
- Mount Barrille
- Mount Bradley
- Mount Church
- Mount Dickey
- Mount Grosvenor (there another Grosvenor in Alaska, too.)
- Mount Johnson
- Mount Wake
- Peak 9100
- Bear Tooth
- Broken Tooth
- Eye Tooth
- Mooses Tooth
- Sugar Tooth
- Wisdom Tooth
- The Shield
- Rooster Comb
Mount Dickey is said to be the highest granite wall in North America, if you include the under-ice portion of the rock.
Air Taxi from Talkeetna, about 50 miles to the southeast, is the most common method of transportation to the Great Gorge. One company popular with climbers is Talkeetna Air Taxi.
The Talkeetna Ranger Station offers an extensive climbing library, including binders containing route descriptions and photographs, topographic maps, American Alpine Journals, and hard-to-find books. A photocopier is available to the public for copying non-copyrighted material.
An increasing number of books detailing routes and general climbing areas in the Alaska Range are available for purchase at the Talkeetna Ranger Station through Alaska Geographic
. Consult the Alaska Geographic mountaineering brochure
for available publications and related items.
Mountaineering rangers with first hand experience in the various backcountry areas of Denali National Park and Preserve are available year-round to assist visitors with trip planning and route selection. for more information, leave an online message
or Phone (907) 733-2231 for more detailed information.
Most of the 40-mile-long Ruth Glacier, including the 10 miles of the Great Gorge, is in Denali National Park but not in the Denali Wilderness Area.
Campers on the Ruth Glacier are not required to register prior to their backcountry trip. Nevertheless, mountaineering rangers and park management highly recommend that all such expeditions complete a voluntary backcountry registration form prior to departure. Trip and contact information contained on these forms has proven extremely helpful in the event of an overdue party or a rescue situation. The backcountry registration form is available online
, or can be completed in person at the Talkeetna Ranger Station.
All backcountry users entering Denali National Park and Preserve are required to pay the park entrance fee of $10 per individual or $20 per family. For visitors flying into the mountains, entrance fees are paid at the Talkeetna Ranger Station or, if necessary, at the respective air taxi offices.
Leave No Trace
- Removal of human waste is required when camping or travelling within ½ mile of an airstrip. In all other glaciated areas, crevasse human waste using a biodegradable bag or remove it in a Clean Mountain Can (CMC), both of which are available at the Talkeetna Ranger Station. There is no cost for the use of these cans, however users will be held responsible if the cans are not returned after the climb.
- Crevasse only human waste. All other trash must be carried off.
- Efficiently re-package food to reduce trash and overall weight. Read Trash and Waste Policies for Glacier Environments for helpful tips.
- Everything brought into the park must be brought out. Abandoning surplus gear, food, fuel, or wands is not allowed.
- Fixed lines and protection should be removed on descent.
- Caches must be properly labeled with the expedition name and return date. Permanent caches are illegal. Mark caches with 5 to 6 foot (1.5-2M) wands.
- Bury caches at least 1 meter deep to prevent raiding by ravens.
- Avoid feeding wildlife. Inspect campsites for spilled food and pack out food waste.
- Leave what you find. It is illegal to remove natural objects from the park.
- All caches belonging to other parties should be left intact. Please report all abandoned or unmarked caches to NPS rangers.
Dangerous icefalls and avalanches are common in the Great Gorge. Use care when choosing a camp site.