Ski Touring in the Ruth Amphitheater

Rate this Adventure Alaska Talkeetna Airport, Alaska

Added by Stephen Matera

Enjoy epic views of some of the world's most amazing glaciated mountain scenery and Denali Peak. Ski tour on one of the thickest glaciers in the world. For accommodations, book your stay in the Sheldon Mountain House with up to six people. This trip is great for 1 week+.

The Ruth Amphitheater is a lesser known, but spectacularly beautiful glaciated part of Denali National Park. There is terrain for any skier's tastes, from flat, wide open touring to steep, gnarly descents, and house-swallowing crevasses. If you're lucky and plan ahead, you can reserve the Sheldon Mountain House to stay in and have a warm fire, a padded shelf to sleep on, and a place to shelter from the storms...and there will be storms. This is Alaska!

Fly in to the Ruth Amphitheater from Talkeetna, the main jumping-off point for climbers heading into the Alaska Range to Climb Denali Peak (most people know it as Mt. McKinley). On a clear day, you will look up 15,000' to the summit of Denali. There are many flight services into the Ruth Amphitheater, but one good option is Paul Roderick at Talkeetna Air Taxi.

The skiing options are endless. You can spend days touring around one valley or the next. The wide-open Ruth Glacier is so big, you can do an out-and-back and it will take all day. Explore the Great Gorge, just a few miles from the Sheldon Mountainhouse. The ice at the mouth of the Great Gorge is 3,700' deep and the walls rise over 5,000' from the surface of the glacier. Peer over at the Moose's Tooth and consider what it takes to summit the classic climb.

The scenery is as good as it gets. Being in Alaska also means you might see the Aurora Borealis, so a decent camera and tripod are essential, especially since you will be flying in.

The weather in the Alaska Range is notoriously bad and fickle, however, so you will need to plan an extra day or two on either side of your trip to allow for weather delays. Even in summer, it can be winter-like in the Alaska Range. But in spring, it can be brutally cold – a spring night camping on the glacier can reach -25 degrees F, which means that even the campstove fuel won't ignite without holding a flame on it for a while.

You will need to know how to travel safely in glacial terrain. This means ropes, ice axes, and all the standard safety equipment. The crevasses are big enough to swallow a large house, and they are deep enough to seemingly disappear into the depths of the earth.

Plan to stay at least a week or longer to take advantage of this amazing area.

Pack List

  • 4 season tent
  • Minimum zero degree sleeping bag
  • Winter camping essentials
  • Glacier travel gear, including ropes, crampons, ice axe
  • The warmest clothes you can purchase!
  • Maps
  • A good book to read on weather days
  • A good camera and tripod
  • Backcountry touring skis with a good touring binding (Dynafit, etc.)
  • Touring skins
  • Firewood for the stove if you are in the Sheldon Mountain House
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Activities:

Chillin, Photography, Skiing

Skill Level:

Advanced

Season:

Spring, Summer

Features:

Scenic

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Added by Stephen Matera

Stephen is a Seattle-based outdoor adventure, lifestyle, and landscape photographer. He has worked with companies in the outdoor industry for over 15 years as well as some of the biggest national magazines in the adventure world. He travels and shoots for his clients in the western U.S., Alaska, and internationally, but is completely happy to shoot in his backyard mountains in the Pacific Northwest.

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