Two New Routes on The Moose’s Tooth – Scott Adamson

During the month of April, Scott Adamson teamed up with two different climbing partners to make the first ascents up two new routes on the east face of The Moose’s Tooth in Alaska. With Pete Tapley, Adamson climbed the first ascent of NWS (1400m V WI6 M5), the east face’s first free route. Four days later, Adamson teamed up with Chris Wright to climb the first ascent of Terror (1500m VI WI6 M7 R/X A2). In his own words, this is Adamson’s narration of how it all went down:

NWS 2008 Attempt. I first tried the NWS line in 2008 with my brother Tom Adamson. We bivyed out on a small ledge during a two-day storm half way up. We eventually woke up to some good /better weather and continued climbing to the crux. The crux was a big roof with no ice and a little bit of something you could turn pink or blue and call cotton candy. The gear on this section we pretty much none. It was at that highpoint that we backed off and returned to camp.

NWS 2010 Attempt. With the Mugs Stump Award, Matt Tuttle and I tried NWS two more times. Just like in 2008, we were blasted by bad weather—high winds spin-drifting the route. We spent two separate nights in a cramped snow hole waiting for things to calm down. Our highpoint on that trip was just below the ridgeline that leads to the summit, between the tower and the ridge, not the headwall. I remember Matt climbing up to one of the belays with an ice lens plastered to the right side of his face. I could only make out a small bit of his face threw the mask of ice he was wearing. We actually spent Easter morning in our snow hole where I pulled out two peeps for us to munch on. We ate those cute yellow birds head first with some coffee. That helped make things better, but not all right.

Scott Adamson getting jiggy with it on the NWS crux.
NWS 2013 Ascent. (1400m V WI6 M5) Pete Tapley and I started up NWS with high hopes to summit when Pete’s ice tool broke just below my previous snow hole bivy from 2010. The weather was spectacular too. I wasn’t stoked on the forced early retreat. We went back up a day later and were able to pass all my previous high points and made it to the summit. We did the route on April 13-14 in one push. It took us 34.5 hours to climb NWS from shrund to shrund with only three brew stops.
The crux this time had ice. It had a big steep pillar that was detached by a horizontal fracture. You could easily hug that thing nice and tight and grab your other hand. It forced me to do some rock moves until I could get above the cracks. The crux pitch wasn’t so bad this go-around. Rapping off went smoother than in the past, considering in 2010 we had to descend with one rope from about half way up.

Scott Adamson on the upper calf pumping headwall of NWS.
During our last brew stop the stove got wind that everything was going great, so it decided to stop working properly. On top of that Pete somehow dumped most of our Mountain House mac and cheese all over and into his drying gloves after stashing the warm packet inside his coat. He looked like a child that was just given a chocolate ice cream cone on a hot summer day. You get the picture. Fueled on mac and cheese, we climbed the last three pitches to top out with great weather. We took our boots off for a minute before starting back down.

NWS is not a weak route; it is the first free route on the east face. The route has a house-sized hanger above you the whole time just to keep the nerves on edge. It is all new climbing until the last 2 or 3 pitches of Arctic Rage. We did descend the route to get down.

Terror 2013 Ascent. (1,500m VI WI6 M7 R/X A2) After finishing up the NWS, I was chilling in base camp when Chris Wright approached me. Chris Wright had just bailed off the new line he was attempting.  His partner, Geoff Unger, had been injured previous to the trip and clearly hadn’t recovered. Chris walked over and just threw it on the table. You could fill the emotion in his voice, “Would you guys be interested in heading back up?” Without even thinking, I said “Yea! I can be ready tomorrow.” He actually gave me one extra day to rest. This meant that I’d have only 4 days of rest after my 34-hour push on NWS. I guess I knew the timeframe I was dealing with and was willing to push it again. I was flying out a few days later anyways.

I spent a lot of time glassing this route. It goes directly up the most consistent mixed rock on the east face. We woke at 2 am and skied over to Chris’ cache at the base. The average temps that week at night were somewhere around -15º F with the usual 20mph headwind.

We racked up and made quick progress to Chris’ original highpoint. We simul-soloed off the shrund and up past the gearless 600 feet of WI4+ climbing. On the ”racing stripes” section, we shagged our ropes out and started burning off leads. We hit Chris’ original first bivy in half the time it previously took him. We brewed up on the flat chopped out bivy platform before Chris moved up the next pitch fast and fluidly. The top of this pitch was there high point and Chris knew the gear and movement from his last time on it. It was steep and full of shaky gear.

If I had known that every pitch, minus a few, would be at the same difficulty for the next three days, I would have brought more toilet paper. I didn’t think I could get so pumped out at a belay just trying to stay warm. With all the climbing and the dancing in place to stay warm, I experienced my very own Fonda and Simmons fused workout…but without the oldies blaring in the background.
We eventually reached a great spot to bivy. We were both strung out and the wind had picked up making the bivy a total production. We were both wide-eyed but content with a third of the tent hanging off the ledge. We passed out in our own happy fetal positions.

After another no gear, good gear, attached, detached fully delaminated big portion of stacked m-6, m-7, and WI5/6 we managed another full day. We rolled into our second bivy spot on pure intuition. It was 2 am and I was very happy to bed down on a full platform. I think Dr Seuss would be proud of this location. In fact I’m sure he had something to do with this mountain. The summit ridge was all Seussical too.

Chris Wright showing off the hotel california bivy on Terror.
Things were going at best they could, until some time in the night. I thought it was a great idea to use the freeze-dried food bag as a urine container. Fill it up and pour it out in the morning; or even better have your partner pour it out the tent for you. Well I did the deed and was removing it from my down-bag when the bag caught and spilled. I didn’t even know it had happened. My sleeping bag suddenly felt warmer than usual. Not cool. That was my armature hour.

The next morning brought us more sustained climbing right out of the bivy belay. We slept high on the route and figured we were three pitches to the snow top. We were close and it was a sunny day with no wind. However, summits don’t come that easy, they never do. Sure enough I was on the sharp end hammering in a nut 10 feet off the belay for good measure. I climbed above it another body length, tapped in my left tool then tapped in my right. I instantly found myself waving both tools in the air. I fell a bit and landed on a snow mushroom and cartwheeled into the belay. Chris then said, “I’m glad we got that out of the way.”

Chris Wright showing off his intuition skills. Last bit of the climbing to the top of Terror.
We cruised across the Seussical ridge to the summit and gave each other high-fives. We brought all our gear up the route with us so we could rap down the NWS route that already had established rappels. A blur of v-threads and a down climb lead us both to our skis at the bottom. Our round trip from our camp lasted a total of 67 hours.

The Moose's Tooth. Red=Terror. Blue=NWS.

With Levitations and Hail Marys (2004), NWS, and Terror, that makes 3 firsts on The Moose’s Tooth massif for me. I’m thinking I should go find some new hunting grounds.

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