Video by Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman 
Edited by Graham Zimmerman

Music accompanied HD Video of Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman's account of their unplanned descent off the  Southeast Buttress of Mt. Bradley in the Great Ruth Gorge of the Alaska Range. This is a short look into the 99 hour epic resulting in the new Route Vitalogy, Alaska grade V, M6+ WI5 5.9R A1. This video covers how the two climbers run out of food, are force into undiscovered country, and then get pinned by large AK storms ultimately changing their plans. 

Alaska 2010 - Post #4, Getting Down and Out from Graham ZImmerman on Vimeo.


Video by Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman 
Edited by Graham Zimmerman

 A musically enhanced HD video  of Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman's ascent of the Southeast Buttress of Mt. Bradley in the Great Ruth Gorge of the Alaska Range. This is a short look into the 66 hour effort resulting in the new Route Vitalogy, Alaska grade V, M6+ WI5 5.9R A1.  The video addresses the first attempt, their trails, and the summit of the new route.

Alaska 2010 - Post #3, Committing to the Unknown from Graham ZImmerman on Vimeo.


Video by Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman 
Edited by Graham Zimmerman

 A musically enhanced HD video  of Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman's ascent of the Southeast Buttress of Mt. Bradley in the Great Ruth Gorge of the Alaska Range. This video tell the story of how the two climbers had to change plans because of weather and other unforeseen obstacles. This resulted in landing the the climbers in the Ruth Gorge of the Alaska Range. Now they where looking for new terrain to be climbed.

Alaska Expedition 2010 - Post #2, Onto the Glacier and Into the Fold from Graham ZImmerman on Vimeo.


By By Dougald MacDonald / Colorado Mountain Journal

On their second attempt, Americans Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman completed a significant new route on Mt. Bradley (9,100'/2,774m) in the Ruth Gorge of Alaska in early April....Read More 


Washington Climbers Kick Off Alaska Season 

by Erik Lambert 

The southeast face of Mt. Bradley (9,104'), Ruth Gorge, Alaska Range, Alaska, where Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman established Vitalogy (Alaska Grade V: M6+ WI5 5.9 R A1, 4,600') earlier this month. The team climbed for 99 hours camp-to-camp. Read more.....

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Topos by Mark Allen 
Watercolor by Dr. Lee J. Allen

       During my adolescence my father began painting watercolor. He has always had an artistic frequency running steady through out the lives of his three Allen boys. I, the youngest, was around during the his transition to watercolor. It was the same time I began alpine climbing. His dedication to his skills gave him alpine starts before commuting to his dental practice in Everett WA and brushing out a few layers of his paintings 3-4 days a week. The weekends were for watercolor classes and preparing the next weeks paper. 15 years later we both find ourselves reaching new hights in our personal progression. Every year we get a little smoother and a little higher, exploring new terrain. It has been fun to spectate his growth. This year the National Water Color Society has selected by jury Dr. Allen to be included in the 2010 National Show in Los Angeles, CA: a personal lifetime achievement and national recognition.
     I have been bugging him for the last year to collaborate on a project with me. A project we take on together but depending on the others skill to complete it, much like in alpine climbing . I will draw my rendition of the route, peak, or line and he uses it as an armature to express his version of color, light, and shadow with brush. 

Mark Allen's Topo of Vitalogy. A pencil drawing was drafted in the Ruth Gorge Base Camp in tent city 24 hours after the climb. An Ink pen version was recreated in Seattle.  A copy machine version was inked  and then digitally photographed to Jpeg. The file was printed on Water color paper that Dr. Allen painted the color layer on. Then Finally digitally photographed.

       I hammer out a final draft after several adaptations of my lifeless ink drawing. My Micron pens outline all the important information of the route with a hint of third dimension. I hand it to my Father waiting for his approval and that it's ready for the next phase. As he adds his wet paint, he controls the bleed of ink, manipulating it to his desire. Purple,Yellow, Brow, Blue he forms the mountain into a feeling and giving it life. Much like a human has a body over their skelaton, it takes form and beauty over the structured line of ink.

The Allen-Allen finale rendition after collaboration. I was amazed at the difference in dimension the color added after my Father was done with the Water Color layer. 

          My father does not yet know that he has opened pandora's box. This has only provoked a greater desire to approach him with more ideas and collaborate more. This was a small but fun project. What makes it special, is the unification of our two passions. I reflect on this climb and have found it to be comprised of moments like this one. Its what makes Vitalogy.


Mountains of the Ruth Gorge; a few usual suspects and new peaks coming to the light

Photos by Mark Allen

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SE Face of Mt. Bradley, SE Buttress (left skyline)

North Face of Church in the background and also showing the unclimbed East Ridge and North Face  of Johnson. Wake's East Buttress in the foreground.

North Face of Church

East Face

East Face 

NE Aspects of after a good snow

E and SE face

Southwest Face 

Southwest Faces of all the Tooth cluster. Mooses Tooth on the left, Bear in the middle (snow), and the Eye tooth towering in the right


April 16th

After receiving 150cm (60”) of new snow in at our base camp in the Ruth Gorge over the last 7 days (April 7th-14th) and the Gri Gri boys (Japan’s premier club of Alpinists), Graham, and I spent several hours over the last few storm days stomping out a glacial run way for Paul Roderick to land his plane and digging out camp.

We chose to end the trip early because the only good fly day in the next several days and the peaks will not have time to shed all the new snow in time for us to climb. So we simply focused on getting out in time.

Building a runway is very time consuming. The size and length required to land the Beaver or the Otter bush planes is a great length when skies are your tools. Several times our works were covered by new snow but all the packing improved the success of the landing and more importantly the take off. A few times we had breaks in the storm fit for a pick-up but it was snowing heavily in Talkeetna thus the airport was shut down. To bide our time in tent city. With the aid of the solar panel and ipod technology we had countless hours of pod-casts, such as Radio Lab, BBC documentaries, Savage Love, Dirtbag Diaries this is what a typical day looks like….

8:00am- Wake up. hit the inside of the tent so the snow slides off outside go back to sleep.
9:30am- Think about waking up- turn on a Radio Lab podcast and indulge for 45min, brush the snow off the solar panel
10:15am- Graham makes coffee and I start digging out camp, make a weather observations
11:30am-Eat, listen to this American Life
12:30pm-Dig out camp, make a weather observation
1:30pm- Retreat to Tent, Read, Sleep, Pod-cast
3:00pm-Make Quesadillas
3:30pm-Start drinking whiskey, talk about climbing
4:00pm-Make hot chocolate with whiskey and continue to talk about how cool it would be to be climbing
4:30pm-Go back to the tent and watch a BBC broadcast
6:00pm-make a huge meal and talk about how cool its going to be when we get to climb after it stops snowing.
7:00pm Weather observation and work on the runway, dig out camp.
8:00pm Watch a movie in the tent talk about how good its going to be when it stops snowing


April 15th We had a wild pick up as Paul Roderick and TAT co-pilot Will tag teamed all the glacial pick-ups and drop-offs. Its been 7-days since a plane has left the airport so the list is long for folks wanting to fly. Will landed the Beaver in the Gorge and over shot the strip because of a strong tail wind and powered the ski plane through a turn and back to our stomped out loading zone slightly breaking a sweat. I have never seen a plane get face shots now I have, it was an amazing sight.

Now back in Talkeetna drinking beer at the Fairview, smelling the plants for first time, de-gearing, and reacquainting our selves with old friends and Talkeetna counting down until we fly back with Seattle.

Graham and I are now going through all of the media and will be putting together some video dispatches, photos, route and trip beta, all go will the older posts for your enjoyment. Thanks for all of your support and your interest in our trip. Until next year!

Alpinist wrote a summery of our climb that is nice and consice having most of the details. Follow this link.


Graham Zimmerman and Mark Allen at Ruth Gorge Base Camp with the Gri Gri Boys ; Mas, Nagato, and Caz (left to right)
April 13th, 11PM
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It's been snowing every day here and has left over a meter of snow since we returned to camp on the 7th. So we've been tent-bound and waiting for the weather to clear. Today we received word that forecasts for the gorge are for precipitation to abate a bit Thursday. The forecast after that does not look positive as a storm is approaching from the West with high winds and lots of precipitation. Unless the weather circumstances improve, the snow will encumber our chances of climbing during our remaining days and we will fly out Thursday while the visibility permits it. The good news is that we've run into the Giri-Giri Boys, a group of Japanese climbers who have been pretty accomplished here in the past. We're the only two parties in the Gorge right now, so tonight we're going over to party with them in tent city.

Mark Allen (south paw) in Tent City day 7 drawing the topo for Vitalogy~Graham Zimmerman


April 10th, 11PM
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A quick glimpse of the East Face of Dickey thwarted by weather during our 5 days storm that brought 2 meters of snow that temporarily shut down the 2010 season this spring~ Photo Mark Allen

It's April 10th and Graham and I are all packed up, everything's repaired. We spent the last several days repairing our body's and equipment; eating a bunch of food and getting ready to go. We spent several hours repairing our Black Diamond First Light tent after the ravens opened our gear duffel and pulled it out shredding one of the walls in the process, all while we slept this morning.

We'll be aiming for link up of SE face and the South face of Mt. Huntington. We're planning on being out for 4-5 days, and just got word that we're going to have some bad weather: Precipitation up to about 10" of snow next 48 hours ( Sun/Mon ) so we're just going to stay here until Tuesday morning and then head out of camp then. We'll give you guys an update on Tuesday and then we'll use our remaining time to tackle the link-up on Huntington. We're super pumped, and we'll talk to you soon.

Pair of Mono point crampons with the classic dolphin nose after 29 pitches of mixed climbing. 
~Photo Graham Zimmerman

A roached Black Diamond pick after dragging for placements. 
~Photo Graham Zimmerman 


April 7th, 12:30 AM

Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman on the summit of Mt. Bradley (9,104ft) after the 66hr effort to establish a new route on the SE Buttress Vitalogy (Alaska Grade V: M6+ WI5 5.9 R A1, 4,600')

April 5th at 4pm we summited Mt. Bradley via a new route on the SE buttress. This 4600ft buttress of sustained mixed climbing required twenty-nine pitches, nineteen of which are M5 or WI4 or harder. After sixty-six and a half hours including three on-route bivies, Vitalogy, Alaska grade V, M6+ WI5 5.9R A1 was opened. On the evening of April 2nd we left camp and after regaining our highpoint from the first attempt on March 31st, we establish five new pitches before our midday bivy that day.  The 1500ft of climbing included sustained 5.9 rock, an A1 tension traverse, M5 mixed, and a transition from boots to rock shoes and back on lead.

Graham Zimmerman at stance in on the second snow bench belaying Mark Allen gaining a snow prow on the SE Buttress and safe haven for a bivi. ~Photo Mark Allen

Graham coming into the Prow after a spice 140m unprotected snow wallow. Steep terrain above reminds us of our low position on the route~Photo Mark Allen

The Prow Bivi about 1500ft up the route after pitch 7 of new climbing. North Face of Mt. Wake in the background. This was a 6 hour mid day bivi to wait for snow slopes to refreeze and ice conditions in the coulior to improve.

After the bivi we headed out in the cooler temps of the afternoon as the slopes came into the shade and cast off into the headwall couloir looking for ice~Photo Graham Zimmerman

Photo of the Second Snow Bench, the Prow Bivi (bottom left), and the Ribbon a 1000ft of ice that on the second night took us to the second Bivi on the ridge just left of the couloirs exit. This was the prize of the route and the most memorable climbing. We then had to wait until first light to navigate the complex blocky ridge. This was our reward for climbing the six pitches of ice quickly. ~Photo Mark Allen

 We encountered cooler temps the next afternoon and began a beautiful ice ribbon, 1000ft in length, averaging WI4 with cruxes of M5+ and WI5. This was by far the most enjoyable climbing on the entire route. Then, we continued up a steep, blocky ridge. This was one the first of three storms hit. We climbed in full conditions to the base of a large 1000ft granite tower, the second major crux of the route. The storm broke while we pushed seven pitches of sustained mixed climbing until we were spent. We spent the night on an exposed ledge perch bivy, and then we finished the tower and simul-climbed to the summit on steep exposed snow slopes and spines. When we topped out, there was much rejoycing and we saw two ravens circling us before they joined us on the summit. This was the first sign of widlife we've had the entire trip. We had perfect weather when we summited and it was awesome climbing through the storm. We spent about thirty minutes on the summit and finished our food and found that the normal descent was out this season. So we were forced to rappell into undiscovered country, 1500 ft down the headwall to a glacier and then descend 1000ft of icefall to the valley Backside Glacier and an a safe bivy (under and overhang of rock tucked close to the glacial valley walls while spin drift avalanches poured over) . That's when the second storm hit and it brought twelve to twenty inches of new snow in places, pinning us down for a day without food and little fuel. Then the next afternoon during a clearing we were ready to start wading through seven kilometers of new snow over the entire backside glacier back around 747 pass and then down into the Ruth glacier to gain our camp. A third storm hit, requiring us to navigate in a whiteout, in the dark, to find our camp. We finally got back to camp after 99 hours. It was an extremely challenging endeaver and we're super psyched to have completed the line.. it's a beautiful feature on the peak.

The Tower. This was a long series of cruxes on the route . The original weakness spotted from the glacier was the horizontal snow ramps leading to a couloir right of the tower. The first storm would bring too much spin drift/ sluffs to make that a safe option. This forced us into steeper terrain free from major drainages of snow. We climbed the ridge crest to the base then climbed Tower left (just left of skyline left in this photo) up a system of dihedrals.  After the 5th Tower pitch (route pitch 25) we Bivied a third time by fixing the line and rapping down 200ft to a ledge we had spotted earlier~ Photo Mark Allen

Graham at the Tower Bivi the morning of summit day. The pedestal was just big enough for 90% of the tent but provided a great place to sleep in a flat place under a large roof protecting us from what loomed above. It was the most aesthetic bivi we had on the climb. View of Wakes North Wall were stunning as fresh snow shed of the peaks.~ Photo Mark Allen

Graham busting the last M5 Pitch of the tower on excellent granite. These last two pitches of the 6 Tower pitches were the most fun, they were the lest stressful yet tricky short bouldery cruxes and good. and hooks in frozen blocks. 
~Photo Mark Allen

Graham and Mark Allen Transition to simul-climbing for the summit spine. We would have the leader with the lighter pack one full 70m 1/2 rope to even the loads and fold the other line in half and lead out with 30m of rope still with the advantages of double lines~Photo Mark Allen

Graham Zimmerman about to discover the normal descent off Bradley to be out and force the pair to descent into no-mans-land. Huntington and the approaching storm in the background. Winds will soon pick up later to snow 15-20 inches pinning the pair during the descent without food and very little fuel
~Photo Mark Allen


April 2nd, 2pm
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Mark Allen recons Mt. Bradley's 4600ft SE Buttress (left hand slyline) of Mt. Bradley before the first attempt. The route begins with a "Lighting Bolt Coulior" that gains acsess to the buttress~Graham Zimmerman

Graham Zimmerman climbs the mushroom tunnel after the Lightning bolt Courlior at the end of the first 700ft pitch~Photo Mark Allen

We retreated yesterday after about 7 pitches on the SE face of Bradley so we did not continue up and bivy.  As we were coming down the route, from our high point our ropes got stuck and we had to resort to some alpine trickery to get our the ropes back and then we had to hang out on the wall for an additional hour in a cave while heat of day threated the stability of some loose snow slopes.  Once everything cooled down we could safely walk back to our skis and ski back to camp.  So we're back here now... just chilling, our pirate flag is still up.  Now, we're going to go right back up onto the wall but we're going to have a different strategy.  Instead of leaving at 3am, we're going to leave at 3pm ( Friday ).  And then climb through the cold of the day and then through the night and hang out in the heat of the day ( Saturday ) for our bivies.  We'll get about 9 hours of climbing and bivy in the sunshine, and then come off the next day.  We're going to go for the same route.  [ listen to the podcast for full route description ...about 500 ft of steep snow up a ramp, leads to 5.10 offwidth in a cave, pop out of the cave to the crux ]  And we figured out how to get through the crux, we needed to bring rock shoes.  So we're going to bring rock shoes this time and we think we'll be able to finish    
the route in this style.  We're still psyched and conditions are improving every day.

Mark Allen Heading back to base camp on the Ruth Glacier under to looming North Face of Mt. Bradley home of the "Spice Factory" ~Photo Graham Zimmeran


March 31st

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Paul Roderick dropped the two of us off in the great Ruth Gorge at 4,450 feet on the glacier between Mt. Dickey and Mt. Bradley. We spent the first two days getting dug in, setting up tents, building snow walls, so that our camp will be safe from the weather unattended. We took several ski tours up and down the glacier from camp to see what was in good climbing condition and we can see that several of the hopeful lines will be coming into shape soon yet have been loaded with fresh snowfall in the last seventy-two hours and need to clear by sloughing off for safe climbing.

That said we have choosen a mixed rock and ice climb on an attempt on an unclimbed line on the Southeast Buttress of Mt. Bradley which is not threatened by large snow slopes. We are climbing with bivouac gear intending to spend one night on the wall and summit on the second day. The temps here have been perfect, ranging between fifteen degrees and thirty-two degrees Farenheit, and the barometer looks to be holding.

Graham Zimmerman choosing a line in the Ruth Gorge~Photo Mark allen

SE Buttress of Mt. Dickey from Base Camp in the Great Ruth Gorge~Photo Mark Allen 

We're super pumped for this climbing and to be climbing together on such a beautiful peak. Wish us safe climbing and we will post our progression when we return. We've been having a great time, laughing a lot, we've been having beautiful weather, a couple small snow storms, and we're just really psyched to be getting after it. We just can't stop taking pictures this place is super beautiful, super majestic. Graham says love you all and he'll talk to you all when he's down. Apart from that.... ah, we've gotour prayer flag up. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, we are the only people here in the Alaska range, period. There's no one else that's flown in this season, we're totally alone, and this is kind of unheard of and we have this place totally to ourselves, so it's a pretty amazing situtaion. Alright! We'll be back in two days and we'll make our next dispatch then.
Mark Allen ski touring the Gorge scoping climbs in condition~Photo Graham Zimmerman



March 28th : Dispatch Two

After running around feverishly in Anchorage (getting a flat in Joes Stock’s civic) and getting all of our kit, we have now made it to snowy Talkeetna via the graces of longtime K2 pilot and friend Tony Martin. After meeting with our pilot Paul Roderick of Talkeetna Air Taxi, he has informed us that we will not be able to land in the Private Idaho glacial landing zone below the South Face of Huntington. Private Idaho is the location Jack Tackle and Jay Smith landed last season 09’ when establishing the first assent of the route we intend to target Prizefight -V WI5 M5 R completing a line to the subsidiary summit of the Southeast Face below the South face.

What this means to our expedition is that we will forgo getting dropped with a base camp at the base of Huntington South or East faces as previously planed. Now we are focusing on digging in a camp the Great Ruth Gorge within range of dozens of climbing objective. The conditions and temperatures are good for climbing here right now making potential for getting things done. Paul Roderick will be landing us with 350lbs of food and gear in a large corridor positioned just between Bradley and Dickey. From hear we will travel the strip of the Ruth Glacier and window shop for a route coming up with a strategy for climbing a peak.

We also have been informed that we are the only party in the Alaska Range right now to the parks knowledge. This will change soon enough but for now Graham and I have the Alaska Range to ourselves which is a rare experience.

As for South Face of Huntington there has been little activity there because of the very problem of access. We are in good position to evaluate attempting the 1979 approach, which would entail several kilometers of glacier travel, and a few ice falls, a full scale AK mountaineering multi-day approach. We are hoping to gain more information from the flight into the area. More than anything Graham and I are ready to go climbing enjoy all the highs and lows of climbing here in this majestic place.
Wish us luck and stay tuned.


Mark And Graham will be giving dispatch updates from the Glacier after we fly in on the 28th of March. They will be updating the trip every 3-4 days relaying the details of there climbing. More Later.

ALASKA RANGE, RUTH EXPEDITION 2010 INTRO from Mark Allen on Vimeo.


Team Profile

Graham Zimmerman ~ 23 North Cascades, WA YOSAR

As the youngest member of YOSAR team, Graham is already making a strong mark on the climbing scene at 24 years old. His ascents have included first ascents and significant repeats in Patagonia, Kyrgyzstan, New Zealand and North America. These include technical multi day alpine routes, VI walls (often in a push) and high end rock and ice routes. This will be Graham's second expedition to the Alaska Range.

Mark Allen~31 North Cascades, WA Mountain Guide

Mark is a Full AMGA Aspirant, AMGA Certified Rock, and Ski Mountaineering Guide. Mark has many published first ascents in the North Cascades in the Alpine. His climbing expeditions have taken him to Patagonia Argentina and Chile, Central Range Alaska, New Zealand, China, Nepal, and Antarctica. Mark is a full-time Lead Guide for International Mountain Guides and North Cascades Mountain Guides in Washington and Ski Mountaineering guide operating out of the San Juans Colorado. Mark is becoming a fixture in the industry after 10 years of dedication. This is Mark’s 2nd consecutive personal expedition into the Ruth Gorge after and his 10th AK


The rarely seen East aspect of Huntington. Photo~Mark Allen

Expedition Location: Ruth and Tokasitna Glaciers - Central Alaska Range, Alaska USA

Date of Expedition: March 26 - April 20

Expedition Climbers: Mark Allen, Graham Zimmerman

Contact: The sentinel guard to the Lower Ruth Gorge Wake, Johnson, Grossvanor ~Photo Mark Allen

In March, we will embark on a four-week expedition to the Central Alaska Range to establish two new routes on major peaks. Our team plans to climb with style and creativity and is also possessed of a variety of practiced multimedia skills to document and promote the expedition. We therefore seek symbiotic partnerships with outfitters who may value our promotion and climbing skills as well as our commitment to this project; we are deeply motivated towards making this significant contribution to our personal achievements and to Alaskan climbing history. We invite you to read on and consider being a partner in our success.

The Ruth andTokasitna Glaciers in the Central Alaska Range have been in the center of alpinist activity in North America. Within this venue we will pursue mixed alpine objectives while establishing new routes on major peaks. We are dedicating four weeks during prime alpine season to accomplish two target objectives: Routes in the Lower Ruth Gorge and the Southeast Face of Mt Huntington.

Our prime objective: This face has been visited once in 1979 during the pioneer FA of the South Face V AI 4 of Huntington by Jay-Kerr-Thomas-Woolums. Recently Tackle-Smith established a far more technical line to the lower portions of the mountain Prizefight V 5.9R, WI4+/5 M6, 18+ pitches up the Southeast Face to the summit of the South Peak, falling short of the summit, and descended the lower sections of the 1979 South Face route. Southeast Face of the South Peak of Huntington still has serious potential for new routes [as confirmed by Jack Tackle]. At minimum we intend to FA link Prizefight V 5.9R, WI4+/5 M6 Smith-Tackle 2008 with the South Face V AI 4-1979 completing the second ascent of both lines and tagging the summit. We will not exclude any chance for a new independent line.

The East Face of Mt. Dickey. One of the many objectives to be looked at for possible climbing during our time there this year. Photo~Mark Allen


As the largest face in the Ruth Gorge the 5000ft East face has for a long time been synonymous with hard technical alpinism. During this early season trip we intend to explore new terrain on the East Faces of the Ruth Gorge. A careful watch will be kept for other routes forming on surrounding peaks (Wake, Bradley, ect.), which may be unique for the early season.


BLACK DIAMOND, Outdoor Research, FEATHERED FRIENDS, New England Ropes MAXIM, and JUBLO are our sponsoring outfitters for this climb. They are providing us will the gear that we will be paramount during our ascents. Please go to OUR SPONSORS and be linked to their products.


REAL TIME Updated Expedition Blog: located here

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