Bivy of a lifetime on Mount Dickey—AMAZING photo!
This was most certainly the bivouac of a lifetime. How did Mathieu Détrie, Mathieu Maynadier, Seb Ibanez and I end up perched on this perfect mushroom of snow partway up Mount Dickey’s 1,600 meter northeast ridge? Not without some difficulty. It all started back in France, with a team from the French Alpine Club. We had planned a month-long expedition to Alaska’s Ruth Gorge, located in Denali National Park.
The expedition got off to a rocky start. One of the Mathieus arrived at the airport in Lyon without his passport. A frantic call to his mother sent her racing from Grenoble, two hours away, to the Lyon airport. I joked with the check-in employee that a bomb scare would probably buy us the time we needed for the passport to be delivered to the airport. The employee somehow didn’t find my joke funny, in fact she was furious. Luckily Mat’s passport arrived five minutes before take-off, and they let me on the plane in spite of my unappreciated humour. I decided that maybe it would be better to hold off on such jokes while in the Land of Liberty…
Fast forward to basecamp on the Ruth Glacier, at the foot of Mount Dickey. We were quickly drawn to Dickey’s unclimbed northeast ridge, so we decided to give it a shot right away upon arrival on the glacier. We made our way up the first 500 meters of the route, where we realized that we had underestimated the challenge ahead of us, and overestimated the good weather. Time to bail. When we got back to basecamp, the other part of the team was still working their way up the 1974 Roberts-Rowell-Ward route, in rather bad weather. After five days on the route they finally topped out. We considered changing our objective to the Roberts, since now we had the topo and we knew the route would go, but instead we headed out for an attempt on the route Elevator Shaft on Mount Johnson. This time we didn’t even get to the base of the route! Too many crevasses.
Return to basecamp: more mediocre weather and indecision… Once the weather cleared up a bit, we were back to scoping the northeast ridge, binoculars glued to our faces. Finally, we made a decision: We would head back to the northeast ridge during the next window of good weather.
Departure May 6th at 3 a.m. It was now or never, since the remaining days until our return were quickly diminishing. This time things went as planned. After five days of climbing, including some ice, mixed and an especially long, snowy day of difficult aid up a compact slab, we arrived at this four-star, no-digging-required bivy. From here we could see that there was just one more day of climbing ahead of us. We had enough food left to add an extra package of Ramen noodles to the dinner rations. Yippee! It was at this bivy that the name of the route occurred to us: Move Your Ass and Your Mind Will Follow, inspired by a song by the band Funkadelic.
It was definitely pretty amazing to wake up the next morning perched on top of our magic snow mushroom. Mathieu M. and I started climbing as Seb and Mathieu Détrie packed up camp; that was when I took this photo. By 5 p.m. we were on the summit and a couple of hours later we were down the regular route and back at basecamp, where we celebrated with a giant pot of spaghetti. If only every expedition could turn out as well as this one did!