Austrian alpinists Alex Blümel and Gerhard "Gerry" Fiegl pounced on two brief weather windows in the Alaskan Ruth Gorge to complete the coveted second ascent of the Tooth Traverse as well as the first ascent of Beauty and the Beast (5.11c, A3 2,100 feet) on the Gargoyle.
Blümel and Fiegl arrived in the rugged Ruth Gorge on May 19, and were disappointed to find dangerous conditions in the mountains. "Weather wise, everything was brilliant," explains Fiegl, "but the mountains started to shake off their winter jacket." However, the two alpinists bided their time scouting the conditions and observing the ice fall and avalanches storming the surrounding peaks. While analyzing the surrounding Ruth Gorge, Fiegl and Blümel began envisioning an unclimbed line on the Gargoyle--a 2,500 foot granite monolith. The line boasted a large system of cracks, corners and dihedrals that the alpinists believed would lead them to the summit. So on May 28, Fiegl and Blümel gathered gear and motivation and set off for the adventure.
Fiegl says they encountered "perfectly solid rock" down low on the route, which consisted of finger cracks, roofs and flakes. But after a bivy midway up the face, the nature of the route changed dramatically. Forced into a 100-foot, poorly protected section of "loose and chossy rock" sometimes covered in snow and ice, the alpinists resorted to aid climbing. Fiegl describes the pitch as a "tough, psycho fight against conditions like that and hardly any more pleasure if dry!" The Austrians managed to push through and summited their new route, which they named Beauty and the Beast due to the juxtaposition of the route's lower "beautiful" section with that of the scary beast awaiting near the top. Fiegl and Blümel bivied on the summit to wait for the snow to freeze before descending. They used one bolt (on the aid section) and left two pitons in-situ during their first ascent.
After their first ascent, Fiegl and Blümel spent several days in their tents as the weather window was interrupted with storms. However, while waiting out the weather, the Austrians spent time socializing with their camp neighbors--American climbers Alex Honnold, Freddie Wilkinson and Renan Ozturk. Ozturk and Wilkinson recounted their previous year's adventure of establishing the Tooth Traverse--a five-mile-long skyline enchainment of the Moose Tooth massif, from Espresso Gap to Ruth Gap. Ozturk and Wilkinson had finally completed the alpine objective on May 22, 2012, after four years of attempts. The Austrians grew more psyched as they heard the tales of what Wilkinson and Ozturk described as one of the "most challenging and rewarding mountain adventures" they had ever had.
Eventually, the stormy weather lifted and on June 6, Fiegl and Blümel set out for the Tooth Traverse at 10 p.m. The Austrians reached the summit of Sugar Tooth (8,000 feet) the next day around lunch time. After a brief nap, the duo then set off up the Talkeetna Standard (V 5.9 WI5, 3,300 feet) on the south ridge of Eye Tooth (9,000 feet). The alpinists completed the Talkeetna Standard and then bivied below the summit after a 24-hour effort. Next, Fiegl and Blümel spent 12 hours navigating the heavily corniced terrain to reach the top of Bears Tooth (10,070 feet), where they then bivied for the night. "The third day was a long one again," writes Fiegl. "Rappelling the Russian Route from Bears Tooth and climbing the Swamp Donkey Express [5.9+ A2+ plus some mixed climbing, 750m] up Mooses Tooth [10,335 feet] took about 14 hours, but the day was not over." The Austrians then endured a long descent through "tricky cornices" in dim light. However, Fiegl and Blümel reached base camp at 9 a.m. on June 10, having completed the second ascent of the Tooth Traverse after roughly 83 hours of climbing.