Weekend Warm-Up: Moose’s Tooth

Twenty-four kilometres south of Denali, Moose’s Tooth stands a modest 3,150m. The relatively short ascent still packs a punch.

In this short video, Mark and Janelle Smiley take on the west ridge of Moose’s Tooth for the second time. Three years earlier, they had turned back before the summit in poor snow conditions. Their return was spurred by one of the bibles of climbing literature, Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, by Steve Roper and Allen Steck. The fifty climbs span the continent and offer a tantalizing checklist for the most committed. The Smileys hope to knock off all fifty.

Moose’s Tooth was proving a tricky forty-first hurdle. The difficulty of the west ridge is obvious: over a mile of heavily corniced ridgeline and plenty of loose snow and rock. The cornice looks particularly hairy, a huge overhang of snow that could hide a fracture point far from the lip. But that’s not all; first, there’s a hanging serac to nervously shuffle past and then the long ice couloirs to navigate.

No walk in the park. Photo: Mark Smiley


If the Smileys felt the weight of this objective danger, you wouldn’t know it from the video. The pair inch up the mountain in glorious sunshine. They set up high camp at 2,400m before a final tightrope to the main summit.

Three years after their first attempt, they succeed in crossing off another classic climb from The Book. Reviewing their effort, Mark poses a question that only they can answer: “Am I using my skill here or just getting lucky, dodging bullets?”