Last week I sat down for a remote chat with Valdez, Alaska-based ice climber, Ryan Sims. Ryan is an Engineer with the Valdez Fire Department, but when he’s not putting out fires, both literally and figuratively, he’s part of a new generation of crushers in the ice mecca of Valdez and Thompson Pass, where some of the best ice climbing in North America exists.
But last month, Ryan teamed up with another Alaskan, the seasoned alpine zen-master, Sam Johnson, to do some exploratory first ascents far from Valdez. Supported with grants from Xplore Alaska and Summit Sealants, the team started out in Sam’s hometown of Seward, Alaska – where they made the second ascent of Blood Moon, and the first ascent of Varcolaci – which are both technical 245 meter routes.
From there, the duo flew down to Juneau, where they chartered a helicopter and flew into the Suicide Basin – a remote ice and mixed climbing arena on the Mendenhall Glacier. It was there in February 2012, that Sam, Tim Banfield, and the late Ryan Johnson, established a classic grade V ice route called Bathtime For Toaster. Sam and Johnson returned again in 2018, 6 weeks before Ryan’s passing, climbing a route called Path Of The Fallen – which turned out to be Ryan’s second to last first ascent.
This time, Sam and Ryan Sims headed into the Suicide basin, to see if they could establish another new line. Landing in the shady and bitterly cold amphitheater, the team quickly set up their basecamp, then headed for the rime-coated wall. Here’s Ryan’s account of the route they climbed. A route they named Infinite Jester, in honor of Ryan Johnson.
Music by Evan Phillips