Photos from a Memorial Day weekend float on the Upper Nenana River from mile 17 of the Denali Park road to the Parks Highway (20 river miles). This is a totally mellow Class I float that, in my opinion, is perhaps the best kid's river in Southcentral AK. ( Read more... )
I've been up and down Motorcycle Hill about a dozen times so it always hits close to home when I read about accidents in a familiar place. I snapped this photo around midnight in early June 2001. In June the sunlight lingers until midnight on Denali and looking up from 11 camp the headwall of the West Buttress Proper glows deep purple in the alpenglow. It's a peaceful camp and a beautiful sight if you can stay awake long enough to watch the sunset. Rest in Peace Yoshiaki Kato, Masako Suda, Michiko Suzuki, and Tamao Suzuki.
In July I spent a week floating the Talachulitna River in Western Cook Inlet with my father-in-law, Alain. We took our time and enjoyed the fishing - spending around 10 hours a day on the water and fishing continuously for trout, dollies, grayling and kings.
We saw Belted Kingfishers, Rusty Blackbirds, Bonaparte's Gull as well as all the usual suspects like Golden Crown Sparrows, Juncos, Chickadees, Gray Jays and Stellar Jays. We saw lots of moose - but only one bear; a young brown bear that on the second day wandered into our fishing hole and stood his ground as we yelled, screamed and held our bear spray at the ready. Thankfully he wandered off without incident but it was enough to make us hyper-bear-aware for the remainder of the trip.
The river had it all: A fun narrow log chocked creek at the start where we were forced to drag, push and pull our raft. 20 miles of flat water teaming with rolling kings, fat rainbows and hungry grayling. A beautiful Class IV rapid, "Hell's Gate" that I opted to portage after an hour of internal debate. Below Hell's Gate there is a 15 mile canyon with Class III drops into deep dark pools, all capped by a slow float to the mouth through deep green pools teaming with kings. ( Read more... )
We just spent 16 days in the Alaska Range - 13 of those days were on Denali's West Buttress - and during that time period there were a total of 4 deaths. The day after we flew out 2 more deaths occurred at high camp. (Click here to read Mike Campbell's article profiling the accidents.)
The rash of deaths after a long quiet winter can only mean one thing: It’s climbing season in the Alaska Range. Unfortunately "climbing season" also means "rescue season" and this year is off to a bad start. And with rescue season comes the inevitable "who’s going to pay for this" argument on countless blogs, op-ed pages and comment sections nation-wide. Given our current political climate where tea party members happily gloat about gutting public programs while patriotically adding funds to our bloated defense budget I think it’s pertinent that I post some links to rescue studies. ( Read more... )
A short lived Foraker attempt and a foul weather trip up to 17 camp on the West Buttress. (Next year I'm going sport climbing.) ( Read more... )
Lots of news and commentary has been published recently in regards to the recent accident on the Root Canal Glacier. In short, Christopher Lackey, a young man from Houston Texas, was camped on the Root Glacier hoping to climb Ham & Eggs on the South face of the Mooses Tooth. KTNA (Talkeetna Public Radio) reports that sometime during the night a small earthquake triggered serac fall on the hanging glaciers that cling to the Eye Tooth / Bear Tooth ridge just above camp. Apparently the icefall was immense and debris poured onto the glacier and obliterated the entire camp. Only Mr. Lackey was killed - the other 3 climbers somehow escaped. ( Read more... )
Summer in Alaska is for family visitors. Some years no one shows up… Other years they show up in mass – a week here, a week there. Sometimes 2 weeks. Sometimes 3 weeks… sometimes more. Not that I’m complaining… when family visits it’s a chance to show them how you live. And how you live might mean a long rafting trip in torrential rain, a lazy day floating the Kenai without any sign of fish or a brutal slog through dense brush in the middle of Chugach State Park. And even if that summer visitor isn’t ready for what you’re about to give them (like endless fishing in torrential rains) – it really doesn’t matter. We’ve got all of 3 months to pack in a summer (even if that summer is 35 degrees and raining) and the summer visitor is along for the ride whether they like it or not!
So when my brother Charlie and his wife, Liz, showed up we automatically piled them back into the truck and forced them to drive 5 hours north towards the eastern Alaskan Range where we spent 5 days fishing and floating the Gulkana River. ( Read more... )
We floated the Chulitna River over the long weekend… hot and sunny and with glorious views of the Alaska Range towering above the river. The mercury climbed to 80 degrees and we drifted down river in shorts and t-shirts. On Sunday night we camped on a gravel bar with the summits of Denali and Mooses Tooth jutting above the clouds. The view from my sleeping bag serene when I unzipped the tent and looked out to see the faint morning light at 3:30am turning the peaks a deep pink. When you're on a gravel bar in the sun the mountains look so peaceful and pleasant…
And then back to Anchorage and the working life. I check my email to see a string from random people I don't know. And then I check the news; 2 dead in an avalanche in the Ruth Gorge: Andrew Herzenberg, age 39, and Avner Magen, age 42 - both from Toronto, Ontario. I read the NPS report… they were killed while descending Freezy Nuts on Saturday, May 30th.
Bryce Stath on "Freezy Nuts" - Spring 2009.
A little later I read the string of emails and make the connection… I had been corresponding with Avner Magen for a few weeks and now friends and family were asking if I had any news. ( Read more... )
Birch turning - Upper River Fall 2008
Lingering snow - Upper River Spring 2010
Images from two floats down the Chulitna River - Fall 2008 and Spring 2010. ( Read more... )
Video from our climb of Ham and Eggs in May 2010. More pix of the route here.