On April 14th Wayne, Carrie, Yvonne and I left the parking lot at Portage Lake at 10:30 am and skied across Portage Lake. It was one of those rare days in Portage: perfectly calm, clear and not a cloud in the sky. We were laden with heavy pack - 6 days of food and fuel, climbing gear, glacier travel gear, skis and sleds. Our original intention was to ski out onto the Ithmus Icefield and attempt Carpathian and possibly Isthmus - the second tallest peak on the Kenai Peninsula.
It took us about an hour to get across the lake and then we worked our way up to the toe of the Bard Glacier. At the base of the glacier we toyed with the idea of roping up, but we had all been there before and were comfortable with the conditions. So up we went - taking turns breaking trail and slowly working our way up the glacier. It was relatively fast going, the snow having a firm crust on it - but as we got higher the snow began to get deeper and less consolidated. ( Read more... )
On Saturday April 16th, 2005 Yvonne & I drove south to Whittier, a small down that is accessible only via a 3 mile tunnel. The town sits just above Prince William Sound and, although the town itself is ugly - the area is magnificent. We parked just parked just outside the town, ski toured up and over Portage Pass; around Portage Lake, then up the Burns Glacier - then down the Whittier glacier. It was a 12 mile traverse in a very remote wild area where few people seldom go. For the most part it was a mellow tour on a rare calm warm day (it's usually raining, snowing or blowing in that region). All was smooth although we had some excitement getting off the glacier. ( Read more... )
Alaska has woken from its slumber. Last weekend I saw bear tracks meandering through the snow; yesterday I saw a coyote slink through the trees. Rock climbers are venturing out onto the cliffs next to the highway and the dogs are lounging around outside in the sun. However... there is still snow to be had for those of us who don't wish to put the skis away quite yet. At the same time the climbing bug has returned...what to do?
In an effort to stave off caching the skis in the shed for the season Yvonne and I opted to do some ski mountaineering on Saturday. We pouring over the maps and finally settled on Explorer Peak down in Portage. Explorer Peak is a small mountain at the far western edge of Portage Road, The summit is only 3,440' - but you start at sea level, have a little glacier travel and finally get to boot up a corniced ridge; it's the perfect shakedown trip to get ready for spring mountaineering routes.
We enlisted Dan Boccia to help break trail and on Saturday morning we headed down and by 9:30 am we were skiing through the trees towards the glacier. The initial part of the route is pretty moderate; you ski through a stand of dead spruce and then start heading up the valley towards Explorer Glacier. There is an obvious drainage that you work your way up which dumps you out on a plateau just right of the glacier's toe. We then skied up a broad snow slope to the right (west) of the glacier until reaching a bench where we stopped and roped up. ( Read more... )
On Saturday, July 21st, Yvonne, Dan Boccia and I climbed the North Ridge of Bard Peak. We drove to Whittier, hiked up Whittier Creek where we forded it near the campground. We then chose a tiny stream that is about 300' downstream from the main fork of Whittier Creek. We picked our way up the stream, wading through it and jumping back and forth across the creek for about 10 minutes until we reached a clearing. We were then able to move left and ascend meadows for around 300' till we reached a series of rocks that border the creek. In total we only bush whacked for maybe 15 minutes! ( Read more... )
We reached the parking lot, sorted through gear once again and by 7:30 were hiking down the trail making light of the Forest Service signs that alerted us to impending doom on the glacier above. By 8am we had reached the ice and were staring up at the route. Initially we had planned to take the normal route - which is the west ridge. However the glacier looked good so we decided we'd head up the ice and gain the summit via the North glacier. ( Read more... )
I love classics… be it rock, ice, ski descents and even the occasional mellow river run. So when I heard that the classic ice routes in Middle Glacier Canyon were fatter than usual we dusted off the ice gear and headed south to give one a try. We hiked into the canyon and checked out all the routes. Most of the routes looked either hard or thin, but Lucky Man looked better than usual.
Lucky Man is a wonderful ice route that is about 300’ tall and was first climbed by Charlie Sassera and Robert Frank in 1982. It usually has a very very thin beginning - after which the route ascends a mellow ramp system to the canyon rim. However this year there is a super easy sneak on climbers left that gets you past the thin horrow-show of verglass and stubby placements down low on the route. ( Read more... )
I worked all last weekend – so when a sunny day and an ice climbing partner presented themselves mid-week I jumped on the opportunity. Wayne and I drove down to Portage and found an unoccupied Follies with an easy creek crossing to the base. Follies is a well known local classic that sometimes has an abysmal approach. For the most part the ice across the creek tends to be pretty thin – and I guess lots of people have had mini-epics when falling through the ice or having the wade across in fishing waders. We lucked out… the creek was frozen solid and we walked across and were at the base in minutes.
Wayne on the second pitch.
More pix after the jump. ( Read more... )
[ Carpathian Peak - North Ridge ]
Every now and then we get that long period of high pressure where everything rocks. The temps are decent, the snow is beautiful, stability is good. Then the winds come and everything goes to hell. Windslab creeps across the ridgetops and where there isn't windslab there's pure ice. Runs look good from afar but once you're in them you start actually thinking about things like home projects and ice climbing.