Thursday was Yvonne's birthday so we had a party; a bunch of people came over and we cooked up a bunch of salmon and made halibut tacos. As usual halfway through the night talk turned to where to go for the weekend. The weather looked good and we were itching to go out so Yvonne bailed on work for Friday. Later in the evening Eric stopped by and casually mentioned that J.T. and Tony were headed up Polar Bear for the weekend. J.T. is in the top 3 on my 'who to call for conditions and beta in the Chugach' list (along with Wayne and Steve who were both at our party) so our ears pricked up. Polar Bear? It's high on the list and if J.T. and Tony are heading up there then conditions are probably good. Besides, I figured, if our timing is right then we should be able to jump right into their tracks and boot up to the summit. Wayne and Steve concurred that it would be a good time to try it and Steve opted to join us so we planned to pack up in the morning and hike in Friday afternoon.
The next day we packed up and by 2 pm Yvonne, Steve and I were hiking up the Eagle River trail. Our packs were obscenely heavy for an overnight trip. Yvonne and I both had our winter (-20) bags plus we hauled a stove, pan, tent, bivy sacks, ice axe, ice tools, crampons, snowshoes, pickets, ice screws, rock and glacier gear, a 60 m rope, tennis shoes (to cross the river in) and leather mountaineering boots. Despite the load we made good time and within 2 hours we shed our pants and donned tennis shoes for the Eagle River crossing. ( Read more... )
The season is upon us. Gone are the weekend mornings of leisurely starts and sleeping in till 7:30 and meeting at 8:30. The sun rises at 5:55 am and sets at 9:57 pm. Although it doesn't make any sense, we argue that because the days are longer we should get up earlier so we can have a longer day. Thus we go to bed on Friday night and set the alarm for 5am. It beeps at 5 and I jump in the shower to wake up; an hour later we're driving north - skis, pickets, ropes and plastic boots in the truck. We want to try Granite Peak but as we get closer the rains come and just past Palmer we pull over, disappointed and turn back to Anchorage. It is 7:30. ( Read more... )
On Labor Day weekend Yvonne and I climbed East Twin (5863'). I had previously tried this peak a total of three times; each time I barely made it to the base before turning around for a myriad of reasons.
On Saturday. September 2nd Yvonne and I left town in rain and drove to Eklutna. It was still cloudy at the parking lot but at least it wasn't raining. With hopes dimmed of getting up the peak, we left the parking lot with the goal of at least checking out the route. The walk up was in dense fog and after getting above treeline, we walked around in swirling fog before finally opting to head back down. This was my third time turning around on this peak; although this time it could hardly be called an attempt.
Sunday, September 3rd dawned with a dense fog that began to burn off around 9 am. We headed back up to Eklutna and at 10:45 started hiking up the Twin Peaks trail. As we ascended, it got warmer and the sun began burning off the fog in the valley below.
We soon reached the top of the labeled trail where we turned off on the slight footpath heading down to the creek that flows off of East Twin Pass. We then began booting up a good trail and at 1 pm, we reached Twin Pass where we were greeted with a herd of Dall sheep that traversed the ridge in front of us. ( Read more... )
On August 27th Yvonne and I drove south down to Bird Ridge where we began heading up the trail at noon with Ranger in tow. We made quick progress although our legs were quite stiff after having taken so much time off from hiking due to the almost constant rain Anchorage had experienced since late July.
At 1:30 we reached the top of the Bird Ridge trail and began to traverse the ridge that heads east towards Bird Ridge Overlook (4,600'), the peak that sits at the end of the ridge.
The hike is a total of 12 miles round trip; 3 miles to the top of Bird Ridge and then another 3 miles to Bird Ridge Overlook. After ascending Bird Ridge, we dropped down about 300 feet and then began a long rising and falling traverse to Bird Ridge Overlook. Hiking was easy and straightforward with an excellent well traveled sheep trail just below the ridge crest that kept us on more or less a level plain as we traversed the ridges. ( Read more... )
From July 17th - 20th Yvonne and I and 7 friends and family hiked the Grizzly Lakes Traverse in Chugach State Park. We started at Crow Pass, went up Clear Creek and over Steamroller Pass, camped at Archangel Lakes, then went over to Grizzly Lakes, then down Camp Creek to Eagle River and then back to Crow Pass. There were a total of 9 of us - and the fitness level ranged from excellent to "Oh my god I'm going to die". Along the way we climbed Kinglet and Pyramid Peaks. Below are pictures from the trip. ( Read more... )
On July 9th 2006 I took my brother and nephew up Ptarmigan Couloir. My nephew had never climbed a snow route before (and never even worn crampons!). My brother had done a few moderate snow routes but had never used two ice axes or pickets. They were both pretty stoked! ( Read more... )
On June 25th Yvonne and I opted to give Bold Peak (7522') a try. We drove to Eklutna on Saturday morning and by 8:45 am were biking in. The bike ride (10 1/2 miles) went by fairly quickly despite us not having biked more than once this summer. By 10 am we had cached our bikes, changed and began hiking down the East Fork of the Eklutna trail.
The trail leading up the East Fork of the Eklutna was in good shape and we made quick progress and soon reached the spot where the creek coming out of Stivers Gully crosses the trail. Here we poked around in the brush for a few minutes looking for the trail and soon found it leading upstream on the east side of the creek. We followed it up, crossing back and forth on either side and by 10:30 had emerged from the brush onto the talus slopes that make up the base of Stivers Gully.
From that point on, the route was fast and straight forward. I fully expected a much harder route but the climb is essentially a huge scree gully that is pretty low angle. We cruised up the lower talus slopes until we entered a canyon-like feature with huge walls on either side. This portion had snow in it so the walking was even faster. At 12 we reached the portion of the route where the canyon constricts and you're forced to ascend a steep gully and finally crawl up an exposed rock rib. There is a fixed rope here which, in dry sunny weather, isn't needed; however in wet conditions it is much appreciated (as we were to find out). ( Read more... )
On Friday night June 16th Wayne Todd called us and invited us on an attempt of the North Face of Pioneer. Wayne figured that since there was more snow than usual this summer, what is usually a March - May route was doable and safe this late in the year. For years I had lusted after this route and had never gotten the chance to give it a try so I jumped on the invite.
The North Face of Pioneer is a classic alpine climb that pretty much starts right from the car and ascends snow, ice and rock all the way to the 6,398' summit. You begin the route at 100' and over the course of 1.8 miles climb 6,300'. The route involves a couple easy (5.2ish) rock steps at mid height, followed by close to 2000' of 40-50 degree snow. The final exit pitch steepens to around 60+ degrees and the step is usually ice. To descend the route you must climb 300' of easy but exposed rock (5.4ish) to ascend up and over "Counterpoint" (a false summit to the east) and then rappel twice before finally dropping down into scree gullies and slopes to the bottom.
The next morning Yvonne and I met Wayne, Carrie, Ross and Randy at 6 am on the side of the Glen Highway at the Old Glen Highway exit. We then drove the final 5 miles to the base and by 6:30 am were hiking up the initial scree slopes that line the bottom of the route.
The initial section of the route went quickly as we hiked up a massive avalanche path and remnants until we reached a waterfall that blocked our progress. We passed the waterfall by traversing to the right and climbing 500' up a gully choked with alder and devil's club. We were then able to traverse back to the gully by monkey-barring though a dense thicket of alders. ( Read more... )
On June 11th Yvonne, Anne Gore and I climbed Cantata Peak via the standard route. We began the hike from the South Fork trailhead around 9 am and reached the ridge between Eagle and Symphony lake at 10am and were soon hiking up the drainage that puts you in the large bowl on the north west side of Cantata. We then hiked across this and up and over a bump on the west ridge and were soon hiking across the ridge to the base of the final ridge to the summit.
We reached the base of the final ridge at 11:30 where we stopped and ate lunch. The weather which had started out decent, had continued to deteriorate and our views diminished to the point where we could barely see Calliope to our south. We chatted for a while and decided to keep going until it became too poor to see or climb.
We began the final ridge section by first climbing up a series of gullies and ramps. The route is pretty straight forward but you are forced to hunt around a bit to find the easiest path. At times large rock walls blocked our progress and we were forced to traverse left and right in search of an easier passage. ( Read more... )
This summer we opted to explore the peaks that lie on the tract of land between Eagle River and Peter's Creek. Most of these are after work and day hikes for Eagle River residents; however since we live in Anchorage I rarely make it out to Eagle River thus I had yet to make it up any of these peaks.
The big plus with these peaks is they are all dog friendly summits; even old dog friendly which is what Pharaoh has become. So over the course of 2 weekends we went out with various friends and climbed Baldy, Blacktail Rocks, Significant and Roundtop.
Significant we climbed from the trailhead for Ram Valley. We hiked up the south face and then ambled along the broad south ridge to the summit. Baldy, Blacktail Rocks, and Roundtop we climbed in an afternoon from the trailhead just above downtown Eagle River. We went up Baldy, then traversed the craggy Blacktail Rocks over the Roundtop. It was a fun rainy day and we had 4 people and 3 dogs cavorting in all directions! ( Read more... )