Spring is here and with it came a good snow pack and perfect snow for front range skiing. On Sunday Charlie T. and I climbed the West Ridge of Ptarmigan from the Rabbit Valley side. The route up was great - with freshly kicked steps from a party just ahead of us. We climbed both summits and stared down the north couloir; conditions were perfect. I then skied the west face - dropping down one of the couloirs in perfect shin deep powder.
I got home that afternoon and began thinking about the north couloir. The fresh stable snow beckoned so I called Todd and we made a plan. And then yesterday at 12:30 we set out and skied down Powerline pass to the base of the route. En-route we passed two climbers who had just climbed the route. They told us the snow as a little hard down low - but nice up high.
By 2:30 we were at the base of the route and skinning up. The snow quickly grew hard so we clipped on our ski crampons and continued up. However it got steeper and the snow harder so we soon pulled the skis and started booting. We had left our crampons at home thinking the snow would be soft; and thus the lower portion of the route went slowly as we carefully booted up the ice hard snow with our boots barely biting in at times. ( Read more... )
Charlie Sassara left an email last Thursday: "Want to try a route this Saturday? Call me." I read it slowly and then called, trying to figure out what the best excuse would be to not go. "I can't," I told him. "We just bought a house. I'm out of shape. My exercise has consisted of moving boxes and caulking." I tried to sound weak, even upping the pitch to elevate my whiny voice. "I'm just not in shape to go climbing."
"Ahh come on..." Charlie responded. "You've got a real job now. You've got a mortgage. The rest of your life is going to be like this. Get off the fucking couch and go climbing with me."
I started to protest; after all me going climbing with Charlie means I would have to secretly pack ascenders. I stammered.. it was hard to argue with his logic. So I said yes.
So come Saturday Charlie and I trudged into the North face of the Wedge. After some discussion about options Charlie chose to ascend a series of gullies and dihedrals on a buttress just left of the couloir that drops from ridge right at obvious bend of the peak (climbers left of the rock routes). ( Read more... )
On Saturday, August 18th, Scott Hauser, Mark Selland and I packrafted 20-Mile. Recently this has become the trip to do in Anchorage and much has been written and said about it. We encountered 3 other pack-rafters other than ourselves and know of at least two others that were doing the trip as a weekend trip.
I won't say much about it - other than it's a classic trip! The trail up and over Berry Pass is an amazing achievement; one can almost imagine displaced gold miners slaving away making the road. I had heard that there was quite a bushwhack once you dropped down off of Berry Pass - but in the Chugach sense of 'bushwhack' it's hardly worth mentioning. There's a good trail the whole way so if you're looking for a brush extravaganza don't bother.
The river is mostly open except for one sweeper that is entirely across the channel. However it is easily portaged via a gravel bar. There are silvers running right now - and with them come speed boats and angry rednecks who refuse to slow down and will yell at you as they pass. ( Read more... )
The season is upon us so I thought I'd share some photos from our Chitina excursion last June. Spring 2007 runoff had caused a number of land slides and some people were saying the road past O'Brien was impassible; so unlike 2006 where I joined the Steers for a redneck 4WD extravaganza, getting back to the canyon via ATV was unlikely.
The spring landslides and the State of Alaska's decision not to repair the road had lead to a number of outcries from some of the public clamoring that the state was restricting their right to dipnet and that access was "denied to Alaskan's and their families" (insert rolling eyes emoticon here).
We thought about paying the $100 for a charter drop off, then decided that jet boats and ATVs suck so we loaded up the cars with bikes and dry bags and headed down.
We left town at 5am and by 11am were hiking and biking into the canyon. Todd and I rode mountain bikes, Yvonne and Lauren hiked. By noon we biked 5 miles into the canyon, scoped out a nice back eddy, anchored off with a rope and landed our first king. Thus began a 12 hour marathon of pain.
For the next 12 hours we worked hard. Our assembly line consisted of Todd and I landing fish, Lauren killing and hauling and Yvonne gutting. When we reached 10 fish we'd load up a dry bag and bike out (each back pack weighing around 50 lbs). Yvonne and Lauren took the first load at 2:30pm - each of them hauling a massive king and 3 reds. Todd took the second trip at 7:30 pm - hauling 12 reds. I took the third trip at 10pm - also hauling 12 reds. ( Read more... )
On Memorial Day (May 28th), Yvonne and I hiked in and climbed Koktoya. ( Read more... )
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... )