For years I’ve put off writing about the Bomber Traverse due to various reasons... but the primary reason being that I feel it's a very popular trip and I don’t really want to encourage people to head to the area. It's a pretty selfish reason. I love the area - I love the huts, I love the climbing and I don’t want to share the areas with strangers. But given recent events I feel it's time to stop trying to keep areas to yourself and to encourage responsible non-motorized usage in the High Peaks areas.
Yeah it can suck to share a hut with a bunch of 20-something tele skiers… especially when they ski harder and faster than you and make you look like an old man. But like I said… it's time to change that attitude.
The Draft Hatcher Pass area Management Plan was recently announced. It's the first time the Hatcher Pass area has seen a new management plan in 25 years. Too long given the changes and population growth in the region. And given the number of people you see out rock climbing, cross country skiing, hiking, back country skiing and mountaineering you’d think that the Division of Natural Resources would be implementing a plan that is more geared towards non-motorized usage in this area. ( Read more... )
The earth buzzes by below us; rolling hills turn to spires, caribou tracks up ridge lines, blue ice overflowing tight river drainages. The creeks flow past - Caribou, Divide, Boulder. The mighty Chickaloon calm, frozen in time the meandering blue ice locked until Spring (who hovers just around the corner) descends. And suddenly we are banking past jagged granite spires. The spires become behemoths trapped in glacier ice, seracs clutching their sides glistening and opaque.
My pilot, Mike Meekins, maneuvers his plane between granite towers and we float out into the open, the Talkeetna glacier spread below us, her many forks outstretched and the plane spiraling over them with my eyes glued to the window looking at ice, granite and snow. Meekins studies the snow and we aim for a calm tongue of powder unscathed by the winds. ( Read more... )
Saturday. I float the Upper Kenai in my tiny Dory and thoroughly enjoy the say. It feels like summer; the sun is shining brightly and the salmon are rolling underneath my boat - I even manage to catch a couple. The Upper Kenai is pretty calm for such a nice day. Everyone sits around in the sun enjoying the weather... life is good.
Then Eric calls. Like a true yuppie I pull out the cell phone on the river and chat it up.
"Hello?" - "Climbing tomorrow sounds good." - "Talkeetna mountains?" - "Weather looks good?" - "Lower Spire?" - "See you in the morning!"
I get home at midnight, throw the fish in the fridge and crash. The alarm wakes us up at 6:30 and i stand in the shower trying to wake up. Eric shows up at 7:30 (he practically lives across the street) and we're off.
We reach the Reed Lakes parking lot around 9ish and soon we're hiking up in a thick cloud. Conditions do not look so hot but the joke is it will burn off. Somewhere in the back of my mind a tiny voice whispers about climbing in inclement weather but i manage to silence it. ( Read more... )
On Sunday Eric Parsons, Dan Boccia, Yvonne & I climbed the Southwest Ridge Granite Peak (6729'). We left town at 7:30 am and by 8:30 were driving in circles in the maze of 4WD trails that are at the base of Granite. Dan's excellent driving technique through mud, over rocks and across ditches had Eric howling in delight and Yvonne biting her nails. Finally after close to an hour of driving up and down trails we found a good trailhead parked and started hiking up at 9:30 am.
Getting to the base was easy and quick - and 1 1/2 hours after starting we were at the base of the route and hiking up the massive couloir that drains the south face. We meandered up the couloir - taking a couple wrong turns before finally finding the correct one which took us all the way to a very steep final ridge that lead to the summit ridge. Once reaching the SW ridge we stuck to the left (NW) side of the ridge; Eric tentatively plowed through waist deep snow (in sneakers sans rope) while Yvonne & I roped up with 30 m of rope and protected the pitches with a handful of rock gear (4 nuts, 2 cams). At the top of the first gendarme we set a belay and belayed everyone down - the only spot Eric and Dan roped up. I down-climbed the rock pitch while once again Eric plowed through deep sketchy steep snow up and over 2 more gendarmes. The put us on the final summit ridge where we cached the rope and hiked to the summit. ( Read more... )
On May 16th 2003, Todd Kelsey and I flew into the upper Chickaloon drainage with Dave of Grasshopper Aviation out of the Wasilla airport. We got to the airport to find out that fog was sitting over the landing zone so we sat around in Dave's office while he regaled us with tales of plane crashes. Nothing fills your mind with confidence like a pilot who reminisces about various spills and forced landings. Apparently losing a tail in a landing was no big deal. Who knew?
While flying in Dave apparently sensed my unease and did his best to scare me silly. He skimmed along the river, diving in sickening bursts of madness. When we landed we landed a bit too fast and hit the ground HARD slamming into the rocky strip and bouncing close to 10 feet in the air. I crawled out of the plane and ran into the bushes dry heaving.
There were 3 other people at the landing strip. Jake, a bear hunting guide, and his two clients. Jake was the classic Alaskan bear guide. He was classic in the sense that instead of flying out with his garbage on his lap he opted to throw it into the bushes. Classic in the sense that he had hauled literally hundreds of pounds of junk into this area only to leave it sitting under a blue trap so it could be destroyed by bears and porcupines. ( Read more... )
Well I left Anchorage friday night around 8pm and got to the Mint trailhead around 9pm. It was wet and miserable -- the rain coming down like crazy and the trail muddy and nasty (which makes all the trees hanging over the trail soak you to the bone). Pharaoh and I started hiking and within minutes we were soaked. I was wearing a crappy windbreaker (since my jacket is lost in the mail somewhere) and was getting quite cold so I booked it and slogged the nine miles to the hut in 3 hours (not a minor feat considering I was hauling camping gear, a rack, rope, a quart of scotch, dog food, and other odds and ends - one day I'll learn to pack light).
There is still a ton of snow there for July --- snow is all the way up to window level! The Talkeetna Mountains got over 300 inches of snow this year - twice as much as the average year. ( Read more... )