On Saturday Todd, Dan, Yvonne and I climbed Pyramid Peak (3378'). Unlike my last ascent this was a mellow ski ascent without any epic and no bushwhacking. I was disappointed; after all my tough talk to Yvonne about what a burly peak this was to climb we waltzed up the entire thing in less than 3 hours. ( 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... )
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... )
Friday night. I drive past Pyramid Peak in Turnagain Pass looking casually up. I wanted to climb it all winter but my friends are snow snobs; they'd rather ski one run of good powder 5 times than skin up a wind hammered ridge. Now that it's spring they're all out doing spring things - like gardening and river rafting. For some reason I want to get one more ski day in. Looking up at the peak thoughts come and go; "Tomorrow should be an easy day. Almost too easy. I could climb Pyramid and then go ski elsewhere..."
I spend a lazy night next to a campfire watching the moon drift over the Kenai Mountains. Ranger hangs out next to me. He misses his old friend Pharaoh who used to chase him in circles when we camped. I miss him too. That night it freezes and I shiver inside my cheap flannel sleeping bag. Ranger, in his thin coat, shivers so hard he wakes me up so I dig out a jacket and throw it over him.
The alarm sounds at 6:30 am. I sleep till 8. Coffee follows and then I jump into the car and blast to the parking lot where I strap the skis to the pack and start booting uphill. Somewhere in the back of my mind it registers that there is no snow for at least 2000'. It also registers that there is brush for 2000' but I choose to ignore these thoughts. ( 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... )
My nephew, Matthew, and brother John, came to visit me for Matt's spring break. I'm not sure if they expected balmy spring like temperatures or not - but they certainly didn't get them. Temps hovered in the teens on the good days; on the bad days it was around -20 with 50 mph winds!
We spent 8 days skiing down on the Kenai Peninsula; 4 days at Turnagain Pass and 4 days up at Crescent Lake where we stayed at Crescent Saddle cabin. This was John and Mat's first winter visit to Alaska and their first ever backcountry ski trip.
I acted as ski guide for the entire trip and I have never worked so hard in my life... My brother and nephew learned fairly quickly; but I still had to literally battle with them to do key things like drink, eat, ski where I tell them to and not push themselves beyond their limits as well as seemingly stupid things like always wear liner gloves when it's -25 and not to lay down in the snow when tired. ( Read more... )
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... )