The Tetons; will I ever tire of them? There are so many places to go so many mountain ranges scattered across the continent yet I am always drawn back to the magnificent view of the Cathedral Group towering above the valley floor. The tops of the peaks dusted with snow, lines traced with fingers of places I've been and places I want to go.
And so I once again found myself there - and with Brad Hornung no less, my climbing partner from years past who can always be pulled away from his home in Helena, Montana for a 3 or 4 day trip if you call long enough in advance and promise him the skies will be sunny and rock warm.
We had 4 days and our first day was rain; a deep soaking rain that promised to turn the upper peaks into ice and the lower rock walls into vertical walls of water. We spent the day killing time in Jackson and at the Teton Ranger Station where we captured climbing icon George Montopoli who pulled out books and maps and photos and pointed out route after route that we should climb. "I climbed this one with Mugs Stump back in '81. Mugs couldn't pull the crux move!" he guffawed - his eyes alight in memory.
We waited out the rain looking at maps and photos and listening to stories. When we emerged late afternoon the clouds were breaking up so we drove around looking at peaks and then turned in early. ( Read more... )
To a climber that's all one has to say. The word implies good times, good fun - a vacation. To a non-climber how can I explain it? Cragging is when you go to a climbing area where all the climbs are an easy 5-10 minute walk from the car and the climbs are maximum 1 or 2 rope-lengths. Where you can easily find yourself in a terrifying situation 20 feet off the ground... but in 30 minutes you're back on the terra firma laughing at your antics that took place a few minutes ago. Cragging means you go to an area and set up your tent and cook a fine meal. At night you sit around a campfire, drink beer, chat with old friends and make new friends. The alarm goes off at 7am, you tank up on coffee and go climb hard for 8-10 hours. Then you wander back to camp, make another fine meal, stoke the fire and crack open a beer. Best results are obtained when you repeat for 5 days or more.
When I lived in Virginia I used to crag all the time. Most of my college years were spent at classic east coast crags: the New River Gorge, Seneca, Looking Glass, Red River Gorge. Any place from the far southwest corner of North Carolina to the far northwest corner of Kentucky might see our car roll in at 2am Friday night. We climbed hard all weekend and stumbled back to class on Monday morning tired, bloody, sore and full of stories. ( Read more... )
The season is upon us... so once again it's time to share photos of the only-in-Alaska tradition of dipnetting. We went to Chitina again; this time we were well prepared and showed up with bikes AND trailers, a campstove. And coffee.
However... for all the preparation dipnetting was once again a "world of pain". We had 2 bikes and 2 bike-trailers. Yvonne hiked, Todd and I biked. It took us 23 hours to get 50 reds and 2 kings; we each biked over 20 miles and each hauled over 100lbs. I took an early light run of 5 fish when the fishing was slow, Yvonne biked out one load of 16 fish when the fishing was hot and Todd took out a load of 17 when the fishing was hot. And finally, at 7 am we hauled everything that was left back to the car. It was brutal!
We began by biking in 5 miles and finding the same spot where we had good luck last year. We dropped our nets in the water and began the wait... And a long wait it was: we started fishing around 10am and at 11pm had only caught 10 fish between three people. It was slick (we were roped in), exposed and windy. We froze.
Finally I grew impatient and opted to go look for other fishing options. I hiked downriver and found the same ledge we had fished 3 years ago. I tentatively dropped my net in the water and within a minute I had a fish. 2 minutes later I had another fish. And 10 minutes after that a third! I waved to Todd and he and Yvonne moved our stuff over. ( Read more... )
Our plan was to climb Flute Peak. Flute Peak sits 10 miles from the South Fork trailhead at the very head of the Flute Glacier. The route consists of a glacier crossing, steep snow and a final rock pitch. There were 3 of us - Eric, Yvonne and I. All of us had tried it once before. Eric had actually made it to the rock pitch last spring before backing off unwilling to solo the final step. Yvonne and I had "tried" it last year; but our efforts had ended early when we ascended the wrong approach gully. We instead hiked up Ewe Peak, not willing to out the effort into additional route finding. Ideally one would climb Flute Peak as an overnight trip - taking time to leisurely hike up to the glacier on day 1 and then climb and hike out on day 2. However - we opted to try it in a day. So in we tromped... me soaking wet and the clouds thick and soupy. ( Read more... )
Spring climbing came once again... and once again I started trolling for partners. Many options and many ideas were voiced but Yvonne and I finally announced we were going to the Alaska Range; to the Ruth Gorge. Everyone wants to go to the Ruth - and suddenly Yvonne and I had 2 other partners (Bryce Stath and Austin Thayer) to share camp and contacts with. ( Read more... )
For years I've been eyeing the couloirs that snake directly up the north face of Bear Point (the wall above Mirror Lake on the Glenn Highway). There are 2 very obvious lines - a direct couloir that drops straight off the summit for almost 3000' and a twisty turny line that ascend though rock bands and tops out just east of the summit. This year the couloirs have been melting out and thin ribbons of ice have been appearing, making them quite appealing! ( Read more... )
Peak 3 season is in full swing here on Hillside. For those who don't know what Peak 3 season is; It's that time of year where every day at 3pm the schoolteachers start calling you and saying "Want to go ski Peak 3? Want to go ski Peak 3?" If you can avoid them you'll get in another hour of work before the 8-4'ers start calling and saying "Want to go ski Peak 3? Want to go ski Peak 3?" If you can say no again - then you get another hour of work in before the 9-5'ers start calling. Usually I cave in to one of the above... and last week Peak 3 was really good! ( Read more... )
We had the worst avalanche report of the season - multiple weak layers, 6 plus feet of new snow, warming temperatures - and to top it off, the threat of a rumbling Mt. Redoubt 130 miles to the west. But we couldn't stay home; the forecast was calling for a blizzard warning that evening. We had one day to give it a go before going back to the wait game.
So the Friday afternoon discussions began; where to go what to do who wants to go. I cast big in the hopes of netting some trailbreakers and got 1 yes and 4 definite maybes. Saturday morning we called around and again more reports of indecision filtered in. Eventually we set up a meeting time and at 9:30 we all gathered. First there were 2, then three - until finally 7 people showed up. 7 people is 4 too many for my comfort level, so we chose a spot with low angle trees, jumped in the car and drove south.
We chose to head into Wolverine via the circuitous route through the woods which I had eventually unlocked after 6 times of wandering about in circles in the dense woods between the highway and the peaks. Technically I wasn't lost during those forays - but some had taken to referring to these forays as "getting lost" - a semantic blunder that I always countered. I don't get lost. Lost is when you wander about in circles with no direction... sort of like that TV show where they shoot polar bears in Hawaii and struggle with inner demons. I might, at one time, have wandered about in circles - but I always had a clear direction: to unlock the secret route from the highway to Wolverine. As the cliche goes, Not all who wander are lost. ( Read more... )
We reached Pastoral Pass at noon; the north couloir looked to be in excellent shape so Dan headed up. Eric and I threw our skis / snowboard on our back and followed behind him... ( Read more... )
On Sunday I headed up Rabbit Valley with Dan, Eric, Todd and Pat. The winds were howling on the ridge lines and once again, prospects did not look good!
We skied back the base of Ptarmigan, sat around discussing options and then headed up. The normal gully coming off Ptarmigan Pass was in good shape - but as we got higher the snow turned to hard pack - and eventually ice. ( Read more... )