The dreary days of November, December, January and February have ended. While many of my friends embrace the cold deep powder of Alaskan winters, I never seem to totally enjoy the days where we are slogging through deep powder to ski the same runs again and again up and down. Thus when the sun finally comes out and avalanche conditions improve, I seem to wake up from hibernation and start beating myself into shape. ( Read more... )
I spent a long weekend skiing in Thompson Pass with Todd, Peter and Amy. We stayed at Matt Kinney's awesome place (Thompson Pass Mountain Chalet). We had relatively decent weather and conditions and were able to ski every day.
We drove down on friday afternoon. On Saturday we headed out and skied Gully 1 with Matt. The skiing was decent but it was howling wind and around 0 so after one run we scurried back to the chalet to put on more layers and eat something hot. After lunch Todd headed back up to the pass to kite-ski while Peter, Amy and I headed own into Valdez to ski Benzene Alley. The skiing next to the water was quite spectacular but the snowmachiners were out in force and we were continually buzzed. Everyone was very nice (no one tried to run us over a-la Hatchers Pass) - but being around a dozen snowmachines buzzing downhill at 50 mph when you're out for an afternoon ski above the blue water is a downer. ( Read more... )
Winter lasted well into June in Anchorage. Snow patches lingered in the yard till June and we were still climbing snow couloirs like it was May in mid June. Then the July rains came early... rock climbing consisted of long drives to Hatcher only to turn around and drive home, mountain climbing was out of the question. Even the fishing sucked. So I made some calls, coordinated with friends and family, cashed in my Alaska Airlines miles and headed south. ( 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... )
The forecast called for clouds and isolated showers; not ideal conditions given that isolated showers usually have a way of finding me, but I wanted to get out so I studied the maps and my photos. I finally decided to give the North Face of Eagle Peak a try. My reasoning was that 2 weeks ago north facing slopes were still powder and south facing slopes were corn - whereas a week ago south facing slopes had turned isothermal. I was hoping for corn conditions on north facing aspects - but I knew we couldn't go if the sun was shining due to avalanche hazards. After much thought I figured the clouds would shade the route giving us the rare opportunity to ascend the route in spring conditions.
The route ascends the obvious couloir. This photo was taken from Significant peak on 6/10/06.
So I rounded up a team who all bit on the first cast: Dan, Eric, Bryce and Yvonne and at 5:30am on Saturday we met and were soon driving. We dropped off a car at the South Fork of Eagle river (thinking we might have to traverse the peak to avoid late afternoon avalanche conditions) and then drove to the Eagle River Nature Center and were hiking by 7am. ( Read more... )
JT passed along info that Korohusk was in good shape, so on Saturday Yvonne, Bryce, Charlie and I headed up Eagle River to give it a try. The initial four miles went by in no time and soon we had reached the turn off point and were headed uphill. As usual the start required a little bush whacking; but it was still early enough in the season to where travel was easy. After about an hour of hiking bear and moose trails we finally found the trail and after 4 hours of travel were sitting at the base of the route.
The route was totally filled in with snow, which made travel fairly easy; however the snow was shin to knee deep so we all took a turn kicking steps. The waterfall pitch was easily climbed via a snow ramp and soon we were kicking steps up the final snow slopes. ( 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... )
High pressure pushed over Southcentral Alaska so I rounded up a group and on Saturday we headed down to Turnagain Pass for yet another day of powder skiing. We started out with a large group - 6 in total - and headed up and over Taylor Pass. However at the pass Eric the Viking's hip started bugging him so Dan (once again fresh from surgery) and Eric bailed and skied a run off Gold Pan instead of heading down to Pastoral. ( Read more... )
Pix from a Christmas hike in Shenandoah National Park. ( Read more... )
On March 4th, 2006 I climbed the northeast ridge of King Mountain with Thai and Jody. King Mountain sits on the south side of the Matanuska River just south of Chickaloon and features an impressively steep and accessible north face that is a great late winter climb. The summit of King is 5809' and you begin at 800' and pretty much gain 5000' in 1.5 miles. It's one of those great climbs where when you sit down you can see your car in-between your crampon points! ( Read more... )