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... )
The forecast for Virginia during Christmas week called for clear sunny skies with highs in the 50 and 60s so I emailed my brothers and made plans to haul my boats down when I visited for Christmas. John drove down from Philly with three boats and wet suits, I showed up with 2 packrafts and one dry-suit and Charlie, ever the procrastinator, showed up with nothing.
We spent Christmas day and the day after with family eating, running around the farm with the kids and going for hikes at Sugar Hollow. Come Wednesday night my oldest brother John, my youngest brother Charlie and two of John's sons - Matthew (20 and fresh out of boot-camp) and JC a 14-year old kid who discovered kayaking this summer and has perfected his roll and is tackling Class IV rivers - sat around discussing our options and checking flows and forecast. Charlie was a bit apprehensive. He had some long johns and a rain jacket but didn't want to sit in the river knowing that it would be cold should he take a swim. However Charlie is someone you can always cajole into doing something stupid be it tackle 250 lb calves, ski in June, or boat in December; so it took little prodding to get him to agree to join us.
We made plans to get up early and drive to Lynchburg to run Balcony Falls on the James River. River levels were low - around 3 feet - but it was the only river with rapids running within a few hours drive and the forecast was calling for temps in the 50s. ( 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 Sunday Yvonne and I floated Portage Creek from the Lake to the Seward Highway. The run is about 6 miles and quite mellow. I took my Alpacka Dory and Yvonne took her Yak. Right after the put in there are some mellow rapids - easy enough in a regular packraft by the oars in my dory kept hitting the rocky bottom so I had to change to a kayak paddle to accommodate my poor rowing skills. ( Read more... )
On Sunday Yvonne and I packrafted a short section of Eagle River. We started at the Nature Center and hiked about 6 miles to Icicle Creek. We then floated down to Echo Bend. It was Yvonne's first time out in the rafts and the river was high and quite swift -- with lots and lots of sweepers. She was aprehensive at first but after a while got the hang of it and we floated the 3 mile stretch without any mishaps. However, after we finished Yvonne told me that my river skills do not inspire confidence in others. I won't repeat my response. Below are some photos of Yvonne. ( 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... )
Todd & I packrafted Glacier Creek down in Girdwood last night. We floated from the hand tram to pretty much the front porch of Chair 5 (got out, crossed the street and ordered pizza!). River levels are pretty high right now and the section through the canyon was quite fast and fun! I took a swim shortly after putting in, but the river is mostly knee to waist deep so I was able to get to shore fairly easily.
The put in requires a down-climb through alders and devil's club - but someone has left a rope tied to a tree to aid in the down-climb (which i imagine would be sketchy if it was raining) so it's not too bad. (Hike down river from the hand tram and you'll see it.) Incidentally I was told (later) that if you cross via the hand-tram it is easier to get to down. The canyon is free of sweepers and after the canyon there are a few but they are pretty easy to paddle around. ( 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... )
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... )