On Friday night June 16th Wayne Todd called us and invited us on an attempt of the North Face of Pioneer. Wayne figured that since there was more snow than usual this summer, what is usually a March - May route was doable and safe this late in the year. For years I had lusted after this route and had never gotten the chance to give it a try so I jumped on the invite.
The North Face of Pioneer is a classic alpine climb that pretty much starts right from the car and ascends snow, ice and rock all the way to the 6,398' summit. You begin the route at 100' and over the course of 1.8 miles climb 6,300'. The route involves a couple easy (5.2ish) rock steps at mid height, followed by close to 2000' of 40-50 degree snow. The final exit pitch steepens to around 60+ degrees and the step is usually ice. To descend the route you must climb 300' of easy but exposed rock (5.4ish) to ascend up and over "Counterpoint" (a false summit to the east) and then rappel twice before finally dropping down into scree gullies and slopes to the bottom.
The next morning Yvonne and I met Wayne, Carrie, Ross and Randy at 6 am on the side of the Glen Highway at the Old Glen Highway exit. We then drove the final 5 miles to the base and by 6:30 am were hiking up the initial scree slopes that line the bottom of the route.
The initial section of the route went quickly as we hiked up a massive avalanche path and remnants until we reached a waterfall that blocked our progress. We passed the waterfall by traversing to the right and climbing 500' up a gully choked with alder and devil's club. We were then able to traverse back to the gully by monkey-barring though a dense thicket of alders. ( Read more... )
On Labor Day weekend Yvonne and I climbed East Twin (5863'). I had previously tried this peak a total of three times; each time I barely made it to the base before turning around for a myriad of reasons.
On Saturday. September 2nd Yvonne and I left town in rain and drove to Eklutna. It was still cloudy at the parking lot but at least it wasn't raining. With hopes dimmed of getting up the peak, we left the parking lot with the goal of at least checking out the route. The walk up was in dense fog and after getting above treeline, we walked around in swirling fog before finally opting to head back down. This was my third time turning around on this peak; although this time it could hardly be called an attempt.
Sunday, September 3rd dawned with a dense fog that began to burn off around 9 am. We headed back up to Eklutna and at 10:45 started hiking up the Twin Peaks trail. As we ascended, it got warmer and the sun began burning off the fog in the valley below.
We soon reached the top of the labeled trail where we turned off on the slight footpath heading down to the creek that flows off of East Twin Pass. We then began booting up a good trail and at 1 pm, we reached Twin Pass where we were greeted with a herd of Dall sheep that traversed the ridge in front of us. ( Read more... )
On June 25th Yvonne and I opted to give Bold Peak (7522') a try. We drove to Eklutna on Saturday morning and by 8:45 am were biking in. The bike ride (10 1/2 miles) went by fairly quickly despite us not having biked more than once this summer. By 10 am we had cached our bikes, changed and began hiking down the East Fork of the Eklutna trail.
The trail leading up the East Fork of the Eklutna was in good shape and we made quick progress and soon reached the spot where the creek coming out of Stivers Gully crosses the trail. Here we poked around in the brush for a few minutes looking for the trail and soon found it leading upstream on the east side of the creek. We followed it up, crossing back and forth on either side and by 10:30 had emerged from the brush onto the talus slopes that make up the base of Stivers Gully.
From that point on, the route was fast and straight forward. I fully expected a much harder route but the climb is essentially a huge scree gully that is pretty low angle. We cruised up the lower talus slopes until we entered a canyon-like feature with huge walls on either side. This portion had snow in it so the walking was even faster. At 12 we reached the portion of the route where the canyon constricts and you're forced to ascend a steep gully and finally crawl up an exposed rock rib. There is a fixed rope here which, in dry sunny weather, isn't needed; however in wet conditions it is much appreciated (as we were to find out). ( Read more... )
On August 27th Yvonne and I drove south down to Bird Ridge where we began heading up the trail at noon with Ranger in tow. We made quick progress although our legs were quite stiff after having taken so much time off from hiking due to the almost constant rain Anchorage had experienced since late July.
At 1:30 we reached the top of the Bird Ridge trail and began to traverse the ridge that heads east towards Bird Ridge Overlook (4,600'), the peak that sits at the end of the ridge.
The hike is a total of 12 miles round trip; 3 miles to the top of Bird Ridge and then another 3 miles to Bird Ridge Overlook. After ascending Bird Ridge, we dropped down about 300 feet and then began a long rising and falling traverse to Bird Ridge Overlook. Hiking was easy and straightforward with an excellent well traveled sheep trail just below the ridge crest that kept us on more or less a level plain as we traversed the ridges. ( Read more... )
On June 11th Yvonne, Anne Gore and I climbed Cantata Peak via the standard route. We began the hike from the South Fork trailhead around 9 am and reached the ridge between Eagle and Symphony lake at 10am and were soon hiking up the drainage that puts you in the large bowl on the north west side of Cantata. We then hiked across this and up and over a bump on the west ridge and were soon hiking across the ridge to the base of the final ridge to the summit.
We reached the base of the final ridge at 11:30 where we stopped and ate lunch. The weather which had started out decent, had continued to deteriorate and our views diminished to the point where we could barely see Calliope to our south. We chatted for a while and decided to keep going until it became too poor to see or climb.
We began the final ridge section by first climbing up a series of gullies and ramps. The route is pretty straight forward but you are forced to hunt around a bit to find the easiest path. At times large rock walls blocked our progress and we were forced to traverse left and right in search of an easier passage. ( Read more... )
This summer we opted to explore the peaks that lie on the tract of land between Eagle River and Peter's Creek. Most of these are after work and day hikes for Eagle River residents; however since we live in Anchorage I rarely make it out to Eagle River thus I had yet to make it up any of these peaks.
The big plus with these peaks is they are all dog friendly summits; even old dog friendly which is what Pharaoh has become. So over the course of 2 weekends we went out with various friends and climbed Baldy, Blacktail Rocks, Significant and Roundtop.
Significant we climbed from the trailhead for Ram Valley. We hiked up the south face and then ambled along the broad south ridge to the summit. Baldy, Blacktail Rocks, and Roundtop we climbed in an afternoon from the trailhead just above downtown Eagle River. We went up Baldy, then traversed the craggy Blacktail Rocks over the Roundtop. It was a fun rainy day and we had 4 people and 3 dogs cavorting in all directions! ( 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... )
Rock climbing around of Canmore, Alberta is the polar opposite of mountain climbing in the Canadian Rockies. The rock is generally solid, there is good protection - and the sport routes are bolted like gym climbs! A great way to pass a day, after being terrified out of your mind on some route in the mountains, is to hit the many sport areas around Canmore and clip bolts all day. Once you tire of bolt clipping head over to Yamnuska for long (5-6 pitch) routes that have decent protection and where you know you'll be off before dark! Below are photos from Grassi Lakes, Mt, Rundle and Yamnuska. For more information pick up Bow Valley Rock by Perry, Martin and Dougherty.
After years of reading and dreaming about the Bugaboos, Brad and I decided to hike in and try a couple peaks. The trailhead is about 4 hours away from Calgary and at the end of a 28 mile gravel and mud road. When you reach the parking lot the first thing you notice is every car surrounded by chicken wire and rocks! Turns out that porcupines all over the place and they have been know to crawl up under the car and chew the brake lines out. So at the parking lot there are rolls and rolls of chicken wire that you stretch around your car and anchor with rocks.
After fortifying our truck we shouldered our packs and began the hike in. The tail is hell! 4 miles and 2000' of elevation gain. We climbed up ladders, cables and concrete steps poured into the rock; all with an 80lb pack full of 6 days of food, camping gear, 2 ropes and a full climbing rack! We got to our campsite in about 3 hours, set up our tents, cooked and went to sleep. ( Read more... )
Yes; believe it or not there is ice in Virginia! Just about every year, if you're willing to spend your free time driving to the coldest, darkest highest points of the state, you can find ice for at least 3-4 weeks out of the year. For those living around Charlottesville there is a small but dedicated contingent of ice climbers who are willing to skip work when the ice is in.