On Sunday we hiked in to try Korohusk from Eagle River. The initial trail up through the brush was good - but we soon lost it and had a good bush whack session before re-finding the trail somewhere around 2000'. We reached the hanging valley after 4 hours of hiking and we rewarded with a glimpse of the peak. The route takes the obvious series of gullies that go right up to the summit. We started with the lower right gully, traversed left and then connected a series of scree and snow gullies to reach the upper snowfields.
The lower couloir was around 35 degrees but near the top we climbed through a tight section that steepened to around 50. We came up this way but I was not comfortable with the deep snow runnels which would make self arrest difficult - so on the descent we traversed far to skiers right and descended scree slopes. ( 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 May 14th Yvonne and I woke up early and by 7am were skiing up the Casner Glacier in the Deltas en route to the upper glacier to attempt a few peaks. We hauled 7 days of food and fuel, skis, sleds, crevasse gear and a few pickets and screws for the larger peaks. The Deltas are the eastern most region of the Alaska Range. In spring / summer it takes about 5 1//2 hours to reach the parking area from Anchorage - in winter it's a little closer to 7 or 8 hours depending on the ice and snow. Weather had been a tad on the warm side so we made sure to get an early start in order to minimize the trail breaking with large sleds.
We had spectacular weather - deep blue skis with not a cloud to be seen. At the head of the valley loomed an amphitheater or peaks in the 8000-9000' range. The ski in was excellent. The first 2 miles were relatively straight forward with only one section where we had to hike - leaving our sleds at the toe of the glacier and ascend the mud and rock encrusted glacier to reach the easy slopes above. ( Read more... )
For our first climb in the Canadian Rockies we chose an easy route: the East Ridge of Mt. Nestor (II, 5.5) - a 9,744' peak that lies off the Spray Lakes road south of Canmore. The guidebook referred to the route as "an enjoyable afternoon climb" so we felt good about sleeping in.
While packing up in the morning, I pulled off my helmet and pointed to the space blanket duct tapes inside in. "You might want to bring one of these," I said to Dave.
Dave looked at me and laughed, and with a very dramatic gesture he ripped his space blanket out of his helmet, flung it inside the van and slammed the door. Our fate was sealed (and you can guess what happens next). We began hiking at the abysmally late hour of 9:30 am and by 10:30 am we were off the trail and 4th classing up to the base of the route.
The route is a 2,500' with snow, ice and rock up to 5.5. The lower portion is mostly 4th class with bit of easy 5th class here and there. The middle of the route had a lot of snow on it and the top portion, the crux, has a roof traverse pitch that is rated 5.5 in difficulty. ( Read more... )
July 6th; Saskatchewan Glacier - We are camped on the upper reached of the Saskatchewan Glacier in Jasper National Park. We woke up around 9 this morning, packed up and then headed over to the Parks office at the Icefields were we filled out a permit for Mt. Columbia. Originally we had planned to go up the Athabasca Glacier and set up the paper work as such. The sign up process took about an hour (groan) and afterwards we headed out. The Rangers warned us of icefall and suggested the alternative Saskatchewan Glacier route but we opted for the faster and more direct route. At the parking lot I said to Brad, "I'm feeling kind of nervous."
"Me too," he replied. We thought about it for a minute but then dismissed it and drove to the parking lot. However - once there we sat for a minute. "I don't feel good about this," Brad said.
"Me neither... how about the Saskatchewan Glacier route?" I replied.
So we agreed and drove back to the Visitor Center and changed our registration. ( Read more... )
We were up at 4am and out on the trail by 5am - trudging up the Snow Coach Road towards the Northwest bowl of Andromeda. The approach was tedious, 2 hours of hiking across moraine on a faint trail followed by and hour up an icefall - weaving in and out of crevasses and up and over steep ice, one foot on gravel the other front pointing on ice. After about half and hour of scary route finding we crested the glacier and picked our way across a very scary crevasse field, finally reaching the bergschrund and base of the route in 3 hours.
The planned on going on Skyladder (II) and coming down the East Ridge (II). Skyladder was an excellent straightforward climb. 3,000' of steep snow and ice climbing to a ridge crest. The route began with about 1,000' of 45 degree snow with good protection followed by 1,500' of 45 degree ice. Brad lead the snow and I lead the ice and we simul-climbed the entire route. After the ice face we had 500' of easy step kicking to the ridge. The route then traversed the summit snowfields via easy hiking in ankle deep snow all the way to the summit. ( Read more... )
The alarm went off at 5:30 am and we were up and drinking coffee by 6 am. Our plan was to climb the East Ridge of Edith Cavell. The guidebook stated that the route could comfortably be climbed in a long day.
We began hiking in at 6:30 am. The hike began with a nice trail that is beneath the massive north face and the Angel Glacier, and then up a trail branching off which took us into the high country and up to a snow slope leading to a col. We trudged up the snow slope kicking steps in snow that was at most 40 degrees. At the top we got a good look at the East Ridge: it begins with a scramble up 4th class rock that then leads to a snow gully which one follows up to the upper ridge. ( Read more... )
I know I know. Call me cliché - call me unoriginal, uncreative, unadventurous, boring, standard whatever... I 'm back. I 've been here four times now - yet I am still awed by the presence of the Cassin and Denali's summit as it appears hulking above our heads while we dig in for the night. Snow falls, the temperature rises just above freezing - the familiar pitter patter of sleet on a glacier. Communal dinners in the tent, Roger Robinson (who organized my rescue almost 6 years ago to the day) grasping my hand his deep voice "Oh great - that's great - I see you have a team from Anchorage... No - it's not too early for that route but it has been warm - Good luck!" His tan face, lines etched deep from season after season on Denali's slopes, breaks into a smile then grows serious as he remembers Jeff, my partner who died as a result of a fall on Denali in 1998. ( Read more... )
On Saturday July 7th Yvonne, Steve Gruhn and I hiked in to try Mt. Rumble in Chugach State Park. We knew it could potentially be a very very long day so we hauled bivy sacks and some extra clothes. We were at the trailhead at 7:30 and started hiking. 3 hours, 2500' and 5 miles later we reached the top of Bombardment Pass. We then had to descend 2500' and after 4 hours reached a beautiful tarn (small alpine lake) where we cached our bivy sacks, some extra food, dry socks and extra layers. From the tarn we could see the south face of Mt. Rumble (7,530') - our objective.
After leaving the tarn we continued down, traversing a slope via a well used sheep trail. At the head of the valley loomed the Raisin Glacier with Transcendence Peak (the bump in the middle) looking down on us. ( Read more... )
Brad Horning, Jeff Young and I flew into the Ruth in the hopes of first climbing the Mooses Tooth and then skiing up the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier, ascending Ruth Gap and then descending down the other side to reach the Kahiltna Glacier and ultimately Denali Base Camp. There Jeff would fly out and Brad and I would continue up the West Buttress of Denali. We had a lot of trouble getting information about Ruth Gap - but knowing that it had been done twice before we decided to give it a shot. Before we flew in we told our pilot what our goal was - but that if we were unable to get over the Gap we'd return to the original landing strip. The following are entries from my journal from May 30th - June 6th. ( Read more... )