I love classics… be it rock, ice, ski descents and even the occasional mellow river run. So when I heard that the classic ice routes in Middle Glacier Canyon were fatter than usual we dusted off the ice gear and headed south to give one a try. We hiked into the canyon and checked out all the routes. Most of the routes looked either hard or thin, but Lucky Man looked better than usual.
Lucky Man is a wonderful ice route that is about 300’ tall and was first climbed by Charlie Sassera and Robert Frank in 1982. It usually has a very very thin beginning - after which the route ascends a mellow ramp system to the canyon rim. However this year there is a super easy sneak on climbers left that gets you past the thin horrow-show of verglass and stubby placements down low on the route. ( Read more... )
There is a place south of town where it’s always sunny. Where the sunlight warms a golden bowl even on the darkest days of the year. Where the snow is deep and the runs are steep. Where ribs are scraped clean by expert kid snowboarders and couloirs are filled with discarded sluff from passing skiers. I won’t say where it is… anyone who skis south of town will recognize it – but if you don’t then you’re missing out. It is, as I mentioned, always sunny and the snow is always good. ( Read more... )
When you're married to an over-achiever a lot is expected of you. You have to hold down a decent job, keep the house in order, make sure the dog doesn't do things like bite the mailman or eat porcupines, be a semi-decent provider, provide IT services, know how to troubleshoot a condensing boiler, have basic carpentry, electrical and plumbing skills ... and more. ( Read more... )
As if by magic the rains lifted and the sun rose. We threw our stuff together haphazardly and called around till a dog sitter was found... then jumped in the car and by 8am were hiking up Ram Valley underneath baby blue sky.
The objective was East Kiliak - a seldom visited peak that lies at the head of the Raisin Glacier - a seldom visited glacier that lies at the head of Peter's Creek. Since we had heard the peak was semi-technical we packed a light alpine rack, a basic glacier touring setup and overnight gear. ( Read more... )
Up from Ram Valley to the ridge E of Significant. Up Peak 5320'. Down and up again to the bumb NW of Peeking. Down to Peters Creek. Up to the base of the W. Ridge of Bees Heaven for some sleep. Up the W. Ridge of Bees Heaven then down the East ridge then up the long ridge to Thunderbird Peak. Then down the loooonnng ridge to the spillway across Eklutna Lake. 21 miles, 12K vert. And although Kim Gordon doesn't necessarily conjure images of pastoral Chugach ridge walks - her screams generally keep me going for hours... thus the music.
In case you don't remember, we had a pretty awful summer this year: 30 days straight of rain and gloomy weather. Climbing plans were pretty much shelved in exchange for boating, fishing and a short quick jaunt up Flattop in-between and during showers.
So when the forecast called for somewhat reasonably clear and sunny skies we opted to hike in and try Temptation Peak. Temptation is one of the 12 5000' peaks in the Chugach Front Range and was the last 5000' Front Range peak left on Yvonne's list (I still have 2 to go).
We packed a water bottle, bear spray, a couple bars and rain jackets and then began the slog up Snow Hawk Valley trail. The Snow Hawk trail has seen better days. At one time it was well cleared and easy walking. It's now the standard Chugach trail – meaning it's all of a foot wide with devil's club and cow parsnip towering over your head. And to add to the excitement every 50 feet you come across a pile of steaming bear dung. ( Read more... )
Summer in Alaska is for family visitors. Some years no one shows up… Other years they show up in mass – a week here, a week there. Sometimes 2 weeks. Sometimes 3 weeks… sometimes more. Not that I’m complaining… when family visits it’s a chance to show them how you live. And how you live might mean a long rafting trip in torrential rain, a lazy day floating the Kenai without any sign of fish or a brutal slog through dense brush in the middle of Chugach State Park. And even if that summer visitor isn’t ready for what you’re about to give them (like endless fishing in torrential rains) – it really doesn’t matter. We’ve got all of 3 months to pack in a summer (even if that summer is 35 degrees and raining) and the summer visitor is along for the ride whether they like it or not!
So when my brother Charlie and his wife, Liz, showed up we automatically piled them back into the truck and forced them to drive 5 hours north towards the eastern Alaskan Range where we spent 5 days fishing and floating the Gulkana River. ( Read more... )
Drove South to Homer (5 hours) for some halibut fishing this weekend. We went with our friend Becky who has a house and boat down there. Left friday night and by 11ish saturday morning we were uploading the skiff into Kachemak Bay.
Weather was kind of iffy at the put in -- foggy, a slight breeze and seas around 2 feet. By the we motored out of the harbor and into the bay we were questioning our decision. Of course once you've started you can turn around without at least a peek -- so on we continued. And as we motored west the weather improved and soon it was partly sunny with steady seas around 1-2 feet. We were in a 21' skiff; open in the back with a plastic cover in front -- and we were relatively comfortable. Anyway's - we motored for about an hour and about 20 miles out. Our first stop was about 1/2 mile off shore; we dropped in anchor in 50' of water and within a few minutes we were pulling up Irish Lords -- a blood red fish that grows to about a foot long and is covered with spines. Apparently the spines have a mild poison in them so we were very careful as we removed them and tossed them back. After about 45 minutes of fishing all we had caught were 7 Irish Lords and no halibut so we pulled anchor and headed further out. ( Read more... )
Birch turning - Upper River Fall 2008
Lingering snow - Upper River Spring 2010
Images from two floats down the Chulitna River - Fall 2008 and Spring 2010. ( Read more... )
We floated the Chulitna River over the long weekend… hot and sunny and with glorious views of the Alaska Range towering above the river. The mercury climbed to 80 degrees and we drifted down river in shorts and t-shirts. On Sunday night we camped on a gravel bar with the summits of Denali and Mooses Tooth jutting above the clouds. The view from my sleeping bag serene when I unzipped the tent and looked out to see the faint morning light at 3:30am turning the peaks a deep pink. When you're on a gravel bar in the sun the mountains look so peaceful and pleasant…
And then back to Anchorage and the working life. I check my email to see a string from random people I don't know. And then I check the news; 2 dead in an avalanche in the Ruth Gorge: Andrew Herzenberg, age 39, and Avner Magen, age 42 - both from Toronto, Ontario. I read the NPS report… they were killed while descending Freezy Nuts on Saturday, May 30th.
Bryce Stath on "Freezy Nuts" - Spring 2009.
A little later I read the string of emails and make the connection… I had been corresponding with Avner Magen for a few weeks and now friends and family were asking if I had any news. ( Read more... )