Monday, November 24, 2014

Nancy Lakes

People put a lot of time into thinking about why they like skiing. To some its a religion, to others a way of life. I try to avoid deep thoughts, but with no sign of snow on either the horizon, I'm trying to avoid cabin fever.

The plan was to connect 16 lakes spread over 35 km into a loop of hiking and skating.

As the dry weather has persisted, we've started to hear about skating the Nancy Lakes canoe portage. People do it wearing nordic ice skates and skate ski boots, quickly clicking in and out of their skates for the short walks between the lakes.

This sounded great, and it would be Friday - no one would be interested in renting skates for such a fringe sport. On Thursday night I got a sad call from Malcolm that, indeed, this fringe sport had followers, and AMH was rented out.

No need to de-skate for moss.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Snowbird Hut - March 2014

People talk about what it takes to survive winter in Alaska. Its seems like a ridiculous statement, it's so awesome here, but at some level its true. To grossly simplify, there's really only two reasons to be here: you're family is here or you want to experience Alaska. To maximize the experience and minimize cabin fever you need to be flexible.

February had some great days: Tincan, Seattle Ridge, and Falls Creek.

Skinning out Archangel Valley with Snowbird Valley front and center.

Then it rained. Hatcher, Turnagain, the Front Range, Cordova, probably Valdez too. Most people had given up on skiing, and we knew we needed to get above the rain line.

As we turned into the Snowbird Valley I couldn't stop looking at this complex, big, and gorgeous face above Reed Lakes.

The Snowbird Valley has promising terrain too. These lines would be an easy day, especially with a sled bump. Sadly, they were guarded by a bulletproof raincrust.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pioneer Peak Hike

Several interesting things have happened lately: I no longer have giardia; my camera will be spending a quiet and lonely winter sitting by a river in the Arctic; I've discovered how awesome duck hunting is; and we hiked Pioneer Peak.

I clearly remember Pioneer from my first ski trip to Alaska. As you drive towards Anchorage from the North, Pioneer's 6,200 vertical foot face screams at you. Since then I've dreamed about skiing it. When Whit and Kelly mentioned hiking it, I figured it would be a good recon mission.

Pioneer's huge west face, topping on the cake on the drive back from a great day at Hatcher Pass.

We got off to the usual early start. Erin woke me up with a phone call 15 minutes after I was supposed to be at her house, then we drove back across town to pick up a pair of shoes. Not everyone hikes in their slippers.

Pioneer's two summits coming into view:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Penguin Ridge Hike - 9.7.2014

When Roman Dial describes it as "the best day-hike in the Chugach", you know you should do it. You should also know that Dial's idea of world class "day-hiking" involves burning calves, bushwhacking, and treacherous down climbs. Now I know that.

Penguin Ridge is another one of those adventures that I've been hearing about since the day I got here. Because the hike is all about the views, you want a day with perfect weather. Last week we got that day, so Whit, Kelly, Rachel, Alex, and I set out on the much anticipated hike.

I've really been looking forward to this hike along the skyline of Turnagain Arm. With unobstructed views in all directions, I figured it be both a trip down memory lane, and a chance to plot more memory makers. It was all that, and memorable too.

Shortly after a car drop/bathroom break/blueberry fritter pit stop in Girdwood, we were on the trail from Bird towards Penguin Peak. The fall colors have really started to pop in the last week, here they are just beginning to show across the valley on Bird Ridge.

The first bit of the trail is a rough wake up call. Its steep, slippery, overgrown, and beary. No, not berry. Alex and I both hate mornings, that's probably why we get along, heads down and no talking for the first hour:

The minute we we reached the the ridge and the sun poured onto us, we knew the day was going to be fantastic. Alex with Falls Creek in the background:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Caines Head - Feb 2014

The last seven months have been absolutely great. 20 Mile, Carpathian, Kanuti: its impossible to pick a favorite. But, at the beginning of February things were bleak. Actually, they were dark and downright wet. December and January were filled with unstable snow and, as the Weather Service put it, a firehouse of tropical moisture (rain).

That Friday night brought the usual weekend warrior data collection and decision making: making phone calls, reading blogs, and checking weather stations. Conclusion: it had rained everywhere; skiing was not in the cards.

So, Toni, Alex, Rachel, and I did something different: we didn't go skiing. Instead we drove south toward Callisto Cabin (reservations here) along the beach outside of Seward.

Our dear friend Nick had been making the most of the rain by skating the smooth ice that it had left behind. Following his advice we stopped at Tern Lake on the way to Seward:

The hike to the Caines Head cabins is an awesome beach walk at low tide. With the short winter days, the low tide occured in the dark. Walking on the icy beach in the dark in February was a bit sketchy, which I was recently reminded of when my coworker broke his leg doing the same walk in the day this summer.

Walking in the dark, we felt the cold katabatic wind draining the valley behind the Callisto Cabin and knew it was time to leave the beach and look for the cabin. Found it!

All hut/cabin trips are accompanied with at least a few memorable games of Bananagrams. This time Toni learned a new word. Thanks Alex!