Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Eagle River to Eklutna - September 2018

We spent a marathon Monday in the kitchen processing three caribou and chatting about ideas for the following weekend. Tony suggested Ram Valley to Eklutna; what a perfect backyard idea connecting so many favorite places! Saturday morning found us hiking up the familiar trail to Falling Water valley.

In the unusually hot September sun we treadmilled up the scree pass between Peking and Peak 5320. Behind Alyse is one of Raina's long coolies that link up well with so many other lines in the area.

At the pass, it was ginger chicken wraps for lunch with a view of Foraker for dessert.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Falls Creek - 4.29.2018

Around 2 PM on Saturday the texts starting coming in from Jeff: he and Jeebs were storm skiing untracked pow in Falls Creek. I was sitting in gloomy, windy, and rainy Anchorage mourning getting shut down on the Alaska Range by storm after storm. The forecast was calling for more of the same Saturday night into Sunday, and I wasn't going to miss out on more stormy couloirs. The next day, hiking out of the rainy parking lot in our running shoes, it was hard to imagine winter was up there somewhere.

But, by the time Andrew, Alex, and I had climbed past a sleepy black bear, traded our running shoes for ski boots, and skinned into the alpine, winter was back in full force.

Making a right turn, throwing our skis on our packs, and starting the booter up the first coolie of the day, we began to realize just how good it was going to be. From the top I looked back down at Andrew as the falling snow swirled out of sight below.

Alex ski cut the slope before dropping first. After a foot of rapid loading overnight, we weren't sure how the new snow had bonded, but nothing moved.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Aniakchak Traverse - July 2018

Saturday morning started with the buzz of our little plane as we flew over the lakes, rivers, and volcanoes of the Alaska Peninsula. We were on the way to Port Heiden to traverse to Chignik Lagoon. I wondered about the odometer on the dashboard. 25,000 hours. How far is that? 250,000 miles? Or 10 times around the earth. Or, 2000 times as long as our traverse.

We stopped briefly in Ugashik to drop off two elders on the way. It was a quiet day at the post office there:

The old plane bounced back into the sky and over wandering caribou, ponds ornamented with pairs of swans, and ground broken by the ice polygons of permafrost. 45 minutes later, Port Heiden's gravel airstrip came into focus thru the coastal mist. Hopping out, Grant's Village Agent Billie was waiting for us. At the Post Office we said "hi" to Meg, Dan, and Gavin then crawled back into Billie's van for the taxi service to the end of the road. At the river we started hiking towards the caldera.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Honolulu Creek - 7.21.2018

After a prolonged negotiation with Leah, we agreed to an alpine-start at Fire Island at 8:55 on Saturday morning. By 9:30 we were on the road with cookies, scones, and coffee for fuel. We stopped by the Honolulu Creek bridge to check on water levels, chatted up a vanload of curious Indian tourists, hydrated on Bud Light Lime, and by 1:30 were hiking out of the Hurricane Gulch parking lot. After Aniakchak, it felt weird to be walking on a trail made by wheels instead of one made by the terrifyingly large brown bear paws of the Alaska Peninsula. The climb went by quickly and was broken up by a friendly family of rednecks on a six-wheeler followed by a long break under the cloudless skies. It was hard to feel hurried with nearly infinite daylight and perfect weather.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Raina - 5.5.2018

For weeks the weather has been stuck on repeat as the conveyor belt of southwest flow plows storm after storm into our mountains. Last weekend it finally looked like we'd get a break in the weather. The catch was finding a zone that hadn't been overloaded by the recent snowfall, wasn't still snowing, and had options protected from the wind. We decided that spot was Falling Water where we could skin higher and higher until reaching the balance between dust on crust and fat storm slab. On Saturday morning, entering the upper amphitheater, we'd struck the jackpot. 

Still cautious about wind loading up high, we started with the tightest and most protected couloir that disappeared out of sight above us:

At the top of the apron, we loaded our skis on our backs and booted into the protected walls. The spring powder was cold, deep, and consistent. Kate wondered what witchcraft we'd used to conjure up such magical snow. I prefer to think of it as Jedi mind tricks.