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.

It wasn’t till around 8 PM that we had finished the straightforward hike and were putting at the mini-gorge. Within 15 minutes, the horizon line of the creek pouring over California Ledge was in front of us. Leah asked if she was going to die and confirming that she probably wouldn’t we continued. The rest of the run was a fun and interesting pool – drop style creek with occasional sections of dragging through flat water. It’s easy to imagine that it would be more continuous, powerful, and exciting at higher flows. At one-point Alex and I saw a giant beaver watching from the bank. With a body the size of a chocolate lab, it slid into the river and floated under us like a furry submarine. In the lower river we started to pass colorful king salmon as they swam slowly upstream. By 11 we were at the takeout where Tony and Cody were running over in their head nets to say hi. Tony and I did a little planning for caribou hunting season, then we were on the road home. Without traffic the drive was fast, and I happily crawled into bed at 3 AM on Sunday morning.

Jeff on California Ledge:


Pixie dust in the evening light:

Leah on one of many smaller drops:

Paddling out the last bit to the bridge:

Streamflow Reference Points for 7/21/2018:
  • Montana Cr - 280 cfs - median is 320 cfs.
  • Willow Cr -540 cfs - median is 530 cfs.
  • Honolulu Cr @ Bridge - 250 cfs (estimated) - any less water would not have been floatable.

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.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Peeking - 5.6.2018

Sunday morning found us in Andrew's dark living room sipping coffee and negotiating ski plans for the day. I wanted to return to the dry powder we'd found in Falling Water the day before; Alex wanted something bigger and badder in the Front Range, and Andrew wanted a "moderate" day. A couple hours and one false start at the Basher Trailhead later, and we were changing from running shoes to ski boots at the entrance to Falling Water. Hidden by a curtain of falling snow is Eagle Peak - what a classy line:

We'd seen Seth's truck at the trailhead and ran to catch them. They too were headed for the X Couloir, so we joined forces and zipped up the booter together. Behind Seth and Kate are the Raina couloirs that we had skied on the previous day.

None of us were entirely sure how wind loaded the entrance would be, but protected under the rock buttress it seemed to have escaped the wind. Kate and Ben dropped first between the incised walls, quickly disappearing around the dogleg.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bold Peak - 4.17.2018

Like many favorites, the idea to ski the north face of Bold came years ago while daydreaming through Dongshow Productions. It became a game of waiting for weather, stability, and an available partner. With big lines going down all over the Western Chugach, we decided to give it a go.

I've never been on a fatbike before; the crunchy approach across Eklutna Lake was the perfect introduction - thanks for the loaner Schyler! After 5 miles of chasing Jake through my morning haze we parked at the Bold Valley trail and started hiking. An hour later we were in the hanging valley above the lake.

Past Eklutna Lake, Twin Peaks rose sharply into the sky in the vivid morning light.

Dwarfed by the huge north face, we skinned through the rolling moraines left by the receding glacier. I found this perspective to be particularly intimidating, and focused on my feet and the animal tracks around us rather than the behemoth above.