Monday, September 28, 2009

Just a Little Farther: Arctic Valley

I finally did something that I have wanted to do for years...kind of a silly goal really, but that has never stopped me before, nor did it make me pause long on this day. The funny thing is that it is totally insignificant to anyone but myself, and I still don't care....I finally did it!

In the Snow Line!

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Chair 1?


Me Being a Dork


I'm so old school that I used to ski at Arctic when there was a military and civillian side...the military dudes always wore jeans, and we laughed at them in our stylish florescent 80's wear and skinny skis...The old lodge that used to be up there is completely gone.

Looking Toward the Military Side


So I started at the golf course, jogged to the lodge, trotted to the valley that overlooks Hiland, went up Rendezvous Peak, then followed the ridgeline all the way down to where the old military ski area used to be, hit the road, and went back to the golf course. Usually it is all that I can do to get my ass to the lodge...that's why I'm psyched today I went further! Now the next goal is to do it faster...sometimes I could probably walk faster than I "run" uphill... : )


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day One of Winter: April Bowl, Hatcher Pass

It feels like it has been raining for days, with the dreary white clouds just smothering the mountains...Ryan and I have been skiing Hatcher Pass super early season for a few years in a row, so this pattern was our cue to go check out the conditions....

And Then There is the Snow Line!

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The decision to not go to the Lane glacier was easy since the gate at Archangel Valley road is already locked tight, seems early, usually we get at least 1-2 days out there...

Things looked white and muted in the snow storm, but after about 30 minutes of skinning we saw the light...and it was magnificent.

Skinning to the Blue Hole


Ryan and I at the Top of April Bowl


After a few phone calls Raina and Brody decided to motivate out of the gloom in Anchorage and joined Ryan and I in the sun.

Raina and Brody Skinning Up

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There was about 2-12" of beautiful powder up there. Its still very early season with a lot of rocks, and not really much of base to speak of yet....the turns I got without hitting rocks were smooth and creamy. I am super excited that I bought a new ski helmet that is comfortable...if there is a time and place to wear a helmet skiing, this is it.

Me Making Powder Turns
Photo: Ryan Campbell


Slide Show!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Bomber Traverse

Betsy, George Anne and I were all super psyched to head out of Anchorage and into Hatcher Pass to do the Bomber Traverse. It was nice and crisp as we made our way down the Mint valley. I was surprised at how brown it was up there, on Pioneer Peak everything was still golden yellows, reds, and was lovely...It was still lovely up there, just a shade closer to winter.. : )

The Mountaineering Club of Alaska has done a lot of work on the Mint Hut and even put in a composting toilet...its pretty luxurious really...and the views are awesome.

The Mint Hut


From the Mint Hut we headed up valley and then were in the boulder fields. I love how many big rocks there are up there. Its so fun to kind of hop, slide, and dance my way through them, sometimes big ones move...but it keeps the walking interesting.

George Anne in Rock Land

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Crossing the First Glacier


Unexpected Crevasses Sightings


The Upper Reed Lake

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Slide Show!

Pioneer Peak

I have to admit that I got a little wrecked doing the half marathon and the 3 day Kennicott Lakina trip back to back...and then going straight to work on little sleep, working a bunch of long days in a row took its toll....but when I woke up Saturday morning to a blue bird day, it had been over a week since I had been out to play, and I knew I had to go do something fun.

Although Pioneer Peak is a repeat in my life I don't care. I love this trail, the views, and the ridge to the top. The last few times I've done this hike I've gotten hosed with white out conditions at the top....I'm a sucker for a good view.

The Ridge to Pioneer Peak


Its pretty funny that you have to climb about 3,000 feet before you can even see the peak your heading looks so far away from down below...but its just an illusion.

Looking Down from the Top


Eklutna Glacier


Knik Glacier

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Slide Show!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The End: Lakina River

This is without a doubt the most fun packrafting I have ever done. It was pretty much non stop action the whole time. I've done a lot of mellow floats this summer, but this was something different. It was borderline on what I am comfortable with, splashy and playful with some squeezes and short whoop-de-doo pour overs...We had to pull over and dump our boats every 10 minutes at least...I think thats what took the most time...

Camp on the Lakina River


Kellie with Castle Mountain


So if you watched the slide show in my last post you probably saw this same man sitting beside a dead goat with a knife in his hand. His name is Chris, ironic if you read my first post, and him and his client were the only people in camp, (think big) when me and Kellie floated down the Lakina River and spotted it. Awesome host, offered us a beer and breakfast, which were taken without regret....mmmmm...fresh bisquits, hash, and a Budweiser out in the middle of nowhere and 100% unexpected, added another dimension of awesomeness to an already incredibly awesome trip : )

The Hunting Guide Chris


Kellie on the Beautiful Lakina River

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Its unfortunate that I was getting so antsy on the last few miles of the Lakina...we were hoping to be out by 2pm...but it was more like 6 in the end, and I had to physically be at work at 7am in Anchorage the next morning...Its a good thing that this was an amazing trip because the next 6 days at work were a little brutal!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Middle: Hidden Valley to the Lakina River

I was so excited to write about the first day that I don't think I saved enough blogging enthusisasm to carry me thru the second and third here's the cliff notes version.

Long beautiful river valley, got steep along the river, side hilled, crossed the pass, abosulute amazingness met us on the other side which we happily meandered though on thouroughly enjoyable terrain. We got in the water for about 1 hour, paddled thru some exciting fast water, took out, built a fire and made camp. I am so in love with this world....the end.

Kellie heading up the River


The Awesomeness that Inspires my love of the World


The Lakina Glacier


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Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Beginning: Kennicott to Hidden Valley

Warning Uncontrollable Rant: Feel Free to Skip

Whenever I feel myself apologizing to people who might read my blog in my head, I immediately try to shut it off and remind myself that this is my blog. So with that as my new inspiration to do exactly as I want, I've decided that this trip probably needs a post for each day. It was that freaking amazing, I would put the beauty factor up there with the Alaska Range, Himalayas, and Andes...big mountains with big glaciers just up the awe factor in me.

End of Rant

I was so excited by the day ahead I pretty much got out of tent at 8am and could not contain myself...I tried to be quiet making coffee and packing my stuff as the rest of the crew still slept away. By the time Kellie rolled out of bed an hour later I was pretty amped up and ready to start the day....understandably she needed a little more caffeine and patiently told me that I would just have to wait about packing decisions....twice...I should probably mention that we stayed out dancing till after 1am, and had run a half marathon before excitement can carry me pretty well through a bad hangover and muscle early morning antics are predictable and I've accepted that not everyone can be as efficient, instantly excited or entirely joyous as I can on early mornings...(see previous Valdez posts)

We left camp at a respectable 11ish and headed to Kenicott....

Kellie and I in Kennicott
photo taken by: Kellie Okonek


The trail to the Root glacier is awesome. I love trails and I say that completely without shame. With such nice walking it didn't take us long before we were walking on the white ice of the Root glacier. Fortuitously we ran into a nice man named Tyler who we had met at the bar the previous night, who was looking after a couple clients on a glacier hike. He asked us of our intentions (paddles on a glacier really puzzle people) and then proceeded to inform us of a much less painful way to travel on the glacier. With this new knowledge we were able to keep the glacier travel an entirely pleasant experience...

Heading To the Root


Part of the reason this hike was a 10 on my scenery scale is Mt. Blackburn in all its white glory stood tall in our path for miles, this is what Wikipedia has to say about it:

"The mountain's massif is covered almost entirely by icefields and glaciers, and is the principal source of ice for the Kennicott Glacier (which we traveled on), which flows southeast over 20 miles to just above the town of McCarthy. Mount Blackburn is a large, dramatic peak, with great local relief and independence from higher peaks. Its west face drops over 11,000 ft to the Kuskulana Glacier in less than 4 horizontal miles. Its other faces drop 8,000-10,000 feet, all in less than 8 miles. While these figures speak to the peak's relief, one measure of its independence is that it is the 50th most topographically prominent peak in the world."

The Kennicott Glacier


This glacier is huge. The morraines are like mini mountains and we must have crossed at least 12 distinct lines. I'm glad that I have a lot of glacier travel experience, it was nice to use that knowledge to anticipate and assess hazardous travel features...if you go the good way its totally smooth sailing.

It was also really nice to finally get off the glacier and back to less shifty and slippery terrain. We ascended a Fos (lateral morraine with freakishly flat top) and contoured around what on the map was Hidden Lake. We picked up an awesome game/human? highway and navigated our way down back to Hidden Valley. In place of where a lake should have been was a jumbled snarl of glacier blocks strung out on the valley floor...something shifted in the glacier and the lake drained was pretty visually stimulating.

No More Hidden Lake!

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We traveled down into the valley as the sun was starting to set. I was feeling pretty worked at this point and was happy to camp. It was dark by the time the mid was up and we were inside cooking dinner...a great way to end the day.

Slide Show of Day 1
(Pics of me were taken by Kellie)

PS: We got the idea for this trip from Check it out if you want more accurate details of the trip. : )

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Great Motivator: McCarthy-Kennicott 1/2 Marathon

If this half marathon wasn't a great excuse to drive all the way to McCarthy, there is no way I would have been tempted to do it....but I've been trying (mostly in my head) to get up there all summer. Hands down it is one of the most magical places in Alaska, and I love it there.

The Girls: One Raina, Kellie, Two Jen's and Me


Somehow I convinced Kellie that it would be a great idea too....I think we were talking about her latest 10 mile run and I offered up some unsolicited advice, that I though she should do the 1/2 marathon up there...Kellie being Kellie, she immediately tacks something else that sounds challenging to the backside of running a 1/2 marathon (secretly why I love her)....and put the bug in my ear about some packrafting....

The Awesome Glaciated Wrangell Mountains


The race started at 2pm, which I thought was very reasonable. I haven't really run much since Crow Pass, except my new favorite activity of "trotting" which isn't running or I set my personal goal of 2 hours for the race. Although my heart rate averaged 181 for the entire race (that's really high), I beat my goal and finished in 1:40...very respectable for me.

Kellie and the Two Chris's at Camp

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This is probably the most social weekend I have ever had in my life...or at least a few years. I am not a very social person, I don't like big parties and generally never go to the bar. I went to the bar twice, and met so many awesome new people, most of the men though strangely all had the same name of Chris...very weird.

So in sum, I got to fill my social quota for the next year, pushed myself as hard as I could and ran a 1/2 marathon, then got to do an awesome wilderness trip as icing on the cake...It was simply awesome.