Monday, November 28, 2011

Matanuska River Ice Skating Adventure

Bill has talked about ice skating the Matanuska river for years, and I have always been highly skeptical. When he said the conditions were just right, I suspended my disbelief, and met him at Hicks creek with my ice skates.


The river was frozen...mostly. The textures of the ice flowed from translucent glass to opaque blues to snow covered, sometimes all within a few yards. There were hidden hazards like camouflaged overflow, air pockets and rocks.

Me Covered in Over Flow


The best part of falling through the overflow is that it froze to my pants before it fully penetrated the long underwear. There were some spectacular wrecks, Bill told me he saw me in full super woman form flying through the air, when gravity brought me back to the ground, all the air left my lungs. If you look close in the photo below you can see my initial folly through the ice on the bottom right, and then me in a heap.

Good Times


Yes I made that Big Hole


There was a little bit of slogging through some snow berms,and over gravel bars, but not nearly as bad as I expected.


This adventure proved to be a little too tough for Bill's new cross country ski boot ice skates, and one of his blades just fell off. After some field repairs things looked good, but once weight was put on it fell off again. So Bill did the one skate with a blade and one without, till the frame was so mangled that he eventually had to switch to one boot, one ice skate. It was pretty hilarious, but he made it work.

Posted by Picasa

Despite the painful falls, this adventure was one of the most fun things I have ever done. It was amazing to cover 20 river miles on ice skates, I never thought it was truly possible, and was happy to be proven wrong.

Slide Show: Some of Bills Pics

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ram Valley

Ryan and I were feeling ambitious so we decided to check out Ram valley. Neither of us had been back there since our picket misadventure a couple years ago, and we both wanted to look at the huge couloir that comes down Raina Peak.

Ryan and I

We debated whether or not to go up Ram valley or Peeking valley. In the end we decided to go up Peeking, and it was a slog of ambition killing proportions.

Up Through the Under Brush

The sun that had so briefly shined upon us at the beginning was long gone by the time we were above tree line. It was pee soup conditions of the most nauseating magnitude.

Skinning Up the Valley Below Peeking Mtn

Pea Soup Disappointed Faces

When it became clear that we would never make it back to the base of the couloir before dark, we put our thinking caps back on.

Digging a Pit

Posted by Picasa

In the end we went a little farther up, peeled our skins, and bailed back down the long white valley.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sking Past Johnsons Pass

Ryan and I parked at a small pullout just down from Johnsons Pass and headed up 1,500 feet through deep snow and trees.

It was awesome to get above the fog layer and into the sun.  It was cold.


The snow at the top was awesome, but the base disappeared farther down and we scraped over rocks and was kind of ugly.  Definitely not lap worthy so be bailed out the valley down an old mining road.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Indecision and the PFM Wall

Bill and I headed south to Portage with thoughts of warm temps and fat ice. We did the full tour to the Whittier tunnel, things were pretty buried in snow, and the lake was still open. Across the valley, Indecision was like a beacon, it looked huge and promising from the road.

Despite the cold temps the swamp still had quite a few sections of thin ice, creating unfortunate little booby traps. The pool below Indecision was scary, small rocks I threw embedded themselves in the not so frozen ice. It was a "no go" situation.

So we walked back to the car, I wrang out my wet, swampy socks, and we decided to look closer at the PFM wall. I didn't see the line, but Bill was all over it.

It was steep and pretty. Bill cruised it. It was a super fun line, I'm glad I was on top rope.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First Day of the Ice Season: Hillside Pillars

I forgot the packraft at home, so I was pretty psyched that the river was frozen enough to cross on foot, one never knows this time of year. There was a lot of snow and no one had been up the route as far as we could tell. I half climbed, half shoveled myself up the first easy pitch.

The climbs were in great at the top. I told myself I didn't really need it or want it and gave Bill the lead on both pitches. Its weird how this always bothers me in retrospect.

Bill on the Right Pillar

Whenever I get the screaming barfies to the full effect it makes me question  the pain vs reward ratio inherent in ice climbing.  My pinky was so frozen I couldn't feel it in my glove.  I had to pause on a ledge and try not to cry and vomit at the same time.  Although after that my hands burned and were quite hot....and running laps is pretty fun.

Bill on the Left Pillar

The sun didn't shine for long on us, but it sure was pleasant. 

Bill Heading Down

Posted by Picasa

What happens when you have nothing to prove anymore...not even to yourself?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Turnagain Pass

I had the unique opportunity to go skiing with the Okonek sisters. It was Erin's first time backcountry skiing...its been a while since I've been out with a true newbie, and it brought back my own memories of early learning opportunites on skin tracks.

The Girls Leaving the Car


True to Okonek genetics, Erin was able to smile through the pain, but I don't think I have ever seen anyone suffer so badly on a skin track. One sister gliding effortlessly uphill, the other sister sliding backwards, desperate, and out of breath. (Erin is a former Olympic weight lifter, now a cross fit trainer, clearly a fit individual)



We made it to the ridge and skied one lap off the backside...not super impressed with the run, then skied back to the car off the front...that's the side we should have lapped.

Posted by Picasa

I always consider myself a non skier and definitely behind the curve, today reminded me that its all relative. I ski with really good skiers often, but if I skied with bad skiers more, I would feel like a better skier. I've come a long way since my first days on a skin track.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Turnagain Pass

Its been a while since I've skied with my good friend Kellie. Kellie is to skiing, like I used to be to ice climbing....dedicated/obsessive, go until dark, and don't mind bad conditions...its hard for me to ski with someone like that. But the new Kellie (she claims), is much more mellow and content to ski powder runs with me on Magnum....just as me, the new Sherrie, hasn't even climbed once this season.

Kellie at the Top of Magnum

My Beautiful Tracks, and Kellie Coming Down

The thing I like the most about skiing with Kellie is the company. We literally chatted up and down that mountain all day, its so fun.

Me and Kellie

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Turnagain Pass

Doug and Ryan Skinning


The snow was deep, light and glorious, pure joy.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Turnagain Pass

The skiing has been phenomenal this season.


Lots of angry looking glide cracks on all the mountains. Surprised by how many skiers there were on Magnum.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tree Skiing at Summit

It was dumping snow when Ryan and I drove through Turnagain pass and it didn't stop by the time we parked at Summit.


It was clearly a day to stick to the trees.


All the new snow made the skiing extra soft, it was glorious.

Posted by Picasa