Monday, December 15, 2008

Hillside Skiing

Lots of great snow in Anchorage this fall where we have been skiing since October. These shots were taken on December 14th. This first shot is from the Hillside lighted loops just at sunset.

Sunset over Far North Bicentennial Park
The top of Spencer loop, the best ski trail in Anchorage.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Skiing at Hatcher Pass

October and November found us skiing at Hatcher Pass.

Early snow in the mountains and little snow in town necessitated driving to Hatcher Pass every weekend. But who is complaining when the conditions are like this!

Independence Mine ski trails.

Patrick Stinson showing good form.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Beyond Magnificent

Snowslog up Mt. Magnificent and Beyond
High point: ~4800 ft
Sunday, Oct 5th, 2008

Mt. Magnificent, Mt. Significant and Peak 5331 are part of the ridges and peaks immediately north of Eagle River and have beckoned me every time I drive north from Anchorage. Early October I persuaded Amy to come with me to try to climb all three peaks in a day. I had estimated it would take us 8-10 hours for all three peaks from the Mile High Saddle trailhead. What I didn't expect was 2 feet snow above 4500 feet and a lot more coming down while we were out. After climbing Mt. Magnificent, we made it to the ridge junction between Peak 5331 and Mt. Significant where we decided to turn around so that we would make it back to the car before dark. These two summits will have to beckon me for another year.

Amy at the Mile High Saddle (which has an altitude of about 2300 feet). Not much snow at this point.

The bull moose were hanging out in the high country today. This one was a 12x12. We saw two other large bull moose heading over a 4000 foot high pass East of Mt. Magnificent, obviously heading for the cover at lower altitude in the Eagle River valley.
Traversing up from Mile High Saddle, we started getting into more and more snow. The valley below us (at about 2500 feet) didn't have much snow on the way up. On the way down, everything was covered in an additional 4-6 inches of new snow.
The Mt. Magnificent ridge looking back towards Eagle River.
Here is Amy traversing towards the summit of Mt. Magnificent. What is an easy hike and scramble in the summer is made trecherous by snow covered and icy rocks. Being unable to discern the quality of the surface underneath the snow made us traverse with ice-axes even though the terrain was only about 40 degrees. Even then we had some scary episodes where the ice ax would loose purchase on slick-rock.

Amy coming up the ridge leading to the intersection with the ridge from Peak 5331.
Turnaraound point at ~4800 feet. Peak 5331 can be seen in the background. With 1-2 feet of snow, out progress had slowed to a crawl. We would have used another 1 1/2 hour from here to the summit of Significant. With deteriorating weather, we decided to turn around and head back. What took 5 1/2 hours up took almost 4 hours back down. We made it to the car just as daylight was disappearing.
Trond looking down the ridge we came up. Mt. Magnificent can be seen far below of the ridge to the right.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mt. Maynard

Mt. Maynard, Chugach Mountains, Whittier.
September 28th, 2008
Highpoint: 4050 feet

On one of the best climbing days of the fall, I headed to Whittier to climb Mt Maynard. This is the prominent mountain that hosts the tunnel from Portage to Whittier. I accessed the mountain from the Whittier side, hiking up to Portage Pass and then up the Southeast face and up the South ridge to the summit. The trickiest part of this climb was the 60 degree slopes up the Southeast face (actually coming down was a lot worse than going up) and involved alder-belaying and down-climbing wet moss using the ice-ax for protection and brake. The summit ridge is very broken up (boulders with lots of hidden holes) but is not steep or technical. The summit provides glorious views in all directions.

View of Portage Galcier and Portage Lake from bench above Portage Pass.
View of Whittier and Passage Canal from about 2500 foot elevation on Mt Maynard.
Looking South across moonlandscape at about 3000 foot elevation on Mt. Maynard
Self-portrait with false summit of Mt Maynard in the background
Looking South along the summit ridge with the Kenai Mountains in the distance
The summit ridge was fairly narrow and snow-covered holes between boulders made it extra fun. The West face glacier with Portage Lake in the background
The final part of the summit ridge with the true summit being the far one.
Passage canal and Prince William Sound in the sunset.
Bard Peak (center) , Shakespare Shoulder (left) and the Whittier Glacier in the background.
Shakespare Shoulder (3517 feet) and Bard Peak (~3800 feet) are on my list for next year.
Looking North towards Learnard Mt (?) in the sunset.
This being late September, the days are getting much shorter. I failed to take that fully into account and ended up hiking out in the dark.
Northern panorama from the summit of Mt Maynard. Learnard glacier and Mt. Learnard make up the forground and the high Chugach mountains can be seen in the background.
Southern panorama from the summit of Mt Maynard. The Kenai mountains and the Harding Icefield are prominent in the center with the most prominent summit being Carpathian peak which sits at the head of the Portage glacier.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

East Twin

East Twin Attempt, Eklutna, Chugach Mnts, September 20th, 2008
Highpoint: ~5100 feet

East Twin has been on my list for a long time. But it has always had to take the back-seat to other peaks deeper in the Chugach. So I usually don't get around to it until it is too late in the year. The same happened this year, but I thought I would give it a go on September 20th anyway even though we already had snow down to ~4000 feet. WIth only trail running shoes and ski-poles I decided to turn around at ~5100 feet. But I gained valueable information about the peak and will have to come back later with ice ax and crampons or wait until summer. But it is definitely a worthwhile peak and from now on will be higher on my priority list.

Beautiful fall colors looking over Eklutna lake from about the 2000 foot level on the Twin Peaks trail.
Looking up towards East Twin (5873 feet) and the snowline at about 4000 feet)
Not much snow, just enough to make it interesting. Winter is definitely coming.
My route and highpoint on East Twin this day. One learning from this trip is that I need to drop into the main couloir lower on the mountain.
East (right) and West Twin peaks.
Fall colors below the Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks creek.
Parting shot of the Twin Peaks.
The Twin Peaks trail in fall shroud.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Denali Road Trip

Denali Road Lottery, September 12-14, 2008
Cast: Claudia Rivera, Jose Salas, Thorsten Eiben, Susanne Kruse & Trond Jensen

Claudia and Jose had won a permit in the Denali Park Road Lottery and were kind enough to invite Thorsten, Susanne and me along for a weekend in Denali National Park. All the way up from Anchorage (and all the way back down) is was pouring down. But on the North side of the Alaska Range it was surprisingly nice fall weather, and we were treated to views of wildlife (brown bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, fox, etc), fall colors, the Alaska Range and Mt. McKinley.

Broad Pass already showing termination dust down to the 4000 foot level.
Thorsten and Susanne on our short friday hike up the Tripple Lakes trail.
Mount Brooks (11940 ft) in the Alaska range (neighbor to Mt. McKinley).
Mt. Brooks and the lower part of Mt. McKinley from Wonder Lake.
Another shot of the K2 look-alike Mt. Brooks. I'd like to climb this mountain some day.
A view of the Alaska Range over the McKinley River and the terminus of the Muldrow glacier.
Another shot across the McKinley river bar.
Denali - "the great one". The north summit is clearly visible in the middle of the photo while the slightly higher south summit is partially obscured by clouds.
Susanne and Thorsten on our Sunday hike up to Healy Pt.
Trond with Mt. Healy in the background.
Claudia and Jose bundled up in the windy and chilly September wind. Mt. Healy is the highpoint on the background horizon.
Fall colors looking NW into the Hines Creek drainage (start of Denali National Park).
Alaska range seen across the McKinley River bar from the Denali Park Highway. Mount Mather is seen on the left, Mt Brooks in the center and Mt. McKinley to the right.