Saturday, August 30, 2008

Helihiking in the Teocallis

Helihiking in the Teocallis (Alaska Range)
August 30th, 2008

On one of the best days of the 2008 summer, I flew with Kimball Forrest in his helicopter from Anchorage to the Kichatna Mountains in the Eastern part of the Alaska Range with a return around the Tordrillo mountians. The photos attempt to portray the phenomenal vistas and nature seen in this part of Alaska.

Departure from Merrill Field on August 30th, 2008, under a clear blue sky.
First landing was on the Tatina river to check out John Spencer's old sheep hunting cabin.
Not much left of the cabin though. Heavy snows must have been too much for the small log cabin.
Checking out the insides ... anything to salvage?
Not much of value here. The cabin must have collapsed recently tough, because there was no sign of leaks or animals using the cabin as shelter. Even the nails looked like the had been pounded in yesterday.
The Tatina river - a fairly significant glacial river. This would probably make a decent pack rafting river.
The Tatina river looking upriver towards the Tatina glacier.
The toe of the Tatina glacier with a terminal lake as the headwaters of the Tatina river.
The Tatina glacier and some of the Kichatna spires. This is a climbers paradise with a multitude of 2-3000 foot granite walls. In general, the weather was great the whole day, but the Kichatnas seemed to create their own weather. When drizzle and rain turned to snow around 4500-5000 feet, Kimball decided to turn the helicopter around before we experienced any icing. The lower 2/3rds of the Cathedral Spire can be seen in the distance.
The Earl river leading up towards Simpson pass (where we came across after having had a look at the spires from the Caldwell glacier on the South side).
Tatina river looking West and downriver.
Small alpine lake (at about 27-2800 feet elevation) and the Jones river valley. We hiked up the nearest right hand side ridge to Peak 6150 (just outside the right hand side of the picture). This true peak appears to be the highest point in this part of the Teocalli mountains.
Kimball heading out through the fall colored alpine foliage.
Hiking up the ridge towards Peak 6150.
Halfway up the ridge consisting mostly of slabby and dangerously sharp scree.
So what is this picture all about? Notice the wavy patterns in the scree. This shows how scree is not always stationary, but oftentimes has a tendency to "flow" downhill.
On our return, we flew through Rainy Pass and then up the Skwentna river valley with the Tordrillo mountains on our left (East side). This picture looks South and upstream the Skwentna river.
Headwaters of the Nagishlamina river is the Harpoon glacier. In the distance is peak 11068 which is just south of Mount Torbert (highest peak in the Tordrillos at 11472 feet).
Toe of the Pothole glacier looking South towards the Neacola mountains.
Toe of the Pothole glacier looking East towards 10000 foot peaks in the Tordrillos.
Chakachamna lake and the Neacola mountains.
The Tordillos from the south. Unfortunately, Mount Spurr was hiding in the clouds when we passed by.
Home, Sweet Home.
Thanks Kimball, for an awsome day in and above the Alaska Range!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Cantata Peak

Cantata Peak, South Fork Eagle River, Chugach Mountains
August 24th, 2008
Highpoint: Cantata Peak (6391 feet elevation)

Amy Hinkle and I had planned to climb Eagle Peak on August 23rd and 24th. But I chickened out because of poor weather on the 23rd. Instead, we opted to climb Cantata Peak on the 24th. We used 10:30 roundtrip from the South Fork Eagle River trailhead. It took about 6 hours up (including about half an hour wasted on route-finding in the fog) and 4:30 hours down. We started out in beautiful weather, but most of the climb was donein thick fog, until right below the summit where we got some awsome views of the surrounding Chugach Peaks.

Cantata Peak south face as seen from Triangle Peak (October 2006). The route on Cantata follows the left hand ridge until about ~1000 feet below the summit where it traverses the south face and accesses the summit via one of the obvious scree gullies. Crossing the boulder field below the old cabin between Symphony and Eagle lakes.
Ascending the ridge above Symphony Lake (left) and Eagle Lake (right).
Soon we entered the fairy tale world (read "fog"). I got some great views of my own shadow in the clouds below us (Brocken Spectre) .
Amy at the notch where we started traversing the South Face
Heading up the gully towards the summit
Trond on the summit with Calliope Peak in the background
Coming back off the summit. The scree was the typical Chugach crud.
Heading back down the ridge. The ridge is the most enjoyable part of the climb.
Overlooking the tarn at the toe of the Calliope glacier with Calliope Peak rising in the background.
Tear lines (cracks) in the tundra. It appears that the soil is sliding downhill at a rate that causes cracks to appear.
More cracks in the tundra with the Symphony Tarns in the background. This piece of real estate looks to be heading over a cliff real soon. I have seen more of these cracks this summer than all other summers in Alaska combined. Is this a sign of permafrost thawing out?
Summit panorama (North to East to South) with Eagle Peak to the left of Amy, Calliope in the center and Triangle peak at the very right.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Hottest Week of Summer

Nome Bike Trip August 2008

On August 7th I flew to Nome for 5 days of mountain biking along the Nome-Teller "highway" on the Seward Peninsula in Western Alaska with the Inupiat village of Teller as the goal of the trip (,_Alaska). I logged a total of 173 miles in 18'40" over 5 days in the best weather imaginable. An ascent of Grand Singatook (3870 feet) was also included in the schedule. The weather was clear and sunny every day (except with some sea fog thrown in the last day) and the temperatures ranged from ~40 degrees at night to ~65 degrees during the day.
I could camp pretty much anywhere on the tundra, although the tundra is not as flat as it seems at first glance. Also, finding a spot away from standing water and with some breeze alleviated the mosquito situation somewhat. Finding good water was not a problem and a part of the time I would drink the water right out of the mountain streams.

The road conditions where variable but mostly quite good. I encountered everything from hardpacked smooth dirt surface (almost like blacktop) to pebbly crap that slowed me down to 2 mph.

Ready to start from Nome. Everything was packed into 2 panniers at the back of my mountain bike.

Air America.
The terrain consisted mostly of long rolling hills, 2 miles up, then 2 miles down into the next drainage.
Camp on the first night with Grand Singatook in the background. Notice the mosquito net ... and I am usually not bothered much by mosquitos ...
Not much wildlife to see on this trip. A spider, quite a few ptarmigans, and some ducks. But no musk-ox, reindeer, caribou, bears or other. What's happened to the wildlife up here?
On the summit of Grand Singatook. It was actually a more strenuous climb than I had envisioned and it took me amost 2 hours from camp to the summit. Half of the climbing was through huge boulder fields with unstable boulders ... oh, what fun!
On the summit of Grand Singatook .... remnants of a cold war listening stations
The view to the West from Singatook towards Wolley Lagoon.
Part of the climb was through dessert like terrain with great granite boulders.
McAdams Creek.
Mining barge by Sullivan Camp along the Gold Run Creek.
Second day camp site overlooking Teller, Grantley Harbor and Port Clarence.
City of Teller.
A one road town, if you can call it that.
Political campaigns make it to the bush.
The usual display of mechanical art.
Point Teller.
Teller Commercial ... like most other businesses in Teller ... "Gone Fishing" permanently.
Main street Teller.
Salmon drying racks.
Typical vistas and road conditions along the Nome-Teller highway.
Little (on the left) and Grand Singatook.
Woolley Lagoon fishing camp.
Third day camp. I was going to camp on the beach by the Bering Sea, but was unable to get across the lagoon to the ocean side. This was still a neat camp-site with the sound of the Bering sea crashing against the beach all night.
Evening ...
and sunset over Woolley Lagoon. And the sunset was at 11:45 pm.
Not much wildlife was seen on this trip. But this little feller (an Arctic Loon) visited my camp on the fourth day.
Along with four days of great weather came the sea fog. But there was blue sky landwards, and as soon as I got 4-5 miles inland, the fog was gone. Notice the road surface here ... loose, fist-size pebbles and rocks ... "interesting" to bike on with panniers on the back of the bike to make it heavier and less responsive.
Road markers set up by the natives ... they are obviously used to heavy fog in this area. The road to Woolley Lagoon had one of these markers about every 100 yards.
The sockeye run in the Sinuk River was some of the strongest I've seen. Myriads of nice looking sockeyes going up towards the Glacial Lake (original name, I know).
And this is why we shouldn't drive our 4 wheel drive vehicles on the tundra ... any other questions?
Panorama from Grand Singatook looking North.