Sunday, August 23, 2020

Ice Cream Cone/Skybuster Mountain 8/22/20

Skybuster/Ice Cream Cone seen from Mt. Significant, January 2019.  LONG lens!

   I remember the first time I saw it. Eastbound on the Glenn, just before passing Kings Mountain and Chickaloon, on a clear, flat section of road, I happened to glance south, and there it was, standing tall in the distance. I couldn't take my eyes off, and couldn't help but wonder: did that insane tower of rock have a name, and what would it be like to stand on its incredible, precipitous summit? Since I wasn't driving, I easily answered the first question with Google.

   That inspirational behemoth was named Skybuster.

   Answering the second question, however, would have to wait.

   Several years and lots of beta gathering later, it was time to try. Since the peak is so remote, it seemed a good idea to make this our first fly in approach. With excitement and some apprehension, we loaded up at Merrill field and flew (choppered!) out.

WOCKA WOCKA WOCKA

Sitting in the chopper at Merrill field.

Fueling up in Palmer.

   Cruising by the familiar landmarks of Vista, Twin Peaks and Pioneer was a surreal experience, yet nothing compared to the insanity of landing below the south face of Skybuster mere minutes after departing Anchorage. I swear it feels like it SHOULD have been more difficult. We waved farewell to our chopper buddies, and they were gone.

This would have been part of the human powered approach.  Might've taken a while!

Chopper friends!

BYEEE!

   Since we arrived in the early afternoon, we had plenty of time to investigate our camp site and walk up to our intended route. Snow conditions were the biggest concern (followed by rockfall), but a brief investigation of the gully above proved more favorable than expected for both. The new concern was the narrowing of the upper section of gully - from below, it appeared a potential technical challenge, but was impossible to say for sure. We vowed to give it an early start tomorrow, and returned to camp for a good brew.

This was an amazingly perfect camp site.

Studying the route for tomorrow's attempt.
Ooooohhhhhh ahhhhh pano!

   Some rain showers moved by throughout the night, but were interspersed with long periods of amazing star visibility. I propped my phone on my pillow and capitalized on this - I had long been waiting to try the Pixel 4 star photography. Seriously impressed with one of the shots I got.

Night sky.  Amazing what a modern smartphone can do.

   The following morning, we departed at first light and quickly french techniqued our way up the wide snow field at the bottom of the gully. After crossing several runnels (and encountering some nice WI therein) we came to the narrowing section we had worried about.

Trudging to the snow...

Trudging UP the snow

Finding WI!!

Gimme summa dat WI plz

   As it turned out, the first step was easy mixed terrain, followed by several more steps of easy ice and snow, leading eventually to a wider gully with more snow. From here we gained the summit ridge.

Cody topping out on the (quite) easy mixed section

The rest of the narrow gully.  Some ice up there that may just edge into WI2 territory, if I'm being generous ;)

   I had heard a lot about this summit ridge and was expecting some srs bsns, but we found nothing worth roping up for. The rope stayed in the bag all the way to the summit.

Typical summit ridge.  There was ONE gendarme that was easily dealt with.

   The summit itself was a slightly anti-climactic mellow snowfield with a severe drop on the north side. Unfortunately, clouds had moved in and obscured our hopes of seeing far and wide into the Chugach, yet we did have a small break in the clouds looking northward. It was nice to get at least SOME views!

The Moistboyz, aka Krusher and co., aka Send Squad, aka Beavis and Butthead 

The view to the north.

   We descended in deteriorating weather (snowflakes!) and finally broke out the rope to rappel the mixed step. A slung horn with a bomber piton backup saw us down without trouble. As we descended the wider snowfield, we did see some random rockfall that hastened our downclimbing speed, yet we made it back to the tent without incident.

   Through the magic of an early start, combined with a chopper drop at 5k feet, we realized we had finished way ahead of schedule - it was only 12pm. After some deliberation, we figured it best to try to leave early, given the questionable weather. A quick InReach text later and the chopper was on its way back for us.

Things were starting to look a bit worse down here.  The rain was soon to follow.

   As we waited for the WOCKA WOCKA, we packed up camp and wondered at the strange weather. Several rock towers in the distance were being hidden by sheets of rain, and sure enough, the rain came our way and started drenching us with frigid wetness. Luckily, the chopper arrived not much later, and we thanked our pilot profusely for our "rescue".

   Once again, it was a surreal flight back to Anchorage. One moment we were freezing, next moment we were in the sun at Merrill field. Big thanks to Kodiak Helicopters, our pilot Chris and his assistant Bridget. Super flexible flight plans, very professional and very affordable. I think I could get used to this!



Monday, December 30, 2019

Best Photos of 2019

January
Cumulus Mtn (left), with Korohusk peak in the center.  Extremely low snow for a January day!
Josh Chelf was all smiles while crushing the bike leg of the TriFlake winter triathlon.
Jacob Kirk spent the whole race in plaid - and went on to place third in the individual division!
Local running legend Matias Saari - on skis?!  
February
Tyson Flaharty of Goldstream Sports fresh off his ITI 350 win with a bike still fully loaded with gear.  Interview on my Youtube channel!
Beautiful blue ice behind Ptarmigan Peak.
James Stull riding in Phoenix, AZ.  We brought Alaska with us - the coldest temps in 125 years!
OMG WHAT IS WRONG WITH ZAC'S FACE?!?!  We were driving back from a trailhead in AZ when we first saw this - and nearly crashed the car from laughing so hard.  
March
March means the return of the sun, and the death of eastward facing ice climbs.  That same beautiful blue ice from February is being sun rotted, but that's OK because it means spring is coming! 
Ice ice, more ice.  The terrifying and aptly named Hollow Icicle near Echo Bend on the Eagle River.  Cody and I just finished rappeling from a rather harrowing ascent.  Nobody fell inside, but it was a sobering climb all the same.  
How it felt to be done with Hollow Icicle!  
April
On my way back from summiting the Watchman (right).  Eklutna Lake is behind me, and luckily, crossing the stream braids was quite easy at this time of year.
View of Polar Bear and Eagle Peak from camp below Mt. Yukla (out of frame on the right).  The next day, Cody and I would have a serious avalanche scare above Twincicle Glacier, prompting hasty retreat.
May
I'm CRAZY, and CRAZY HAPPY to be doing some spring rock climbing at Pivot Point! 
Traveling on Explorer glacier with Cody, Joe, and Dan.  The wet avalanche danger became a little too exciting in the hot afternoon sun, foiling our attempt on Explorer Peak.  We turned back when Dan encountered waste deep isothermal snow.  Bad news!
Being on a glacier is like being on a beach - prepare to get sun fried.  Dan captured a very candid moment of Joe and Cody catching some quick z's in the back of my Civic.  D'awww.  PC Dan Glatz. 
June
Lupins and mountains.  Returning from an attempt on Benevolent Point (background left)
Video still of me riding on Eh Line.  The new Singletrack Advocates trails are killer!  Video/Photo credit - Reese Hanneman
Summit boulder of Troublemint Peak.  I didn't like the prospect of climbing down this side of it, so I chose the other side.  
The other side of Troublemint's summit boulder.  Surreal granite spires under a hot June sun!
July
4th of July Alyeska rippin' with mah boy, Adam G!
Awe inspiring view of the Eklutna glacier from high on The Mitre.  
Video still from the White Princess summit glacier.  By far the most "big mountain" feel of any peak I have yet climbed.  We traveled carefully - it was hard to tell just how many crevasses were under our feet, but we suspected it was a lot.  Several times I punched through what I thought was crust, only to see a dark hole when pulling my leg out...
White Princess summit!  
Portrait of Cody K!
August
Summit of Three-Bell Spire, looking east out into Minty goodness.
Summit of Triplemint, looking back toward Three-Bell (center, right above foreground rock.) 
Even more quintessential Minty views!  Just above the MCA's Mint Hut (out of view behind the hill on the right)
September
Closing day at Alyeska.  PC Zac Cole.

WARNING - GRAPHIC 
Click if you're OK with blood and bone
September 21 saw my worst bike injury to date, and that's after 15 years of serious riding.  I flayed open my knee capsule with an extremely sharp rock, spent several days in the hospital, and am still working toward full recovery.  Bill Finley of akMountain just happened along while I was laying waiting for the ambulance, and has an Instagram post here.  At least I was all smiles!  Also - thanks Lang, Chris, Andy, Sophie, Jon, Jon (another Jon) for helpin' me out while I was laying there, and Cody, Jamey, Zac, Jeff and Rene for visiting me in the hospital.

Oliver Sternicki pinning it during a ArcticCross downpour.  I was hobbling around taking photos with my recently injured knee ;) 
Action hero James Stull during the same downpour as above.
October
Winter returns to AK!  Skybuster/Ice Cream Cone Mountain hiding background left.
Matanuska river with the "A" peaks background left.  I want to say that the prominent visible peak is Awesome, but Awesome may indeed be lurking further back in the clouds.
Frosty blue tones looking west along the Matanuska river.
November
Above the clouds on Indianhouse Mountain.  My footprints are visible to the right, leading up to the ridge. 
Descending to Falls Creek - back into the clouds after summiting Indianhouse.
December
New phone day!  Taking the fatbike out for a photo shoot with my Pixel 4.
Coworker Bill Johnson on the right side of PFM Wall.
Josh P. shwacks his way up to enjoy a couple laps on the top rope he set.