Monday, December 30, 2019

Best Photos of 2019

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?!  
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 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!  
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.
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. 
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!
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!
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)
Closing day at Alyeska.  PC Zac Cole.

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.
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.
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.
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.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Indianhouse Mountain Northwest Ridge - 11/9/19

Ridge conditions November 2018.  Point 3920 on left, Indianhouse NW ridge on right.
   I'd attempted this ridge last November, but a late start and general unpreparedness saw me turning back at the first gendarme.  I vowed to return, and almost exactly a year later, I found myself parked at Fall's Creek and hiking up point 3920.  This time, it was 8am, and I had ice tools and a rope.

Top of 3920, looking towards Indianhouse.  First gendarme is center left.
   Reaching the top of point 3920, I clipped on crampons and took out the tools.  After descending to the ridge proper, I quickly made my way to the top of that first gendarme, encountering light mixed climbing on the way up.  At the top, I surveyed the options.  A rappel was pretty much mandatory from here - downclimbing would have been nutty and I had, after all, lugged 60m of 9.4 all this way...  Maybe I need to invest in a lighter rope ;)

Using the tools, cause I had 'em and hooking around was fun.
More hooking fun.  It's like having an extra long robot arm.

Rappel off the first gendarme.

Coiling the rope after my second rappel.
   After rappelling 50-60ft, I set off on the rest of the ridge, encountering similar basic mixed climbing.  Eventually I reached another, much shorter rappel, which proved to be the last rappel needed.  It was getting close to noon at this point, and snow conditions had been taking a gradual turn for the mushy.  I became aware of how short November days are, opting to traverse around the last few gendarmes before reaching the actual mountain.

Typical travel between gendarmes.
Steep snow.  I used a lot of knee work to avoid plunging deep with every step.  
  Once I attained the side of the peak, it was a simple climb up steep, variable snow all the way to the summit.  I spent a few moments, then proceeded down the standard main couloir route, where I traversed back down to Fall's Creek.  Yay for a new way up a familiar peak!  

Summit selfie.  You can see my footprints in the center.  A bit shocked to see no other prints up there!

A nice day above the fog!

Looking back toward the Suicides and point 3920

Indianhouse West Face in late afternoon light.  NW ridge on the left.

The HDR Pro app works pretty well for harsh lighting conditions.  Indianhouse west face.
Descending into the fog.  It's only 3pmish and the sun is already bye bye :'(.  More HDR Pro app.


   Light mixed climbing in the snow conditions I encountered, 4th/easy 5th class in summer conditions as described here by Bill Finley.  Be prepared for several rappels and spending a generous amount of time on the ridge itself.

Helmet cam video