Showing posts with label Alaska. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alaska. Show all posts

Friday, May 26, 2017

Guides for Glaciers

Climate change is making mountains more dangerous and threatening the prosperity of the guiding profession. This spring a historic mass of ice broke off from Colfax Peak, sweeping across the standard ascent route for Washington State's Mount Baker climb.
Photo: Kel Rossiter

Recently, Guides for Glaciers (G4G) was established, with a mission to address the issues of the changing mountain environment and its impacts on the guiding profession. G4G intends to mount an educational campaign to bring together common stakeholders in order to influence public policy and preserve the longevity and economic sustenance of the mountain guiding profession globally. The longevity of the entire guiding profession hinges on guides’ ability to advocate for climate change policy and preserve our mountain environments well into the future.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Essential Glacier & Crevasse Terrain Travel Strategies

It's the beauty of glaciers that bring us there--but we need strategies for doing so safely.
(Mt. Rainier)
Glacier Travel and Crevasse Terrain
Glaciers are a magical part of the alpine landscape—their massive icy hulks, laid down over the eons, are reminders of power of persistence and their diminishing modern state serves as a reminder of our precarious position as stewards of the Earth. Traveling over glaciers, experiencing the crevassing, tumbling, tumultuous, patterns is to experience the passage of time directly. But it is precisely because of this crevassing, tumbling, and tumult that your glacier travels skills need to be sharp before integrating glaciers into your alpine climbing quiver. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Guide’s Journey: Never Stop Learning and Find New Challenges!

Sked training  Photo: Alexa Hohenberg
First off if you have an addictive personality stop reading now, because heli skiing maybe legal, but I promise it is harder to quit than hard drugs and will probably put you into as much debt.   The biggest difference though is that powder skiing will always be worth it.   Of course,  I say that while I twitch and shake looking at brown ground outside my window here in the Northeast, dreaming of running away back to Alaska.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Three's company in the mountains?

Approaching the North Buttress of Begguya (Mt. Hunter)
 ©Doug Shepherd
Climbing with three has it's appeals.  Splitting the work with an extra person, more warmth while cuddling, and general camaraderie. That said, I've been known to repeatedly say "I hate climbing in the mountains with three" and turn down climbing trips, especially on technical alpine routes.  My reasoning for this comes from many failed climbs with three people, due to general slowness, stuck ropes, difficult communication, and even a lack of stoke!

However, I've recently had a break-through, efficiently climbing large routes with a team of three.  Part of this is finding the right partners and part of it is due to finally figuring out the right gear and tactics for efficient movement with three people.  Keep reading for my take on making it work in the mountains with three.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A ski mountaineering adventure, Alaskan style!

Last month, three friends and I spent 10 days ski mountaineering in the Wrangell-St. Elias Range of Alaska. The main objective that inspired our trip was the south face of University Peak. Leading up to the trip, we heard that Alaska was having a very low snow year—perhaps one of the lowest in 20 years. Friends of ours were able to take a photo of the face we wanted to ski a few weeks before our departure, and some bluish grey ice was already showing. We were hopeful that maybe some wet storms would roll through before we got there, and plaster the peak. Unfortunately, as we flew past her incredible south face, University was clearly out this season—unless we wanted to switch from a skiing trip to an ice climbing trip!

Base camp on the Barnard Glacier. Photo: Krystle Wright

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Trying Out the Trion Guide in the Central Alaskan Range

From the Moose's Tooth on the Ruth Glacier to The Throne in “Little Switzerland,” the Central Alaskan Range is peppered with prime alpine objectives, making it an excellent location for Rainier Mountaineering's first-ever AlaskanAlpine Seminar, and the perfect place to put Mammut's 45+ liter TrionGuide pack through the paces.
With the Trion Guide on Mt. Francis's ice pitches.
Our crew of climbers set up a base camp in the shadow of Denali's massive girth, training and testing skills on all of the alpine options that the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier offers. Not burdened by carrying around heavy loads, the Trion Guide was the perfect size for day-long alpine objectives in cold climates (daytime temps hovered in the teens and plunged below zero at night), amply accommodating climbing gear, first aid equipment, extra clothing, food and water, and spare rope when traveling on the glacier.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A weekend attempt on Mt. Huntington

Travel pig sizes up Mt. Huntington
©Doug Shepherd
Life has been hectic since getting back from Patagonia, between traveling to Europe for work and the enjoying the changing seasons in Northern New Mexico.  We had very little snow this year, so our rock climbing and trail running seasons started early.  Despite all that, I've been itching for a bit more winter after acting as the "weather guy" for a few different friends climbing throughout Alaska. Finally, I'd had enough and the weather last weekend was too good to pass up.  I recruited my friend Aaron Mulkey to head to the Alaska Range and try a route on Mt. Huntington in a push.  I left Los Alamos on Friday afternoon, met up with Aaron in Anchorage early Saturday morning, and arrived in Talkeetna by 4AM on Saturday.

Our junk show in the Talkeetna Air Taxi parking lot after flying and driving all night to get there
©Doug Shepherd

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Packing the Heron Pro for Alaska/Denali-McKinley

Got out my Heron Pro and put together my pack for Denali today: 3 ropes, 2 full racks, 8 liters of water, and ankle weights. Sound to you like a savvy packing list for heading out onto the Kahiltna Glacier for a month? Me neither. But of course, packing for Denali begins long before the climb, with plenty of training and prep beforehand. This season I'll be guiding both Rainier Mountaineering Incorporated's (RMI) first-ever AlaskanAlpine Seminar and a Denali/McKinley Climb, so I'll have both heavy and light packs on for over a month on the cliffs, couloirs, and glaciers around this proud mountain. And while the ice season with Adventure Spirit Rock+Ice+Alpine provided plenty of training for those steep couloirs, I do need to stretch the legs, fill the lungs, and condition the back a bit for Denali's notoriously beastly loads.

Having recently joined the Mammut team, I'm looking forward to testing and reporting back on how the Heron Pro goes at carrying those beastly loads.  Even in the training phase, as I try to fill it up with everything, the kitchen sink, and the stove, I'm impressed by its seemingly insatiable maw. I'm also liking the rotational carriage system on the waist-belt, tempering sheer brawn with some degree of elegance in movement. I'll be out on the glacier until early June, but I'm looking forward to delivering a full report when I'm back down. In the meantime, wishing everyone a strong start to the climbing season!
Hauling the Heron Pro in Vermont's Green Mountains

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kichatna Spires

Hey All,

Just returned from my trip to Alaska's obscure Kichatna Spires. What an Amazing place! Located approximately 90 miles southwest of Denali, and known for it's gnarly granite spires and challenging weather, the area didn't disappoint. Zack Smith and I spent two weeks on the Cul de Sac glacier, and only had two days of good weather. But luckily we were mostly focused on mixed climbing, so the weather wasn't a major problem. We climbed Kichatna Spire on only our second day on the glacier. Putting up a new route called The Message or The Money. The climb followed a moderate gully, to some steeper snow covered rock and mixed terrain, before joining the original North Ridge route at around 2/3rds height. It had great climbing throughtout, with some of the best mixed climbing I've done in the mountains. We battled through some nasty weather towards the top (Check out the rime that would form on our axes as soon as we'd put the down!), and didn't have much for summit views to say the least. We managed to climb the whole route all free at M6 in 8.5 hours, and had a total blast. The rest of the trip consisted of an attempt on a big rock climb on Sunrise Spire, that was shut down by continuous steep aid that didn't agree with our rack of three pitons. And a couple of attempts on a amazing steep mixed line on the Citadel Formation. We were sniffing the summit on our second attempt, but unfortunately a tool popped and a cam ripped as i was leading a steep roof just above Zack's belay. Zack made for a nice crashpad as I came to a stop, but unfortunately his hand and his back took a bit of a beating from my crampons--sorry about that Zack! Luckily his wounds weren't serious, but they put an end to out trip nonetheless. All in all a grand adventure, and lots of fun. Can't wait to get back to Alaska next year! Hope you're all having a great start to your summers.
josh wharton