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Alaska II

Posted on 25. Jul, 2013 by in Alaska

Upon our arrival in Alaska, I was incredibly excited to set forth and begin exploring. Archangel Valley was at the top of my list. It has the best rock, best scenery, most potential, and most established climbing of the areas near Hatcher Pass. It is where we spent most of our time on our last trip, and where we planned on spending almost all of our time this trip. One of the big concerns was whether or not the gate that allows access to the road would be open. Last year it opened June 11th, and as we made our way up the lack of snow was so encouraging I was certain we could drive right in. Alas, the gate was closed and locked, but I knew this was a possibility, and so we just parked the car in the large lot at the beginning of the road, geared up and walked the nearly 4 miles up the road to the boulders.

IMG_4014 Archangel Road

As we made our way up, I was shocked how warm and dry everything was, and the greenery which was so vivid and beautiful two years ago was now a muted brown in early spring. It was a little disappointing, as was the road closure, but we forged on, and I was not about to be stopped. Perhaps because Alaska likes to try and stop me is one of the reasons I am drawn to going there. I love challenges and I love problem solving and Alaska presents opportunities for both. Just when I was feeling confident about having made the long hike in, and that it would be doable (although difficult) the river which courses through the valley, which was hardly flowing two years ago, was now a raging torrent in the early hot spring. It took us no less than two hours to find a suitable place to get across. Sometimes telling myself I like adventure and being in the middle of one are two different things but I was soaking up the scenery and just happy to be back in such a beautiful place. With the long daylight (in fact I never even got out my headlamp) it was easy to fill the day and we got back to the car around 10pm, logging over ten miles of hiking. Thankfully, none of the boulders were buried, although there was a substantial amount of snow in one of the big talus fields I wanted to explore. Not perfect, but good enough.

IMG_3198 The Pinnacle

Part of going to Alaska to go bouldering for me is doing other things besides bouldering, and one of the best places to do that is Denali NP. The forecast for our second day looked incredible so Saturday night after finishing our hike we raced 4 hours up the road past Talkeetna.

IMG_4088 Denali Range 11:56pm

IMG_3287Denali Range 12:32am

The drive up was spectacular as the entire Denali Range was free from clouds and the majestic peaks soared impossibly high in front of us. The moon crept out and the “night” was resplendent, arriving outside Denali Park after 2am in the thin light of a mid-Alaskan summer. We crashed for two hours, before getting on the hiking bus at 6am. The lack of sleep waned with an early spotting of a rare lynx and washed away totally upon seeing the mountain, free and clear, in all its glory.

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It is so big, imposing, impressive, massive, and incredible for a moment I felt a fleeting urge to climb its flanks and stand upon its summit. Emphasis on fleeting. This day we settled for a 4 mile hike along the McKinley River and were treated to some fresh grizzly tracks, and later in the day we saw a bear right along side the road. Denali continues to impress, and it was also apparent on this trip that there are a number of places to look for bouldering possibilities in the Park, which was very exciting.

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Two days in and no bouldering yet, but I was loving life in Alaska.

Monday was to be the first day of filming and climbing, but with the road still closed it was postponed until Tuesday. We hiked in again with Will Crowther, a motivated climber from Anchorage who is currently in school in Colorado Springs. It’s not easy tacking on 4 extra miles of hiking with crash pads and gear just to get to the beginning of the normal approach but we made the trudge in the surprisingly hot weather and I made some good progress on the Fairangel Arete Project and it was awesome putting chalk on rock and letting the process begin. I kept track of our milage everyday and this was another day over ten miles. With the gate still closed I was beginning to consider the possibility that the gate would be closed the entire time, and we looked at buying bikes at WalMart, as well as an inflatable raft to make the difficult river crossing easier.

I went to Alaska looking for challenges, and perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew. Unlikely, but that chance loomed like a fresh bear track in the mud. Suddenly it was there and it was real, and if it reared its ugly head I might not want to deal with the result. I was hopeful as always that things can and will change for the better heading into Tuesday.

2 Responses to “Alaska II”

  1. AlaksaLooksInsane

    25. Jul, 2013

    Incredible! The whole entire region should be considered a natural wonder of the world.

  2. Michael Rathke

    26. Jul, 2013

    Great write up James!

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