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Alaska IV

Posted on 30. Jul, 2013 by in Alaska

Worked from the previous day but motivated to see new rock and develop with a big crew, we went back to Hatcher Pass. The gate was now open, and driving up the road was relatively easy in our SUV. The first few miles of the road are relatively flat, and they are somewhat maintained, and thus passable in a standard auto. Just before the Reed Lakes trailhead is a flimsy bridge that is too unstable to allow a grader to pass, and the road beyond is not maintained. Typically this last stretch of road is bumpy but passible in an SUV, but as the trip wore on the road wore down. This was the section that Brian and I had previously hiked, and after two and half weeks of trudging up the hill we agreed we wouldn’t do it again. Today, with our SUV we parked up high, saving our legs. The mission for the day was to head up past a trad climbing formation known as the Monolith to a new boulder that was previously unclimbed. We were joined by Chris Alstrin, Jared Lavacque, Todd Helgeson, David Funatake, Kynan Roeteger, and Will Crowther.

IMG_4141The crew, lead by Todd, cleans off a new boulder

We walked 30 minutes or so to a large block with numerous quality lines on it, stopping briefly for Todd to give us a tour of some previously established problems. Once we got to the new block, I was impressed with how quickly and diligently the crew got to work. Nearly everyone had a brush and was working hard to quickly clean the entire boulder thoroughly, something I don’t often see in Colorado. They were not only committed to cleaning all the individual holds well, they were also careful to clean only the necessary moss off the topout, in an effort to minimize their impact. It was a solid job by all who participated and soon enough the pads were out and new problems were being established. It’s refreshing to see climbers who are genuinely passionate about making long hikes to unclimbed boulders and spending all day developing problems that many of the Colorado elite would snub their noses at. The motivation I gained from climbing with new but like-minded people was an unexpected benefit and although I was worked, my shoes were on and soon enough I was climbing.

IMG_4146 Putting up some nice new boulders

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The ever-present craggy peaks soared around us, making even a relatively chill day for me a great one. The scenery here is incredible, and I was content soaking it all in.

Occasionally, distant gunshots rang out but it seemed far away and we didn’t think much of it. It was a beautiful day, albeit warm, and the energy level from the crew was high. I ran up the hill and found several nice projects that I vowed to return to but never did. After coming back, the gunshots became closer and suddenly the sound of a bullet slicing the air ripped over my head. It was hard to tell how close it was but it was close enough for me to get down and out of the way as fast as possible. I was a little shaken and we yelled loudly to let them know there were people in the area. Alaska never fails in being challenging, even on the easy days.

IMG_4148 Wendy on a classic V6

Todd and David then marched over to another new block and established 8 or so new problems there, while Will, Wendy, Chris and I went to try and repeat an established V10, Abomination. Conditions were nearly perfect but my skin was not ready for the thin razorblades and poor feet and I failed to send the problem. We walked up the hill and Wendy tried a short V7 to no avail while Will and I scoped several new talus fields that have yet to be explored. It was a great day but I was worked and needed some rest.

IMG_3544 Unexplored talus field

We decided that we would rest and then regroup at a new area near Byron Glacier, the day after tomorrow. Wendy and I took the rest day opportunity to drive to Seward (in the direction of Byron) and play tourist. Simply driving along the road in Alaska can sometimes be enough to soften the most hardened traveler and the scenery outside of Anchorage and across the Kenai Peninsula was brilliant. We got dinner in Seward and made a quick hike to Exit Glacier, deciding that it would be best to return and do the full hike to the Harding Ice Field later in the trip.

A word about all this driving and not seeing or finding new rock. While the size and quantity of mountainous terrain in Alaska can be staggering, it is surprising sometimes how little climbable rock there is. Much of the Kenai seems to be volcanic in nature, and if and when it does break apart, it usually leaves small pieces, not the large chunks necessary to produce climbable boulders. It’s also generally very hard to get into the mountains, because of the brushy nature of the vegetation, the lack of established trails, and the presence of bears. However, my radar never really shuts off when traveling around. I spotted this little nugget along the trail and it is encouraging to think that if there were house sized boulders of this stuff, they would be world class. Always hopeful for what could be out there, and with the promise of a new area on the horizon, I slept soundly that night in a cozy campsite along a rushing river.

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IMG_4187 Outwash plain near Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park

One Response to “Alaska IV”

  1. Sherod

    31. Jul, 2013

    Magical!

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