Friday, 22 July 2011

Denali adventure part 6 – Good times in Alaska and skiing in the Chugach Mountains

Denali seen from Talkeetna

The next day we skied all the way down to BC. On the way down we got surprised how much snow that had melted during the weeks we had spent in ABC. Nothing seemed to be in really good shape and to be able to climb the good stuff one had to climb at night. We didn’t feel up for more high objective risks or more rock n rolling so we put ourselves on the waiting list to fly out to civilisation. But it turned out to be harder than expected. Just when we got up in the air the next day we had to turn around and go back to BC as the clouds had completely filled all the ways out. The pilots obviously have to see where they are going so with no visibility there are no flying.

So we just had to spend two days in BC finishing every drop of alcohol we had left and hanging out with all our new and old friends. We where not really complaining, but non the less it was really nice to eventually get on that plane and get back in Talkeetna. The first thing we did was to take a shower and then next on the list was eating dinner. We met the North Face team that was just about to fly out to Denali and had dinner with them and when they left for packing we kept on going to the next restaurant for a second dinner.

We spent three days (and long nights) in Talkeetna before we left with Lisa and Greg to go to their friend Kramer’s compound in the middle of no where. We spent two days there and then we kept on going for Girdwood and the Chugash Mountains. Our team was made up of me and Magnus, Greg and Heidi Adamson and the goal was to find some good skiing in the coastal mountains.

So what we did was to just drive along the way and pick the most beautiful mountain we could find and then ski it. With that combined with Greg’s local knowledge we ended up at the foot of a mountain called Mt Byron. It turned out to be a great and long ski in perfect spring conditions. Ok, maybe a bit warm, but nothing some ski cutting couldn’t handle. We ended up having a blast and it was with mixed feelings we left for Anchorage the next day and said good bye to Heidi and Greg. We still had one more night in this town before we jumped on our flights back to Europe

All in all we had a wonderful Alaska adventure. We got to fulfil all our small everyday goals, but more important we had a beautiful time together, we met really cool people and it felt like we got the full Alaskan experience.

Skiing down with heavy sledges

Rice porridge in BC

Team Iceland

Trying to fly out the 1st time

Our pilot

The master Greg Collins

Seth and Lisa

Greg and myself

The Magnus!

Alaskan wilderness

Dinner with the North Face team

Lisa, Greg and Seth

Happy climbing friends

Road trippin

At Kramer's compound

Gypsy skiers lifestyle

In Alaska, thats a small car


Approaching Mt Byron

Greg showing us some great ski-mountaineering skills

Anything is easy after a few weeks on Denali

Greg skiing

And Magnus

Greg, Heidi and Magnus

Alaskan icebergs

The mythic bar

Finally back in Europe... Chamonix mountains from the plane window.. Mt Blanc on the right

And the Eiger Nordwand

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Denali adventures Part 5 – Skiing the Messner Couloir

The most classic ski descent on Denali must be the Messner Couloir above ABC. The 1500 vertical meter couloir could be the Gervasutti (the most classical easy steep ski in Chamonix) of North America and it’s often the objective for skiers coming to Denali. I really wanted to ski this classic and I knew I would never come back to Denali just to ski this single couloir so I went for it on the second day after we where back from Cassin.

The weather was not very good, with strong winds and fair visibility.  But on the other hand it’s a couloir and the navigation was easy and the snow stable. It took me about 5 hours to climb the couloir, but then again I was exhausted long before I started. Most of the couloir was filled with knee-deep snow making the tracking hard work. At the upper parts the wind was really strong and it was cold. I climbed up to the top of the couloir close to the Football field, but I did not go all the way to the summit because the weather was really bad and I was just after the couloir not a third summit ascent.

It felt refreshing standing at the top of the couloir in the storm and it was with a smile that I took of with the first turns down my last ski on Denali. The skiing was not perfect with a bit of powder here, a bit of stratugis there, but I enjoyed every bit of it. At one point I ended up on blue ice, but I just dug my axes in, put my crampons on and down climbed 15 meters before I kept on skiing.

At the end I traversed the schrund, took my rope and extra clothes that I had left there on the way up and cruised down in the fog all the way down to camp.

It was a nice and easy solo adventure without too much pulse, but I could definitely feel that my body had had enough of this strain. Eating dinner that night I felt like the Denali mission was accomplished and that it now was time to get down to enjoy the thick air.