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More boondocking with the sled.  Just posting since we need to have some more updates on here that are snow related.

 

Finally made it out to the cabin a couple of weeks ago and hit some of the better snow conditions of the year.  There is about half as much snow as normal but the boondocking was superb.   Its been nice  getting a new computer and getting back into the editing world again.  Random music is a solo composition by myself – love it or hate it, no reason to worry about youtube removing it.

turnagain pass

Sorry readers, for the extended neglect and disregard of these pages. The ski conditions have been so bleak this winter that taking pictures or writing about the little snow that was found would have been painful, and as there has been plenty of  emotional complaining around about the weather in years past, so I haven’t had anything to share. Winter never came to Cordova and conditions were so bad (the picture bellow is from my last day skiing before I left in early March) that I quit my job and moved to Anchorage. I also broke my arm skiing in Michigan which kept me off the snow for a few weeks, but I don’t think it really cost me more then a day or two on snow. Heney Peak Trail Head March 2015

I’ve been working, but the last couple of weekends I’ve been taking advantage of being connected to roads and taking the opportunity to ride in cars to go ski in Turnagain and Hatcher Pass. That might seem unremarkable but the last 3 seasons I’ve been far more likely to walk or ride a bike to a trail head then ride in a car, and for much of this winter the idea of being able to drive somewhere that had snow seemed like a far fetched dream. Yes, the hour plus drives are annoying, but the ability to drive up from sea level and park somewhere in the mountains that has snow on the ground is an incredible luxury I won’t take for granted again. photo 1

The highlight of the season (which has amounted to less time on snow then a normal season would see before Thanksgiving) was a pleasant sunny tour up Pastoral with Charlie and Dave last Sunday. Firm sun crusted snow up Taylor Creek made for quick travel, and once we reached the bottom of Pastoral the snow had changed and was perfectly set up cream.  We didn’t ski any lines of particular interest, but just being in the mountains on a sunny day with glacier views and perfect snow was some much needed therapy.photo 4

Fortunately, Bill called me up and asked if I could go, he didn’t want to go on a 140 mile sled ride by himself through the arctic. Of course I could go this was on my Nome bucket list. We  stalled one day because there was a big storm that had just finished blowing through but decided to leave at 8 am the next morning. We would be riding up the unmaintained Nome-Teller highway for first 35 miles than taking off across the frozen tundra towards the base of Port Clarence where the hunt area was.
Bill showed up promptly at 8 while I was still in full dongshow mode tying the fuel cans in the sled. We were on the road at 8:30 am still in the dark. As the morning light started to break, there was only a few clouds in the sky and you could tell it was going to be a nice day. I made a prayer that the ol 2000 700 rmk would stay together and come back triumphant.
We cruised without stopping to cripple river bridge mile 25ish and stretched our legs. The storm had brought some much needed snow, while the previous days wind had smoothed the majority of the tussiks. Too excited to waste daylight with the good conditions we quickly got going.

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We left the drifted highway by the parking lot for peak 3870 or Singatook as the locals call it, and started cross country across the gently rolling tundra uplands. We came upon a couple of small heards of reindeer as we came in an out of some of the small creek valleys but other than that it was just a straight shot to the Northwest.
Once were within 3 miles of the hunting area we saw some musk ox standing on the far hill but they were just out of bounds. Slightly bummed, we kept on going to the far edge of the boundary 10 miles out. Once again we saw nothing. As we arrived at the base of the Port Clarence peninsula we saw another herd of about 40 animals that were well out of the boundary. We stopped, topped our tanks off, and ate awesome cosco tamales out of the muff-pot. At this time, I was little disappointed as we hadnt seen any legal musk ox on the wide open tundra but it still was a fun tour so far.

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As we headed across the frozen swamps, the gentlest of hills had hidden a small group of muskies from our sight. Game on! My encounters with musk ox around Nome has led me to believe that you can just walk right up to them like cows. We parked about 200 yards away and Bill proceeded to walk up them. He made it 50 yards before they spooked and took off running. Thankfully there was nowhere to hide in the vast white-ness but they did head up a 300 ft cliff face before they got tired and stopped. This proved to be a better location as topography allowed us to get close and get a clean shot off in the now 45 mph wind! This was no place to dress an animal. we slid down the hill back to the sleds and rode back around the cliff and tipped it over in the sled and found a big drift 2 miles away that would shelter us from the wind we cleaned up the animal for the ride back.

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Heading back to Nome, the winds kicked up produced a ground blizzard. It was clear blue sky above 20 ft but on the ground here it was zero – zero. At times for 10 miles, I could not see Bill 25 ft in front of me.  I didn’t dare stop and take a picture due to the fear of being lost or frozen. We were doing 10 mph and it felt like we were going 60 mph.I was enjoying what mother nature was throwing at us as long as we didn’t have any problems. Luckily we made it into town without incident and hung the musk ox using the winch on the jeep!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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I’m currently down in Seward doing boat work in preperation to go seining in the sound this summer. Lucikly the drudgery of pulling an uncooperative cutlass bearing, crimping hydraulic fittings and generally annoying boat work was broken up on saturday by a fantastic three race series at the William H. Seward Yacht Club. Site legend Gary was in town for the races, but opted not to race his own boat but rather to sail Commodore Sam’s Nordic 34 Creola. The racing went well, we sailed conservatively in Race 1 and got beaten, but through races two and three we got progressively faster, and took a pair of victories.

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After a summer away from the Seward sailing scene it was fantastic to get back, see some old familiar faces, and get a couple races in. The day was made all the better by the fact that after listening all week to non stop mocho fisherman talk in the boat yard a couple of quick tacks and a bungled spinakeer hoist made me remember that sailing works me harder then commercial fishing ever has.

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We should be out floating around the sound catching fish and catching up on sleep real soon. I’ll try and keep these pages updated with pictures of fish and boats. Till then….

In what is an incredibly unexpected development I just learned that Radical Rob has developed a social media presence and has been posting videos of skiing around Snowbowl or various Missoula spots.  He’s even progressed far beyond my feeble video capabilities and is incorporating a pole cam like a progressive youngster.  I’m quite happy to  be able to rectify his long absence from these pages. I’m still working on something about my trip to the lower48, so in the meantime enjoy the Montana videos. They seem to have had an amazing season, and hopefully I can keep posting these to make up for my own laziness.

Mini Truck Skiing.

Took the Mini 35 miles up the Kougarok hwy in search of some spring skiing. This was the longest solo trip of the mini’s life.  The mini dominated the gravel roads that have been recently thawing out, its narrow stance splitting the pot holes and ruts from the bigger vehicles.  About 2 miles from my stopping point, I was enjoying looking out at future ski lines, then I was relegated to an idle. WTF?!?!  I got out and saw that the throttle cable had just broke.  After a brief panic, the ultimate jury rigging took place.

and this fix has laset for the last 100 miles

and this fix has laset for the last 100 miles

During my skin up I could see bear tracks across the valley that led to black spots that I was sure were bears but I just could make them out a mile away.  Running through the different bear encounter scenarios kept my mind from thinking  how out of shape and hot I was.

the skiing

the skiing

Once I reached the summit of my ski, I was faced with the usual dilemma of not see what I was going to ski.  The hot spring conditions had my avalanche hackles up so I tossed a snowball for the dog and watched her jump the cornice and chase the snowball.  The NW aspect looked better than I thought.

the approach 3.5 miles

the approach 3.5 miles

After skiing  4” of wet pow and making it all the way back to the truck without any bear surprises,  I was enjoying the radio, which was emitting some fuzzed out playlist when I began to be flagged down by a truck on the shoulder.  Why were these people flagging me down, I thought to myself, if they only knew I was keeping my day together with vise grips, tie wire, and tape.   They wanted to know if I had a pump – which I did.  I watched them fumble with it for a while thinking about having been in this same situation before.   They pulled out a jack, which turned out to be broken, so I offered up a jack.  The trailer tire had a hole in it so I gave them a couple tire plugs, and a can of fix a flat.   They were super pumped and couldn’t believe that the little mini truck had rescued them.   I told them that my day was so awesome that it just wouldn’t be right to not get them on the road have them get after the rest of the day. I mean it was already 7pm and they still had 5hours of day left ahead of them.  the day ended with what was only the most awesome meal of all time a double pattied bacon waffle burger from golden china.

Fixing the local crap

Fixing the local crap

Little did I realize, the mini would save the day three days later on my birthday.  I was slated to meet Nome’s Senator to make some work arrangements about leasing office space.    When I showed up to meet him, he immediately tasked me with jump starting the house representative who was parked just outside the airport, on the side of the road. Apparently he had left his keys in the ignition or something.  I pull up to the early 90’s ford truck, jumped out and introduce myself.  I think that he thought someone more official was coming, not some joker in a mini truck, either way, I tried to jump him with no luck.  He suggested that I try tow starting him.  “Sure, as long as you got a strap I’m up for anything at this point.”  I towed him back to the airport without the truck starting.  “You wanna just tow me back to my house in town? Neal asked.  Sure!  Away we went, all through town, the mini truck towing the house representative.  I couldn’t stop cracking up.  I was just wishing that the police would have pulled us over since the mini truck isn’t supposed to be on the roads we were on.

What a great birthday!

the best burger ever

the best burger ever

Finally! Some Action.

This winter in Nome has been one of the warmest winters on record which means it was hard to get and get after it.  The warm weather kept the sea ice from locking in, which in turn made crabbing from the snowmachine an unsuccessful venture,  51 degree weather in January melted what snow we had, dislocating a knee playing hockey on soft ice, and above all losing one our  best friends, Aaron Karitis, from college, this winter goes down as the worst.

Poor Crabbing in Norton Sound

Riley and Ashley checking empty crab pot

Being located so far North and West in the same time zone as the rest of the state has  made the spring day light seem even more eternal  with  the long arctic afternoon sunsets that provide light well into 11pm already. The frozen dark tundra quickly emerges from the snow that is disappearing despite temperatures that are just barely above freezing.  Just like the long light signals spring, it also invokes  the prospect of a summer work season beginning.   Thoughts of winters memories sublimate just like the snow.  I had begun to write this winter off in hopes of a better  summer.   It wasn’t until a midnight spontaneous jam session with fellow friends Ian, Dave, and Mikey that a real winter mission had finally been proposed.

Last year In my Nome travels, I met a quite a character , Ian,   A  mountaineer  from California. I thought this guy must be out of his mind thinking that Nome was the place for climbing.   Turns out, as usual, it was me that didn’t know what I was in for. 

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Mt. Osborn 4717′

Ian purposed to do some obligatory peak bagging in the Kigluaik’s – bringing skis, climbing gear, and snowmachines into the mix.  Plan was to load sleds on the trailer and drive 20 miles up the Kougarok Hwy, unload and sled 25 miles up Grand Central Valley and bag a peak, maybe ski something in the process and head home.  

9:45am sleds were loaded on the trailer. 

9:50am trailer tire was flat.

With this winter being so depressing already, this was it.   F*&$ it!  We’re just going sled from the neighborhood.  Off we went bouncing across the frozen tundra patches searching for snow to keep the machines cool and keep skis from wearing out. 

The 45 miles flew by as one stays busy searching for snow and trying to dodge trail hazards to achieve the smoothest line.   Once we got to the heart of the range 15 miles past the point of any snow plows, the drifted over road was only visible by a few markers scattered about.  We stopped at the entrance to Grand Central. The valley is about 10 miles long and 2 miles wide.  The mountains are real, more than one would expect in place that many have never heard of.   At the head of the valley lies Mt. Osborn  – an impressive piece of granite by any standards.  (it was this time last year that similar trip led Ian and his climbing partner  Andy up Mt. Osborne in an unfortunate turn of events).  We decided that both our winters had sucked and that we just needed a confidence day to get back on track. We picked a peak and went for it. 

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Grand Central. Peak bagged center of pic.

The Peak 3054 was a deceiving trip that had a faux crux from the bottom.   Wondering how to deal with the 100ft granite cliff at the top was putting a dent in our summit fever.   Once we were on route it was mostly a head down slog, concentrating on keeping tools placed in the rimey slope.  As we neared the summit it became apparent that the cliffs were a false summit to our flank and that we would just top out on nice cornice.  Topping out, taking some pictures of future routes, and refueling, we down climbed what could have been a fun ski had the rime been corn.  (two more weeks till corn skiing hopefully).

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Bunny Ears couloir – Future Mission

We packed our sleds and loosely toured around the valley.  The snow had softened in the valley and made for some really fun riding.  The low level sustrugi which was on everything was no match for the weight of the sled.  You couldn’t get stuck and you could go everywhere at casual 40-50mph.  Every blind roll ever  in the south central  region that you would slow down to see what was on the blind side, you could just fly over here, as  it was totally safe. ImageThis epic snowmaching with the ultra thin knee high alders, made me think of similarities of sledding Moab with of snow.   More pictures were taken of some future skiing lines and powder stashes.   I found one valley that the omni present wind had not affected too bad and thought getting the hat trick of winter activites would  really push the day over the top but after checking  the time –  7:45pm it was time to ride back, after all 45 miles were ahead of us!

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Almost home 9:30pm.

Well, this winter has mostly been about waiting, and then when the waiting is over you get the joys of bushwhacking through alders, tagging rocks, and walking for a mile or so down half paved dirt roads in ski boots.  Things have improved from January, I’m currently able to look out my window and see some snow thanks to a wintery week in mid February.  Mt Eyak was open for a couple days, and thanks to extended sunlight this time of year I was able to piece together a 10 plus day streak of skiing everyday with the help of after work dusk laps.  Tuesday was the highlight of the apres-work turns that seem to have made up the bulk of my season when I was able to get up on top of the far eastern face of Wolverine Ridge.  The snow was fantastic, a couple inches of supportable powder without any hint of wind crust.

The skiing was great, but this year is so thin that I found myself kicking steps in tundra moss and walking on scree along the ridge to reach the entrance point pictured above.  What last year (also a thin winter) was a pleasant approach that allowed you too keep your skis on was a bit of a windswept scramble more typical of the I-70 corridor.

Other then evening laps on Wolverine, I skied way back in to Middle Arm last Sunday but didn’t really ski anything worth remembering. The more north facing couloirs coming off the back of Queen’s Chair weren’t fully filled in, and the best looking of the bunch was blocked by a large frozen waterfall. Otherwise life in Cordova pleasant, Ice Worm Festival was a nice break from the rain, and the heli skiers haven’t been too annoying thus far, so things are good, but a some significant snowfall would be greatly appreciated.

 

Well, it’s been a strange winter.  The weather this January wouldn’t have been unusual for August, and until it started dumping this morning grass coated in hoar frost was more plentiful then snow.  Luckily for some, things have been a bit better in Utah, as you can check out form the videos above and bellow that Politics sent our way.  Both videos are from Soapstone Basin, about 16 miles out of Kamis.

Worst January imaginable