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.

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