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

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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

Aiye, I’ve been lazy about updating this place and responding to people but the apathy of an extremely slowly developing winter might have taken me to a new level of online reclusiveness.  Anyway, things are good, it didn’t snow this year for what seemed like forever, and then when it did it never really got cold or snowed very much.  I saw a bear, or very fresh bear tracks on more then half of my days touring before Christmas.  Despite that, some fun was had, when not wasting time walking through brush or over dead fall time can be saved skinning on ice because when there isn’t any snow breaking trail becomes less difficult.

Despite the dismal winter last weekend the skiing was pretty good.  The chair at Mt Eyak was open for 3 days, the ridge skied well and on Sunday I finally skied the west face of Mt Shields with the help of local snowboard legend Kanji.

Unfortunately, as soon as things were starting to look pretty good, it began raining, and temperatures are currently in the 40s.  I hear it’s snowing in Valdez, but while listening to the rain its really too depressing to check.  Luckily things will likely improve, and in retrospect conditions were quite a bit worse then this last year in January.  All is well in Cordova, i’ll try to keep this updated at a more normal pace this winter.

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So I’ve been out fishing for Pink Salmon in Prince William Sound on the F/V St. Andrew for the last week and with mobile internet on the boat I figured I’d post a couple pictures of the recent action.

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We’ve been catching our share and doing well but haven’t had a giant set yet. This morning we had a wild rodeo infront of the hatchery and are currently in a 6 hour line for our next set. Pictured bellow is the Rai Dawn about to sink their skiff.

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And finally a picture of the boat tied up back in Cordova before we left.

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