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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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.

the family

the family and my brother's sign

We got another storm this week, an additional 30″ should make it a deep weekend in the mountains. I walked to work amidst large falling flakes but it’s suddenly sunny and things are looking good.

While wasting time this morning I found a video at Skier in the Midwest of people enjoying a bunch of new snow back in Michigan at Crystal Mountain. The personal highlight is that I think every shot is from my brother’s run, Teddy’s Turn! In the 15 years I skied at Crystal I think I only had 4-5 days that were ever this good, I can’t tell you people how rare Michigan powder really is, and to have that correspond with Teddy’s Turn (previously known as Back bowl) being open. Normally you’d have to put your season pass in jeopardy by poaching the run at night, and sneaking back to the Buck chair on the cross country trail and hope the lifties wouldn’t figure out what you were doing. I’d also like to mention that I’ve been listening to my cousins whine about the current lack of snow in the northwest for a month, hopefully this rubs a little salt in their wounds.

I’ve also uploaded some of Max’s POV footage from last weekend. It’s all pretty lame, but I think it demonstrates how hungover I was. When watching it now it looks really simple, but at the time my nerves were fried from the Consumer Direct Christmas party the night before. I was freaked out the whole time, and after hitting a couple trees lacked confidence. Watching Max cross the bridge reminds me how shady that seemed to me at the time. Notice the traffic jam I caused on the trail, which takes up the entire second half of the video. More proof that I suck at snowmachining.

More to come after the weekend, and then I’ll be hading the site over to Max for awhile, unless stuff comes up while I’m back in the mitten. I almost forgot, I will be covering the Teddy Knape Film Festival while I’m home.

By Max

While Ptor had to work on friday I decided to “break” his new sled in for him since I had owned the exact same sled. After all it’ll be me fixing the sled when it breaks down in the on the top of Blackstone Glacier in Whittier. Off to the point on Crosswind Lake where I would be joining my parents for a family turkey day. at the end of a 3hr slog up the Glenn Highway I was greeted with a foot of fresh interior powder to begin my ride of the year. Although I have made this 18 mile trip to the cabin over 50 times this time was I felt a little more uneasy riding a $1500 sled off of craigslist that had surly seen some hard riding in its life. Just like the nerves that build up on the first turn of a 50 degree slope and then rapidly dissipate, I was worried until I cracked the throttle open – I was in the zone again with my old friend puddy cat. After a 30mins of riding I was greeted at the cabin by my folks and as soon as I turned off puddy cat, my dad, who has seen me break thousands of dollars of snowmachine parts said, “it looks like the rear end is sitting a little low.”

Broken rear end

Broken rear end

Sure enough I had broke the one of the rear torsion springs. oh well, better here in the flat Copper River Basin than in the rugged mountains of the Chugach. Although turkey and family was a nice break of the hustle and bustle of city life, the constant snow and friends home for the holidays made my cabin stay less than 20 hrs… Saturday 80″ since monday at Alyeska- the resort was calling! Scott and I carpooled down and picked up a little resort treat at the merc. After one run of deep pow, flat light, and burning quads I realized that all my days in the backcountry had got me in good skinning shape but left me in lousy skiing shape. I cant say how grateful I was to take a lift (For free thanks to Riley) and talk about the series of drops and faceshots on my run with 3 of my best friends and the the many others that were their that day. Also the chairlift drinking was a huge plus as well.

jake gettin warmed up on the lift

jake gettin warmed up on the lift

Saturday left my legs burnings and when I woke up Sunday morning with SKI-SNOW reporting 20 more inches overnight with temps in the teens my leg pains were gone. I made ptor come with and use the new alyeska pass which I told him would work no problem.( Thanks again Riley) My fears of being outta shape and skiing slow were immediately erased after charging down the pillowy alder puffs on the south face and leaving other skiers in the dust. Skiing alder patch to alder patch was exactly what the public wasnt doing. Their inate fear of the alaska shrubbery left large patches of powder right below the alders for my taking. Charlie from SkinnyRaven, Ptor, and I were equally matched and in our skiing and charged lap after lap all day till we assembled Team Bake Shop and put down some of the best grub in Girdwood. Monday morning, the rusty gears of life brought the crude reality of sore muscles and construction at the Port of Anchorage where causing a beluga whale discomfort is the biggest issue at at hand but meanwhile in Tyonek the natives can shoot them with semi-automatic rifles at will! After work my best friend Mike who was leaving back to Charlotte, NC to his soon to be meaningless Wachovia investment banking job, which he is quitting in two weeks and returning to Alaska for x-mas, came over to kick out some funky azz drum beats while I laid down some mean bass grooves. Out of nowhere Mike had checked his flight status only to find that he had just missed his flight. Luckily I convinced him that it was the best thing to happen since The North face at Alyeska was opening for the first time this year as was High Traverse. Some more helmet cam video from the resort. The skiing was sick but kind of a grey bird day. When high traverse opened there was all sorts of sick alder drops to be had with dongshow friend friend Lucas Tanaka bustin some sick 3’s of about a 15 footer. What a great decision to skip work and ski!

On a side note one of my best friends from high school, Olga Bell a bad ass classical pianist turned front woman of her own band “Bell” of whom i gave my yamaha SHS-10 KEYTAR to, has made it big with the Keytar and is bringin it on her shows with phrase samplers and effects pedals to dominate the underground music scene in various New York clubs and campuses. So many props to here for rocking the Keytar. I really think that the keytar is the evolution for the rock pianist because instead of being stuck behind a keyboard and being called a rock pianist you strap it on, get on stage, and dance around showing the crowd you can rock like a sick Keytarist!!!

You need a keytar and this proves it

You need a keytar and this proves it

Update: Pickled Beluga

“I’d love to ski in Alaska but I don’t think I’m good enough…”

The above quote seems to be a near universal sentiment among my Midwestern friends. Attempting to explain that no, there are plenty of skiers with out the least bit of ability up here, I’ll invariably be met with the “don’t you know we ski on landfills” face. People simply won’t believe that many of the skiers you find up here aren’t any better then the Indiana drunks in hunter orange with neck gaiters for hats seen walking after run away rental skis at any area in Michigan. But it’s true. I don’t know the person in this video. We saw her from a distance (on Pounders Peak) and were laughing hysterically before she got closer, and closer, and we laughed harder and harder before grabbing the camera for proof. It seems some people don’t think ability is a prerequisite for enjoying the backcountry. Which, if I’m honest, I have no problems with, but I’m also not going to apologize for laughing.

Important Info!:
Despite finding politics hysterical, I try not to mention them too much around here, for obvious reasons.   However, recent events have been distractingly funny, and I’ve been asked to pass comment.  I wrote the article below while living on Pierre’s couch south of Paris in early april 2007. It was posted on the old site, and got lost in the shuffle, so here it is.   I haven’t edited except to add links, but I find my words on that hungover morning in Corbeil-Essones still work for me.  Hopefully you enjoy.

4/3/07

Hunting, Fishing, Nature

The man seen above is Frédéric Nihous, quite possibly the most freedom loving politician with the misfortune of campaigning in France. He’s running on the Hunting, Fishing and Nature ticket, a party of his own creation. His television appearances consist of shooting geese, chasing down foxes on horse back and occasional interviews conducted in his various deer blinds. His website boasts qualifications such as being armed since ‘81 and his previous experience as president of a skeet shooting league. This man’s charisma flows from the screen and hits with the force of 45. Unfortunately he’s running for the French Presidency and has little to no chance of winning; the latest polls show him struggling to garner a single percent of the vote. Yet one can only imagine the success he could have running this campaign in Alaska. I personally picture him hanging out the window of a car, 9mm clutched firmly in hand, and popping road signs with frightening proficiency on the way to campaign stops in Wasiphilis. His message and campaign style would mop the floor with the limp Alaskan politicians (Matt Moon and the ‘almost hot’ governor I’m looking your way) whose campaigns on can hardly deem worthy of a municipal school board position. Below I’ve given his email address, please, write him a letter begging him to come to AK and run, it’d be worth it for comedy alone.

 

thanks for bearing with me!

please take this pleasant scene and don't bite!

Charlie reminded me of this footage this morning, and I found it over lunch. This is from January, outside of Hope. It was cold (-15ish) but on a sunny day with fresh snow it’s easy to convince yourself your warm enough. We didn’t hike a foot this entire day either. After towing for 7-8 miles up a dirt road we were able to shuttle all 5 of us to the top between Max’s and Charlie’s sleds. The ridge tops were completely stripped bare from the wind with large sustrugi from the rocks. The skiing though, couldn’t have been much better though…

Kim returns from Norway tonight, which is causing me to cut this post short as I have to go buy a padlock for our fridge.  Mikey also bought a new snowmachine, but I don’t have any pictures of it yet. Enjoy the video, if Kim hits another viper I’ll keep everyone informed.