July 26, 2016

Winter - Early Summer Adventures

Since I got back from the Kyrgyzstan and China expedition Benjamin Erdmann and I went on last Fall, I have been mostly hanging local and doing kinds of exploring and adventure activism like finding new boulders, cleaning problems, climbing them, searching for new crags with the potential for decent quality climbing, skiing a lot, climbing a little, trail running, pushing myself on my downhill bike and downhill longboard. Also, started a private practice to provide responsive and creative mental health services I called Behind the Sun Therapeutics, LLC that has been up and running since May 15th here in downtown Seward.

I've been happy to stay local lately because there is just so much to find with the right pair of eyes and a pair of legs that can cover distance and vert in the local backcountry. This post is just to share some of the moments along the way since last Fall, and to share some perspective on just a few of the awesome opportunities that can be had if you're willing to put in the time.


Among other lines, this canyon is home to the Rhinestone Wizard (350m WI5), climbed last winter during a decent if spotty ice year with Aaron Thrasher and Elliot Gaddy. This year, it was warm and wet and recreation ended up being more about backcountry skiing and splitboarding.


An awesome day on N face Gilpatricks


Winter biking up Lost creek canyon


Glacier creek ski day


The new friend Copper who has become my therapy dog trainee at my new private practice.



Definitely some blower days out in Summit this year.


Trail lake from the ice climbs on the Hatchery wall - never got cold enough for a true deep freeze this winter.


Looking down Hatchery Pillar (WI4/4+)


Never too tired to go looking for ice up in these cool valleys.


A typical staging area for local backcountry access.


Finally knocked off a couple of those big chutes on Goat near Avalanche Acres.


Copper likes backcountry skiing. A lot.


And, he likes Olive.


Angela Coleman booting up Goat on the day we went to the summit.


Darkness is a way of life in the winter. The night skies are spectacular though!


Full moon backcountry laps with no headlamp!


Mellow pow day around town with Ben and Sam Rininger, Angela Coleman.


It rained a lot this winter at low elevations!


Solo day on Fresno


Ryan Campbell enjoying a snack with his sponsor, Whatchamacallit Bar.


Monsters through the trees, a pretty standard scene around here.


SW face of Alice


For all your poor suckers lamenting the snow conditions around Hatcher Pass and Turnagain this winter, I kept telling you all to come down and ski with me and you didn't. This was a pretty standard scene hiking up some of our local quickies this year above about 500 feet elevation. I wish you'd been here! Never trust the Seward forecast unless you get it by looking out the window, a lot of times the tree skiing is excellent when it is wet and 36 F in town.


Distant view of SW face of Alice


Local tree runs


Looking out Resurrection bay from another great spot.


Moon over a subpeak of Alice


Copper shows good style breaking trail in the evening light above the bay.


I imagine that now it may be easy to understand how I have become enamored of this dog who is now my co-therapist in training.


More great pow days.


The beginning of the stairway to heaven a stone's throw from town.


Stunning days had in many of these high alpine bowls this year!


Follow me to the pow!


Storm skiing on Tiehacker


4th of July break on a warm Spring day


A sunny lunch run on Bear mountain


Lizzy's first day going big in the backcountry on the N face of Gilpatricks in super stable conditions.


There is no better place for a nap than the mountains.


Trail running, skydiving, climbing vacation in March. This shot is Lizzy Sutphin mid trail run in Zion.


During a great 12 mile trail run up Angel's Landing and to the West Rim RT in Zion.


Lizzy's first trad climb, first multipitch day climbing in Snow Canyon State Park.


The next trail run we did was a 20ish mile run to the East Rim, to Cable Mountain and Deertrap mountain then back to Zion's valley floor.



This was part of a cable system used to lower large pines from the top of Cable mountain to the valley floor for use in projects such as the building of the lodge.


Warm sandstone on Cable mountain greeted us on our run back down to the valley floor.


Another day of easy trad in Snow Canyon State Park with Lizzy Sutphin.


Sunset in the Kai'bab National Forest


Fifthwater Hot Springs just after dawn.


Antelope island sunset


Back in AK, it was time to break out the longboard for Northside Nash road and the South side of the Divide on the Seward Highway, dodging leftover spring gravel.


Ryan Hokanson and I bailed from a rainy weekend snomo skiing trip in Valdez to pull off a rare late season descent of the 5700 foot North face of Mt. Andy Simons above Crown Point.



Entering the mid face icefall section


Steep skinning led to the next spot for a rest and evaluation of the upper mountain.


Ryan kicking steps up the last section to the ridge on Mt. Andy Simons like a Boss.


5700 feet of vert to Ptarmigan lake!

Switching gears on the summit of Andy Simons


First turns down Andy Simons North face


Excellent conditions through the midway point on the face


Solo day on Gilpatricks N face chutes


Trying to maintain the momentum with a late season go at Sheep mountain's massive vertical relief with Ben Rininger, Angela Coleman, and Matt Ward.


Entering the NW bowl on Sheep.


Angela Coleman booting up. The light is going flat and the terrain is getting real steep, just short of the ridge in NW bowl on Sheep.


A video Ben Rininger made of a bit of the descent on Sheep. For the first time in the backcountry, I saw a good friend of mine take a potentially fatal tumble off a 50 foot cliff when they were torn from their feet by massive sluff. Thankfully everyone was able to get out under their own power and we worked well together as a team to respond to the event in a caring and cohesive manner.



There are always treasures for those willing to put in the work to explore. This treasure is a 50m gently overhanging crag that could provide an excellent opportunity for route development and training.


Lizzy pulling on the warm up boulder.


New problems near town, accessible on lunch breaks!


New dog named Meili joining our clan!


Just another example of how huge the snowpack has been up high this year from sometime in mid May this year.


Trail runs are Copper's second favorite activity after backcountry skiing. 


David Funatake pulling on laser cut crimps on one of a few classic and excellent problems a 45 minute hike from town, Tantalus Slab (V1).


Tantalus Face (V3)


Lizzy heading up to the Catalyst boulders where some cleaning, climbing and projecting occurred earlier this season.



A view of Grant, Vagt, Kenai, and Upper and Lower Trail lakes as well as Resurrection Bay from Lark Mountain.


Downhill biking kind of took over for myself and Ben Rininger once he finally got himself a proper steed. Sometimes when its raining we go ride laps on trails that aren't super steep after I get off work.


Second year in a row riding steeps in the fog while the town celebrates the fourth and Mount Marathon across the bay.


One of our updated local trails, watch out for the 80 foot cliff tucked behind the trees on the left of this photo!


Another example of local scale from an uncharacteristically easy access run by Ben Rininger and his brother Sam.