August 25, 2009

Mount Healy Challenge

Wendy and I decided to take a drive and enter the Mount Healy race near the entrance to Denali National Park this past Sunday. We had a good time despite heavy rain and fog. The lack of visibility caused the race organizer (Matias Saari) to shorten the course. It was a fun course, and everyone was very supportive. Amazingly, the turnout was much larger than the previous running of this race despite the rain. Results can be found here on the Running Club North website.

August 6, 2009

Trip Report: Yukla West Ridge Solo

Above: Visible as the skyline, the complete West Ridge of Mount Yukla starts further down than is visible in this photo. The ridge gains 6735 vertical feet (2050 meters) from its beginning near the beautiful Eagle River to Mount Yukla's 7535 foot summit. Photo retrieved from Please view the source for more information.

Trip Report
Rain, rain, rain! That was all the forecast offered as I considered heading south to Anchorage for 10 days to try and climb and pick up some work. Speaking with climbing buddies, it also seemed that no one had the time to be able to go climbing. Then a glimmer appeared as the forecast showed a three day hole of sunshine in the middle of a month of rain. I packed up and headed down to Anchorage. After reconnecting with family and arranging work plans, I threw my pack together and headed out to Eagle River drainage, eager to make a solo attempt on Yukla's Complete West Ridge (IV 5.7), first climbed in 2004 by Rod Hancock and Stuart Parks in 11.5 hours. As far as I can tell after a lot of digging, they made the first and only ascent of the complete ridge prior to my climb. While the ridge had been attempted by several local parties prior to their successful ascent, it is by no means a 'difficult' climb. It is, however, a very long and relatively committing route, gaining 6735 vertical feet (2050 meters) from base to summit. The ridge also has extensive horizontal sections and several areas where one loses elevation. So, it makes for a long day on route. I climbed the ridge in 11 hours, self-belaying one pitch, climbing carefully and thoughtfully the rest of the time, and loving the views! I was pleasantly surprised both at the commitment factor on route, and the presence of a lot of fun mid 5th class climbing interspersed with scrambling and walking. The exposure on route was the most defining factor, as one is traversing along 5000 feet above the Icicle Creek drainage. One would not want to have to descend that way in an emergency. It would be better to descend into the Twin Falls drainage.

Right: A exposed, clean traverse along the crack in the center of the photo.

Left: A fine section of au cheval (straddle) ridge.

Below Right: Some big exposure on clean rock.

Below Left: Getting ready to haul up the pack on a steeper section that I self-belayed.

Right: Self-portrait high on route.

Below: The view from the tippy top.

The descent down to Twin Falls was kind of a pain in the ass. Since I hadn't ascended that way before, I missed the small trail that apparently wends down through the brush to the Crow Pass trail. So, I did a lot of bushwhacking instead, making for a fitting southcentral Alaska finish.

August 5, 2009

Update: Yukla West Ridge Solo

Yesterday I returned from a great solo trip to make the second (?) ascent of Mount Yukla's 'Complete West Ridge.' It is a really fun, LONG 5.7 ridge first climbed by Rod Hancock and Stuart Parks in 2004 after several attempts by locals over the years, including Charlie Sassara in the 1980s. All partners I spoke with told me that they couldn't go at that time, but I wasn't going to miss out on the only weather window in the last month, so I geared up to go alone. It turned out well, and the weather crapped out the day after I returned. Stay tuned for a few photos and a trip report.