December 26, 2010


Had another good day out with Charlie Renfro, Sally, Ryan Hokanson, and Kristy DeYong exploring Tributary, uphill from the Hope cutoff (we thought it was Frenchy's). We didn't find wonderful snow conditions but we did have a nice day out nonetheless.

Tributary in relation to the Seward Highway just South of the Hope cutoff.

Sally and Ryan down low, headed up while we still hoped for good snow. Alas, just the bottom 500 feet of the real skiing had good snow, much of the rest having a strong windcrust with sections of the Thanksgiving rain crust rearing its head as well. The terrain on Tributary is actually pretty nice, and we would've been very happy skiers in better conditions.

We were peering across toward Turnagain Pass and remarked that that run over there sure looked nice. Then we realized it was the peak we skied just the other day! This view shows a little of the grandeur of the terrain on TT 43. We skied down right below the arrow down the couloir about 4,000 feet to the flats near the car at the East fork Sixmile Creek bridge. 

December 25, 2010

TT 43

Yesterday was a nice day out in quite cold conditions on TT 43, the cryptically named highest peak in the Turnagain Pass area. The snow conditions were a little beat due to wind, but it was still a fun ski. Here are a few photos from this gorgeous cold day out with my sister Sally, Cortney Kitchen and Tobey Carman.

Skinning toward the upper steeps on TT 43. The initial goal was the narrow couloir left of the summit, but AM problems with skin glue in the -15 F temps kept us from topping out so we skied our line of ascent through the funky snow features just right of the summit.

 Booting up the final couloir below the summit ridge in firm conditions.

Nice midwinter light as we approach the ridge.

Cool snow fins shortly before we started skiing.

Sally and Tobey ready to launch from our transition ledge just below the ridge on TT 43.

Cortney starting out the long run on TT 43, getting first dibs on turns off our transition ledge. All in all, a good day out!

December 23, 2010

Skiing, and The Day the Dog Disappeared (Again)

I just spent a few nice days down at our cabin at Summit Lake on the Kenai Peninsula with my sister Sally, Ryan Hokanson, Cortney Kitchen, Tobey Carman, and three dogs. 

All in all, it was quite a nice trip, with a mini solstice party and a full lunar eclipse. One late afternoon, however, my dear Jenny dog had a conniption, and decided that going down the mountain wasn't a very good idea despite coaching from all of the humans in our group. After much talk, while peering up the mountain from the bottom of the run while she yipped and barked, it was decided that she would be OK overnight and that it didn't make sense to head back up in the dark while not knowing if she would come down voluntarily anyhow. So, aside from her adventure into Cook Inlet last summer trying to find me while commercial fishing, it would be safe to say that Jenny had the most exciting day she's had since I inherited her last February from Robert Boeckmann.

About to head down at sunset near Summit Lake.

The crew getting ready for another nice ski run.

The view out toward Turnagain Pass and the arm, from the top of 'Clive' Peak, as named by our family. I guess this peak is called 'Templeton' on the CNFAIC website Summit Lake map.

'Clive' Peak from the Seward Highway with the nice bowl/couloir run and tracks, and Jenny's chosen bivy spot where she dug a ledge and spent a night. The below video is Jenny's bivy ledge and her eating a giant pile of food and broth we brought her the next day. To top it off, she successfully overcame her conniption and had a good ski run the next day (with some coaching)! Enjoy...

December 18, 2010

Goat Peak

A day out skiing Goat Peak with Ryan Hokanson, my sister Sally, Ben Chriswell, and Cortney Kitchen. Stellar views in every direction. Perhaps Ryan will share a couple pics to share on his site. I hope the winter is treating you all well.

December 16, 2010

More Ice

A visit to Avalon Falls and the Alaska Rock Gym made for a fine day...but no camera!

Here is Sherrie's post on our Avalon day. I kind of felt bad because this time around, Avalon wasn't that icy and we spent most of the journey to the crux pitch kicking steps. Being Ryan's first time on the route, I think we all hoped to treat him to something special, which Avalon often is. Despite the snow, there were still 4 or so really nice steps of significant height that we all soloed. Then, we roped up for the crux pitch which took a few minutes to climb. At the top we decided that heading down from above the crux was better than slogging snow for another thousand feet to the good descent. In a nice year, it would all be ice and we would have been jumping for joy to tag another thousand feet of low angle water ice. But, instead, we rapped and downclimbed and headed to Pizza Man in Eagle River for a schooner and a snack!

December 14, 2010

Back in Southcentral

I got back to Southcentral AK on Saturday and have had a couple fun days out climbing near Anchorage and skiing up at Hiland Rd. since then. Today was mostly about work, but it looks like tomorrow might be about climbing again. Somewhat sad, I forgot my camera in Fairbanks so I will need to pick one up somewhere if I am to share adventures on here. Tomorrow, it looks like ice, but it is brutally windy out this evening. Here's hoping!

December 5, 2010

Slovak Direct Video, Time to go Climbing!

Well, folks, its that time of year again. We finally have something that looks like winter around here in this odd season. It is by far the warmest winter of our three (in process) Fairbanks winters. The coldest nights we have had in our neighborhood have barely broken the -30 F barrier.

Finals time will be desperate for the next 11 days, after which it will be time to climb and ski quite a bit. I've been so busy I've barely been doing any cardio, but I have been doing a lot of plastic pulling the in the hopes that we will find some good conditions for ice and mixed in the lowlands or alpine in Southcentral AK. I will hopefully be climbing and skiing with Ryan Hokanson for ten days or so prior to the 29th, then going to Hawaii with Wendy for a week, and finally hanging out with Andy Sterns in Southcentral for another ten days or so in January. I am looking forward to the break but at the moment need to have my blinders on and plow ahead on the last schoolwork of the semester. If anyone is looking to climb or ski, be in touch.

I watched this video again recently: Jesse Huey with my buddy Mark Westman doing a repeat of the Slovak Direct on the South face of Denali. Enjoy, hope it gets you psyched up to go climbing too...

November 23, 2010

Denali Park Fee Increase - Justified?

The National Park Service (NPS) is talking, again, of increasing fees for climbers on Denali or Foraker in Denali National Park from $200 to $500. There are a lot of reasons that this doesn't make sense. Here are a few:

For anyone interested, scientific data on Search and Rescue (SAR) published in 2009 by Travis Heggie and Michael Amundsen can be found here:

Climbing and mountaineering present a low percentage of SAR costs. There is no justifiable reason to discriminate against climbers and mountaineers with regard to fees on the basis that we are a riskier user group. We represent only 7% of SAR costs nationwide. Hiking presents 48%, boating presents 21%, etc.

Think about it. We do not deserve to experience financial discrimination simply because our sport presents the appearance of risk. With regard to rescue, we are not nearly as risky population as hikers (day hikers are the biggest risk!). Activities other than climbing or mountaineering comprise 93% of overall SAR costs.

If we aren't more of a risk than other groups, why should we pay $500 to go climbing for two-three weeks while others pay $80 for a whole year of hiking? Oh wait, and we still pay the standard park entry fee in addition unless you have that $80 'America the Beautiful' Parks Pass.

From the American Alpine Club (AAC) site: 

"Comments from the public will be accepted between November 1, 2010 and January 31, 2011. Public Comments may be submitted via email to: or faxed to (907) 683-9612. Written comments may also be submitted by mail to: Superintendent, Denali National Park and Preserve, P.O. Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99755."

The NPS argument FOR fee increase can be found here

The money they are talking about spending 'in support' of each climber might more accurately be assigned to paying salaries, feeding rangers, the yearly contract for the helicopter support used to fly all food and personnel to and from the mountain (sometimes necessary, sometimes quite unnecessary). The rangers are good people, but the argument made by the NPS for increasing climbing fees on Denali is biased. 

Of course, you can always go climb on a different peak, but that's another issue.

NPS suggested options for voicing your opinion can be found here.

November 3, 2010

Alaska Alpine Club Show: "Exploring Plan C: The Space between Plans and Outcomes in the Hayes Range"

"Exploring Plan C: The Space between Plans and Outcomes in the Hayes Range"
This show is open to the public and should be a mix of storytelling, imagery, some art, and our expedition video. There is a lot more to tell than what made it onto this blog. If you're interested in hearing more of the story, come on out! Thanks to the Copp-Dash Award for spurring me to explore other methods of storytelling. It has made for an interesting year!

Sharpening BD Screws

Get 'em sharp, climb more!

October 13, 2010

Interior Ice Exploration - Drier Than Expected

Andy following on a nice piece of ice that we assume was previously climbed by the late Keith Echelmeyer who did quite a bit of climbing in the area. 

Andy and I getting ready to rap off the likely Echelmeyer route.

Andy topping out on a short piece of ice at mile 207.9 on the Dalton. We called this Majorly Minor (WI3 tiny). I'm sure it has been climbed before.

Sister to my Sorrow on the Northwest face of Mount Dillon.  Quite run out on the rock section at the top. 

Sister to my Sorrow (WI3 M4/5X 45m)

Getting started on Sister to my Sorrow

September 2, 2010

Audio from Jerene's "Three Cups of Tea: A Mother's Perspective"

Follow this link to the KSKA post about Jerene's presentation, and this link to hear the audio broadcast of Jerene's recent presentation at UAA.

August 28, 2010

Jerene Mortenson and Central Asia Institute

Hushe School, a school I visited with my local friend Little Karim in 2007. Hushe school was one of the early schools built by Central Asia Institute.
I had the pleasure of meeting and introducing Jerene Mortenson for a UAA Social Work Department backed presentation this week. Jerene is a humanitarian and mother of Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools. I thought I might take the opportunity to share the links for Central Asia Institute and Pennies for Peace since I have greatly loved the time I have spent with the people of Pakistan and the work Central Asia Institute is doing is extremely inspirational. May you also be inspired. Tom Brokaw donated 100 bucks to the cause back in the 1990s...maybe you can donate 101!

August 26, 2010

Sam and Wendy Eklutna Adventure

Wendy and I coordinated for a fun 4 day trip in the Chugach. We biked out to the junction of the Eklutna Lake trail and the East Fork trail, then bushwhacked on animal trails up through small cliffbands on the South side of Stiver's Gully to a basecamp on the moraine between Bold (7,522') and Bashful (8,005') Peak. We put in attempts on both peaks and came close to the summit of both, and overall had a really good trip and caught some wild scenery in the heart of the Chugach. 

Wendy approaching the Stiver's Gully approach on the East Fork trail through the initially healing aftermath of the 2010 Eklutna Lake Fire.

Our basecamp below Bashful Peak's North face

A nice shot of me by Wendy high on Bold Peak's West Ridge

Mist on Bashful Peak's West Ridge high above the Eklutna Valley

Gorgeous cloud as we search for a path down from our basecamp back into the Eklutna Valley to find our bikes and head back to town...

August 16, 2010

Hayes Range Heli Ride

A few photos from a weekend heli ride through the Hayes Range with neighbor and heli pilot Alex Shapiro in his helicopter.

Mount Shand (12, 660) featuring the monstrous mile high South Face

Alex's R22 2 seater heli with building lenticulars

L to R: Mt. 10,910, Mt. 10,990, and Mount Hayes (13,886)

August 12, 2010

Granite Tors Trail Run

So much fun, an afternoon trail run of the 15 mile Granite Tors trail loop...

August 10, 2010

Expedition Art #2

Mount Balchen Electric 9" x 12" - Ink

Expedition Art #1

Mount Deborah Day and Night 9" x 12" - Ink and Pencil

July 13, 2010

Commercial Fishing in Kasilof

I am currently commercial fishing in Kasilof, and am slowly working away at pulling together the video footage from Ryan and my trip. I look forward to sharing it with you all when I return...until then wish us good luck catching some salmon!

June 14, 2010

Best Line of the Trip

Me: "Ryan, I was reading on Kelly's blog the other day that the Jumbo of the Giri-Giri boys says that to really be successful in the mountains, he imagines his body lying broken in a ditch. What do you think?"

Ryan: "OK, I'm imagining his body lying broken in a ditch. Is it working?"

For background information on the Shi-Shi philosophy and the context of the original quote, visit Kelly's post on Jumbo.

June 11, 2010

Hayes 2010 Trip Report

Please see previous two posts for an expedition summary and route photo topos. We climbed two new routes and tagged one summit. Both of the routes have been attempted prior to our climbs. 

Below: Rob Wing landed his Super Cub on wheels on the ice of the Hayes glacier following our unproductive time on the Gillam glacier. Then we hiked up glacier into the hayes basin with a LOT of stuff. Photo: Ryan Hokanson

Following are photos from each of the climbs we engaged in. Please see previous post for routeline photos.

Direct West Face of Mount Hayes: V AI3 R 6,500 ft (ca. 9,000 feet of climbing)

12 hours on route

Below: Taking a break a couple thousand feet up the Direct West Face at around 10,000 feet to pull out the ropes and begin simul climbing. We climbed the route in about seven simul pitches. Photo: Ryan Hokanson

Below: Ryan heading up terrain typical of much of the route, climbing toward spectacular ice and rime gargoyles beneath the summit ridge.

Below: Me following yet more alpine ice to a simul transition at Ryan's belay. The scale of the face is apparent in this photo. Photo: Ryan Hokanson

Below: Me starting the last simul pitch to the summit ridge at around 13,000 feet. Photo: Ryan Hokanson

Below: Ryan following the last simul pitch to the summit ridge.

Below: Ryan on the summit of Mount Hayes (13,876 ft/4230m), 12 hours after starting.

Below: Ryan in the midst of many rappels on the northern portion of the West face.

Northeast Buttress of Mount Balchen: V AI4 M6 3500 ft

10.5 hours on route to turnaround at ca. 11,000 feet on the summit ridge due t o due to lightning strikes. Again, see previous post for routeline photos. 

Below: Me climbing the initial icefield on the Northeast Buttress. Photo: Ryan Hokanson

Below: Ryan approaching a short mixed crux on the Northeast Buttress.

Below: Ryan climbing an 80+ degree alpine ice smear to bypass a rock headwall about two thirds of the way up the rock buttress.

Below: Me happy for the temporary clearing, heading across easy mixed ramps to access the final icefield. Photo: Ryan Hokanson

Below: Following the above pitch, we headed up the final icefield and snow rib to the summit ridge in increasing cloud, and started tromping toward the summit. Sadly, lightning and thunder which had been hearing from a distance began to get closer and we began to experience the electrical phenomenon known as St. Elmo's Fire. As our metal objects and bodies begain to emanate electrical squealing noises, we called off the summit bid within spitting distance at 11,000+ feet and headed down as fast as we possibly could to decrease our risk of being struck by lightning. Here is Ryan rigging our first v-thread rappel down the East face while sheltered in a nook below the summit ridge. We ended up getting around 6 inches of new snow in two hours and experiencing a lot of slough avalanches while on rappel/at anchors descending late into the evening.

Below: A brief clearing in the could soup during our descent.

Beasts of Burden

Following a day of rest, we began the trudge down to the Hayes moraine airstrip bearing 100 pound loads. 

Below: Ryan with his beautiful load on the Hayes Glacier.

Thanks so much to the Copp-Dash Award, the American Alpine Club for supporting our expedition, and Black Diamond Equipment for supporting me in my climbing efforts over the last 3 years. Thanks also to my other company support- PROBAR and GU Energy Labs. 

June 9, 2010

Hayes 2010 Photo Topos

Here are the photo topos for the routes Ryan Hokanson and I climbed on our 2010 Hayes Range trip.

Below: The routeline for the Direct West Face of Mount Hayes, which we climbed in 12 hours in single push alpine style from the bergschrund to the summit. The route gains about 6500 feet from the Hayes basin at an average angle of about 55 degrees with steeper steps and smears here and there for a total of about 9000 feet of climbing. More photos to come soon...

Photo: Received from Jeff Benowitz

Below: The routeline for the Northeast Buttress of Mount Balchen, which we climbed in 10.5 hours in single push alpine style from the bergschrund to 100 feet short of the summit, where we turned around due to nearby lightning strikes :(. Again, more photos to come soon...

June 7, 2010

Back from the Hayes

Ryan and I flew out of the Hayes Range yesterday following time on the Gillam and Hayes glaciers. Due to issues with our initial flight, we were unable to land anywhere near Mount Shand's South face, which we had hoped to attempt. As an alternative, we landed on the Gillam in the hopes of attempting new lines on Deborah or Hess. We found Hess quite melted out and chossier than we had hoped, and were unable to negotiate the icefall and serac threatened approach to Deborah.

Our intended plan B routes extinguished, and our favorite pilot now available, we flew with Rob Wing over to the Hayes basin. There, we spent some time examining an enormous ridge traverse we hoped to attempt, eventually deciding that the traverse would likely be much safer as a threesome and with some more snow protection. We then shifted our focus to other unclimbed lines in the Hayes basin, completing the first ascents of two routes: The Direct West Face of Mount Hayes, and the Northeast Buttress of Mount Balchen (though prevented from summiting by active lightning and St. Elmo's Fire 100 feet away from the tippytop), both in single push alpine style. I will update with more information and photos as we sort through the media from the trip. I have quite a bit of video also, which needs sorting, converting, and  some serious truncating. Thanks to the Copp-Dash Inspire Award, Black Diamond Equipment, and my other company support for all your help! Thanks for checking in!

May 15, 2010

Giri-Giri Crush South Face of Logan

The Japanese climbers who call themselves the Giri-Giri Boys have completed a long standing North America climbing project, the Southeast face of Mount Logan. Rising over 9,000 feet from the glacier below, this is where Ryan and I had planned to go last year before Ryan's injury. They did a nice job, spent three days on the face, and descended the East Ridge. They ended up climbing the single relatively safe line splitting the middle of the South face, the same line we had hoped to try. Scooped! Here is a link to Climbing's Hot Flashes report.

May 3, 2010

Copp-Dash Inspire Award

Jonny Copp and Micah Dash were super talented alpinists and activists who devoted a large part of their time, effort, and energy to establishing world class alpine routes in many different places as well as being advocates for important causes. Last summer, they were caught in an avalanche on their way to another big alpine project in China. It was a huge loss.

I met Micah in the Trango Towers in 2005 when he and his friends Nick Renan were going for a single push ascent (in a day) of Eternal Flame on Trango Tower and we were warming up for our ascent of Severance Ridge  on Trango II. I met Jonny in Talkeetna with his friend Kelly around the time they established Going Monk on a peak Kelly named after their lost friend, Bruce Andrews. 

Recently I was informed that Ryan and I won an inaugural Copp-Dash Inspire Award, an award dedicated to the pursuit of hard alpine first ascents and the sharing of experiences with others in the age old format of storytelling. These were two areas Jonny and Micah excelled in. It is odd to have that tangible connection to them a year later. It feels like we are bound to do our best to carry their spirit into the mountains with us and do our best to share our experiences and vision for the alpine in new ways. Click here for the 2011 application.