Monday, November 23, 2009
Also, Timmy J has a court hearing coming up in mid December for a Federal Trespassing charge he received this summer for kayaking on Ship Creek. Many of us have run into the MP's trying to get on or getting off of the run and have had no such charges, but rather polite run ins. Timmy would greatly appreciate a brief letter stating your encounter with the MP's. Your letters will be left anonymous, and it will not be tied back to you. You can reach Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm sure he would greatly appreciate any donation you feel acceptable to help pay for court and lawyer costs. It is a small community of kayakers up here, lets help a friend in need.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I have always been nervous and anxious in the back country. I never really went up unless I went with someone that knows more than I do or I went to places that I knew really well, under conditions that I understood. Nothing really drove home the safety concern as watching someone get buried. Thankfully I didn't have to do this first hand; someone posted a helmet-cam video of themselves getting buried and dug up. It is a very powerful video, and is definitively worth watching if you are even considering going out in avalanche country.
Since watching the video I have been reading as much as I can on snow science and avalanche safety. I couldn't imagine getting buried. It seems like one of the scariest things ever. Please, stay safe, be careful and have fun out there.
For avalanche conditions in Turnagain Pass check out the Friends of the Chugach website. They have web cams, weather stations, accident reports, and (as the season gets underway) seven day a week avalanche advisories. A friend of mine told me that his Dad sat him down and hand him read all of the avalanche accident reports before heading out in the back country. Recently, as I have found this information, I have been reading them and learning a lot. Take the time and check them out yourself. It is nice to learn what conditions and judgment calls led to the accident; learn from other people's mistakes and try not to let the same thing happen to you.
If you need to refresh on your avalanche safety, or learn up on it, you can visit the Alaska Avalanche School. They have classes and courses throughout the winter.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Packrafts are real boats, as Roman likes to say. It finally occurred to me this fall that not only are they real boats, but they are also really fun.
This fall Roman finally got me out and in a packraft. (Roman Dial is a packraft extraordinaire, and perpetual innovator in the sport). I had been dieing all summer to get out on Montana Creek near Palmer. The water was up early in the season, but it was EARLY. There was still a good possibility that some of the canyon could still have ice bridges. I had been into Ingram Creek as soon as the water levels got high enough, which was in May sometime. It was ridiculously early for Ingram, and there was still ice in there. So I figured it wouldn't be a good ideal to get into some of the canyons in higher elevations or further north, such as Bird Creek, Peters Creek, and Montana Creek. Well with the fall rains the water levels at Montana Creek finally creeped towards the runnable level and I made a few calls. I knew that Roman really wanted to get in there, and that the run could potentially be a packraft classic. So, naturally I gave him a call. I knew that if anyone could run it in a packraft that he could do it, as he ran some of the meatier drops in Ingram Creek last summer. Well, when it came down to the wire the water level wasn't high enough to run it in a kayak. But Roman had told me that if I was still willing to go in there I could borrow a packraft. Since the run is such a gem, I couldn't turn down the invitation, although I was supper nervous.
Montana Creek is a solid class IV creek with a drop or two that is pushing class V. It isn't anyrun to be taken lightly. The first time I went in there we had to walkout due to very high water and two bad swims. Since then I have been in there two other times and had a blast. I would say it is as dificult as Six Mile (the standard for comparing runs against in AK, a solid class IV Alaskan river that gets up to class V at high water), but has more of a creeking feel. In otherwords it is a really fun run, but has the potential to make your day really bad if you don't give the river the respect it deserves. So naturally I was a bit anxious about getting on the run in a small, stubby little boat that if you screw up dump trucks you into the river. Thankfully that anxiety was over run by the demanding need to become one with this creek, tap into its power, and breifly join the millions of water molecules on their exodus to the sea. Corny, sure. Addicted, yes.
Pictures are worth a thousand words, and videos are worth a billion. All I can really say about the run is that it made me hooked on packrafting, and that I couldn't stop thinking about it for a week. Just watch the video:
Roman also has a good write up of the run on his blog. What was really nice about the run was that one of the other packrafters, Thai, is also a kayaker. When packrafting the strokes, moves and how you read the water is different than in a kayak. It was really nice to have a packraft to kayak, kayak to packraft translator.
While running Montana Creek it finally occurred to me that runs that would be really hard or really expensive to get to with a kayak are now easily accessible. Exploratory runs in packrafts are the next big thing. It wouldn't be any big deal to hike through the woods with a pack raft on your back to check out a new run. If it goes, awesome! If not, its still not a problem, you got a great hike in. Next year, when the kayaking gets bogged down with low water, I can still get out on the river. I've been missing getting in long hikes, like I used to when I was ski training. I've been opting out of doing hikes recently in order to get more paddling in. Now I can get some quality paddling done, as well as get great hikes in.
After running MT Creek I went packrafting a few more times. One evening after work I ran the few miles up to Echo Bend on Eagle River to run the rapids back there in a pack raft with Toby and Ian. I never really wanted to carry my kayak three miles back for a run I hadn't heard anything about (if it was good the people I had asked about it would have raved about it, must just said it was okay), but a 5 lb packraft, no problem. We started out from the nature center, and in 30 minutes we were to the put in. By 8:00pm we were off the water, just as the light got too dim to paddle, and by 9 or so we were back at the car after hiking out in the dark.
A couple days later Roman invited me out to "flip the bird". We walked up (note the verb usage, as it is not a hike with a packraft) to the Inner Sanctum on Bird Creek and "flipped" the run 4 times, as it is literally a walk in the park to go back up the short run for another go at it. Timmy J, another class V kayaker, joined us on that run in his Jolly Green Giant (the NRS "packraft"). We had a blast. It felt obsurd to be playing in the water in October in Alaska. We were literally playing in the water. At the water level we ran it at it wasn't a big deal to fall out of your boat and climb back in. After getting over the initail shock of the cold water we were laughing about how much fun it was. There were consiquences, but for some reason the just seamed to be out weighed by how much fun people were having and the whole obsurdity of paddling in October. Both Timmy and Roman have videos of the run, their both worth checking out.
Roman's video, and his blog account of the run.
After that day on Bird Creek, it seemed to me that packrafting really started to evolve. Now that there are quite a few packrafters that can run class IV and class V kayakers that have seen the potential in packrafts, we have a recipie for inovation. The revolution has begun.
Soon after running Bird Creek Timmy and Roman went and the first decent in a packraft of the Throne Room on Tin Can Creek (a series of tea cup waterfalls). Timmy then installed thigh straps in his packraft and showed the world (via YouTube) that it is possible to eskimo roll a kayak. Now winter is here and it is time to think, plan and devolope the sport of packrafting. It won't be long until there is a first decent of a class IV creek in a packraft. I'm sure that some time soon packrafts will be running class V whitewater. Alaska is the perfect breeding ground for the advance of extreme packrafting. The accesability is hard, the runs are unknown, the packrafting community is small and close knit, people are stoked, and there is a six month incubation period for innovation. Viva La Révolution!
Videos of the 2009 revolution in packrafting:
Thursday, October 1, 2009
After it started to become a little ridiculous to still be playing in the water, I've started to become more excited about training again. I've joined up with OIA (Only In Alaska, an active group of 20 somethings) for workouts at APU this fall and have really been enjoying rallying myself once a week doing an hour and a half of circuits. Now I'm ready to start training recreationally, and stay active. I've been trying to do something everyday. Lately I've been going on cross country ski sessions, getting over to the Rock Gym to get ready for ice season, doing yoga, doing circuit workouts with OIA, and going to the pool to kayak with Cassie.
The snow finally fell last weekend, right before I headed out to the Southeast. I'm really looking forward to getting back to Anchorage and enjoying the winter sports. As I'm writting Cassie is out ice climbing. I was hoping to get out tomorrow and go climbing with her in Hatchers, but I don't think I'll make with the current delay. I bought some new telemark boots this fall and am looking forward to using them soon. Alright, well stay tuned, as blogs should come out in a flurry as I have nothing better to do but get caught up.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
This time I've taken a different focus, fun. I've been racing in the AMH Anchorage Cup Races. Last weekend I raced in Pia's Classic and this weekend I did the Hickok Pursuit. Pia's is a 30k mass start classic race and The Hickok is a 10k race where you race 5k classic and 5k skate. It was so much fun to get out there and mix it up with other skiers.
I found it was so much nicer to just go and not worry about anything. My last few seasons I ended up putting so much pressure on myself ski racing wasn't fun for me anymore. I would always say that I had fun, but in reality I really wasn't having fun. I was beating myself up mentally; I couldn't keep a positive out look on my racing or how I was feeling. I would usually finish a race second guessing my effort and wondering if I had gone hard enough. On my cool down I would systematically pick through my race and try to figure out what I could have done better. Not matter what I did, or where I placed I was never good enough in my own mind. I could never go hard enough, ski as technically well as I wanted or place where I could make my goals.
Last Sunday, when I finished my race I actually felt like I had fun. In three years I can remember two races where I finished and felt like that; the 2006 Tour of Anchorage and the 2007 New Mexico Invite. After my last ski race last year I didn't think that I would be out ski racing in the next couple years. I had finally beat myself far enough down that I couldn't stand it anymore. But after my trip to Guatemala, and getting some separation from the world of nordic ski racing, I had an epiphany. It didn't matter anymore where I placed, or how I did. I found that I like the feeling of racing, the blood pumping through my body and being in the zone.
So when I got back from Guatemala I started to ski again. This time for fun. There is a great local group of skiers where that is their goal. Some of them are more serious than others and want to show that you can still race competitively while maintaining a 40 hour work week. I'm done with that. Been there, done that. Count me in the fun group. My training plan is as follows. Stay active. When fun, adventurous activities don't present themselves, go out and ski. This has worked great so far. Between fun, adventurous activities and resting from those activities I usually get one or two days of skiing in a week. One of those sessions is usually intervals with the local group. Okay, so I still haven't completely broken myself from training completely (setting goals and doing intervals). It is a hard habit to break. At least this time it is healthy. I feel like I've got a healthy balance now.
Pia's classic was really fun. It was a blast to get out there and mix it up a little bit. But when it came down to it, it was really nice not to suffer and just ski. My goals were to ski with good technique and not worry about where I came in. Mission accomplished. I was able to get out there and mix it up with Adam and Rob for a while, but when it came to the punch I didn't feel that I had to puke my guts out to stay with them. I got what I wanted out of it; to ski in the zone for 30k and to feel my heart pump blood through my body.
Today I finished the Hickok. I'm not sure where I came in, perhaps top 15. Again it was really fun to get out there and do some ski racing. It was my first ski of the week. I've been staying fairly active though doing back country skiing, breaking trail up hill for a ways. I could definitely feel that I haven't been training like I used to in this shorter race. The whole race I felt like I was shaking off cob webs. But this time when I came to the last kilometer I did feel like pushing it a bit. I had really fast skis and was pulling away from the group I had been skiing with and gaining on the couple guys in front of me. With about 1k left to go I had just about caught up to Adam and gave it everything I had to catch up to him and get away before the final sprint, as Adam can easily out sprint me.
Its been nice to take this different approach to racing. I feel like if I really want to get back into it I can just start putting in the time and get it done. I know what it takes now, and for now I don't want to do that any more. I'm perfectly happy finishing off the tail end of the fast guys and having a ton more fun than they are. Well time to get a few chores done around the house before going out tele skiing tomorrow. :)
A "Snowyaking" Movie Review
Off and away
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
In other news from the Anchorage area, temperatures have dropped below zero yet again. However, this did not stop local enthusiasts, Paul and Cassie, from enjoying the little known sport of bike-blading. In bike-blading one person rides a bike while the other one is towed along on ski-blades.
"It is very similar to bike joring or water skiing, except this time the bike is doing all the work." explains Paul in a post bike-blading interview.
"[Bike-blading] is possibly the most awesome thing out there!" exclaimed and ecstatic Cassie.
The two were spotted ripping around the Turnagian subdivision late Tuesday night. They were repeatedly seen banking off the snow berms, being towed backwards, and having far too much fun in the subzero temperatures.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Dangerous Person trekking up to the Hillside Pillars of Doom
Friday, January 16, 2009
In other news, I seem to be dragging the weather around with me. When I went to Houston it snowed, and when I came back to Alaska it decided to rain and melt almost all the snow. Sadly Cassie and my plans were foiled once again. We had planned on going out to my cabin this weekend. However, with UAA closed the last couple days, all of her nursing classes that were cancelled got reschedualed to today. So it doesn't quite seem logical to drive for six hours out there, spend a day there, and drive six hours back. SO, now we have to find some other fun things to do this weekend. Ideas? I guess the Beer and Barley Wine Festival is going on this weekend. We might just go spend a rainy winter day inside tasting beer, perhaps it will help my rock and roll image. Yeah, there we go, I could go for a big delicous beer. I could have a gallon, a big gallon of it.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Yesterday I was pretty tired, yet I kept trying to cram everything in. I went around and visited friends, then went up into the mountains to go sledding. It was really cool to go sledding in the mountains at sunset. Cassie and broke yet another sled on our sledding adventure. This one probably broke after we launched off a steeper section and fell a good 8 feet. If anyone can think of a good sled sponsorship let us know. The plan then was to go to the pool to go kayaking. But after staying up late to deal with my missing baggage, we decided to call it quits a little early.
Alright, so NEVER fly with Alaska Airlines!! They have screwed up far too many things for me and my friends. The last straw was when they sent my bag from Portland to San Francisco rather than to Anchorage. They put someone else’s bag tag on my bag, after looking at my ticket and ID twice! AK Air is completely incompetent and I hope that within the near future they either go bankrupt or have a turnover in management. Either way, I would like to encourage anyone reading this to NEVER fly with AK Air.
Alright, enough ranting. It’s snowing outside, and I've got some skiing and moving to do. Later!
Monday, January 5, 2009
The modern town of Copan.