Tuesday, April 26, 2011

First Run of 2011

The consensus is in... last weekend's boating was an adventure. The water was cold, the ice bridges many, and the company was good. Roman put together a fun video of last years season opener, I figured it was my turn. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Season Opener....?

If last weekend was a send off for winter, this weekend was the kick off for summer.

When I finally made it back to a computer after running around in the mountains I had to check the USGS gage for Sixmile Creek. The weather had been warm and the sun was beating down and it was about time for the creek to open up. As it turned out there was enough sun last weekend for the river to start a rising diurnal trend. Later in the week I talked to some people that had been down to the gage and they reported that the channel was open and that there was shore ice along the banks. Sounded like a good adventure.

Yesterday I met up with Timmy, Jorge, Jeff, Johnny, Roman, Travis and Brian for a season first descent. With rain pouring down on the Kenai Peninsula and the snow quickly retreating from the pullouts in Turnagain Pass, it was a perfect day to get wet on the water.

After scouting The Nozzle and Suck Hole from the road we headed up to The Elbows to put on the river. Second Canyon looked good to go, but there were two big ice bridges in the Suck Hole stretch, one upstream of Suck Hole and one in Zig Zag. We had a feeling we were in for quite a day of portaging and scouting.

There were no ice bridges in second canyon, although there were some ice selfs creating for an interesting run of The Anvil. Jorge and Brian bailed after Second Canyon due to recent surgeries and confidence and Johnny, Timmy, Jeff, Travis, Roman and I headed down into Third Canyon.

There was a lot of ice still left in Third Canyon which made for slow going, lots of scouting, portaging and large seal launches. There were approximately six portages due to ice bridges. It was really cool to be on what was essentially a new river. The channel was different due to the ice shelves and it was changing as we were on the water. At one point as we were getting out to portage a seventh ice bridge and it broke before our eyes and we were able to boogie under it before it decided to collapse for good. After nearly 5.5 hours on the water, probably the longest run any of us have had on Sixmile, we were back at the cars celebrating the first run of the season with some snow chilled beers.

Roman was out paddling the new alpacka design, and has a good write up on the trip and how the new boat handles on his blog. I've got one on the way and after watching Roman paddle the Llama with no thigh straps yesterday I can't wait to get mine. His lines looked clean and effortless, and he was able to make some surfing ferries in the new boat. It looked like the new alpacka held some speed and an edge and behaved more like a kayak than in inner-tube. I'm stoked to get in mine!

It will probably be another two weeks before Sixmile is good to go.

A video is on its way at some point. In the meantime enjoy the pictures.


After two days of post work skiing at Highland and two big days last Saturday and Sunday I was looking forward to sitting at the desk and going to work last Monday. But after a call the Sunday evening before work, I couldn't pass up another opportunity to go skiing. Instead of going to work I headed south of Anchorage to the Portage Valley with Jeff, Najeeby, Paige and Allen to ski Byron peak. The conditions were perfect and some other friends had laid down a route over the glacier where we wouldn't have to rope up. It was too good to pass up.

The day started off really windy and we were worried that on our easy tour on the ridge to the peak we were going to get hammered by the wind. I was a little bummed that I might not get to skin in my shorts that I wore under my shell pants. But as we hit the ridge the winds died down and I could break out my shorts.

After four days of skiing I wasn't sure I was ready for the steep roll over to ski the face from the top so I opted to ski down the skin track and enter the face a little lower and watch Jeff and Paige ski the slope. Next time. The snow was perfect on the decent. There was enough tension in the snow to keep it from sloughing, but it was still nice, soft powder. All in all it was an amazing day with great people. The last few days had been the perfect send off for winter.

Here's a slide show of some pictures from the trip. Be sure to watch it in 1080p for the highest resolution. If you would like a copy of one of these pictures please contact me and we can work something out.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ram Valley

Little did I know that after skiing the S Couloir I would be doing more of the same the next day.

The evening after skiing the S Couloir I headed up with some friends to a party at the base of Ram Valley in Eagle River. After hanging out at the bonfire for most of the night, we woke up, cleaned up the mess, and headed over the ridge to Ram Valley. Once we made it up into the valley there were all sorts of lines to ski all over the place. A little tired and worn out, I was wondering what we were going to ski. I was thinking we would ski some mellow line in the sun on the south side of the valley since we had a group of six people tired from the party. Nope. Turned out we were heading for the proudest line you could see once you entered the valley, a corkscrewing couloir on the north side of the mountain.

Once we got to the base, half the crew turned around and headed back. Graham, Neil and I continued on. I was nervous; I had only done something like this one other time, and that was the day before. I liked skiing the S Couloir it and wanted to do more skiing like that. I felt that I was with a good group and that if at any point I was too nervous I could stop and ski from there.

No one in the group had been up that route so we started boot packing and trying to figure it out on the fly. We ended up putting our skis on before topping out because the couloir pinched to shoulder width appart and the snow was getting icy. Needless to say, there wasn't going to be much skiing (if at all) above where we stopped, and we were ill equipped for what lay ahead. We were equipped for the ride out. The skiing was a bit chossier than in the S Couloir, but there were still some good patches of powder to be had.

The Corkscrew Couloir that we skied last Sunday was probably the hardest ski that I've done, but I loved it and want to do more of that type of skiing. It combines everything I like about climbing, the places you go and the sights you see, with the fun of skiing. I'm finally getting enough experience to find the same adventures in the winter as I can in the summer when kayaking. I've got a long ways to go, but bring it on.

Neil and Graham booting up the left couloir

Graham making the first turn

Graham heading out with the line we skied in the background

The line we skied in Ram Valley

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

S Couloir

Last week Bryan proposed the idea of heading out to the S Couloir on Ptarmigan Peak. It seemed like the stability and weather was going to be good, and that there was going to be enough snow. I hadn't ever felt like I could ski the S Couloir because it was a big steep don't fall line. But this winter I have been getting out and skiing a lot and I've been feeling really confident on my skis. Despite that I still borrowed a friend's whippet (a ski pole with an ice axe on the top for self arresting) so that if I fell I wouldn't go sliding over the cliffs at the bottom.

So last Saturday Bryan, Ian, Danielle and I meet up at the Glenn Alps trail head and skied up Powerline Pass to the North face of Ptarmigan Peak. After driving across Anchorage to one of the most popular trail heads and skiing for 75 minutes to the base of the S Couloir we were blown away to find out that we were the first ones to go out there to ski since the last snow fall; the couloir was completely untracked. As it turned out the powder was perfectly consistant from the top to the bottom. It was some of the best skiing I've had this season, and definitely the best run I've ever done.

To top everything off Bryan, Ian and I went back to their place, carried the couch out onto the deck and lounged on the deck drinking Coronas and eating halibut fajitas. It was the perfect spring day.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Spring is in full swing. The days are long, the sun is warm, and the skiing is good. Last Thursday Adrian and I had to get out of dusty, grungy spring Anchorage and make some turns in the mountains. Rather than going out to Peak 3 like half of Anchorage, we decided to head North of town to the South Fork of Eagle River. The lighting was amazing and the powder was good. Rather than being completely tracked out and turning to moguls, the snow was well farmed and there was still plenty of good skiing to be had. That evening reminded me of all the good times I had learning to tele ski with all my old friends and team mates from UAA. That bowl brings back good memories. Here's a little video I made of our ski day last Thursday. Be sure to watch it in 1080p.

The skiing and lighting was so good Adrain and I had to head back out there on Friday with Bryan. I brought my SLR the second time around because the lighting and moon was so amazing. Those first two evenings out were the start an amazing 5 days of skiing. More is on the way!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Help a friend in need

A friend and ex-coach of mine, Ira Edwards, had a horrible accident this last fall. While out cutting trees for trail maintenance a tree fell on him and broke his back and shoulders. Ira went out of state for medical help and is slowly gaining some strength back in his shoulders and legs, but he still doesn't have motor function below his knees. Recently he has returned to Alaska and has been looking into adaptive sport equipment. Ira is an incredibly active guy and is a passionate cross country skier, tele skier, kite skier, and biker. As it turns out adaptive sport equipment is incredibly expensive, high end gear cost more than $10,000. After selling his classic skis and bikes he has enough for a nordic sit ski, but alpine sit skis and hand cycles are way out of reach (coming in anywhere from $6-9k). Ira has a pay-pal account at, ira_j_e@hotmail.com, and any donation you can afford would greatly help Ira get back out there and enjoy the things he loves.

Thanks for the help!