Above: A small stream snakes through vibrant green moss on Mt. Rainier in Washington state. The picture reminds me how alive and diverse the mountain is, from the thunderous cracks and groans of enormous glaciers to the smallest bubbling stream sustaining a secluded ecosystem. The picture is a rough scan of color positive film, shot on Hasselblad.
Above: View of flower boxes, mountains and the river that runs through the town of Chamonix, France, July 20, 2013.
Following the fantastic bike ride through Burgundy wine country, the adventure town of Chamonix, France, only 190 miles south-east, was a logical next stop. Surrounded by mountain fortresses, Chamonix is situated right on the border with Italy and Switzerland. It is perhaps the most accessible and popular gateway to explore the vast Alps.
Under foot a cold, silty, glacial-fed river bisects town. Overhead clouds veil and expose mountain peaks, gondolas whisk explorers in a web-like maze, climbers tackle treacherous peaks, and dozens of paragliders waft down and around in strong wind-currents.
The town itself is a resort town – crowded, lots of shopping, and lots of people tromping around in mountaineering gear. Needless to say the reason for visiting was not to explore then town – but the surroundings. Those surroundings will be featured in future posts – particularly the Aiguille du Midi, an intense, two-gondola trip that ascends sheer-rock faces to an astounding 12,605 ft. (3,842 m,) in roughly 40 minutes.
Above: At 10:28 a.m. the sun has yet to rise above tree line, snow can be seen blowing off peaks in the Alaska Range. Elliott Highway, 37 miles north of Fairbanks.
It was an… ambitious adventure. Nordic ski 14 miles into Colorado Creek Cabin, in White Mountains National Recreation Area, starting about 55 miles north of Fairbanks. Distance wasn’t the issue. The problem at hand was twofold: temperatures around -35 degrees fahrenheit, and less then 5 hours of daylight. Stopping more then 2 or 3 minutes meant quickly becoming chilled, and wasting precious daylight.
It’s fascinating to review the time-of-day pictures were shot, tracing the sun path.
By the time darkness really took hold Nick and I had just slogged up the final ascent. I was far too exhausted to stop and fumble with my camera, and risk chilling off again.
When not sleeping or eating the cabin was a blast, but the next day brought another 14-mile ski back. Luckily the return was all downhill.
Even two weeks later, as my blisters and frostbite continue to heal I wonder why we thought it would be a good idea. It really comes down to mind over matter, living in Alaska requires perseverance and toughness. Sometimes a little personal reminder is necessary.