Early this year the unthinkable happened. On January 11, exactly one year after hiking out of the Grand Canyon (as blogged about just a few posts ago), I hiked back down and floated the second half!
The serendipity was striking. Get additional details in the full write-up I did for the News-Miner.
Above: The Eastern Alaska Range backdrops the Delta Clear Water, a spring-fed river in Interior Alaska. A small canoe can be seen in the lower third of the photo,
The Delta Clearwater is an Interior Alaska river true to its name: clearwater. An early summer float trip provided astounding views and some small wildlife.
A sandpiper, a small migratory bird, feeds in the Delta Clearwater.
Clear and calm water makes for lovely reflections
Above: Mt. Diamond backdrops Eli Sturm as he skies down a couloir in Thompson Pass, where the scenery and snow are world class.
The 2,805 foot Thompson Pass pass is outside the coastal town of Valdez, and averages more than 550 inches of snow per year. Skiers and snowboarders travel from all over the world to make turns in Thompson. Copious runs are accessible right off the road, while endless mountains provide the potential for extended excursions.
My friend Eli and myself made the six hour drive south from Fairbanks last Saturday for two very full days of riding. We mostly used climbing skins — directional skins you attach to the bottom of your skies to ascend mountains.
On the first day we skinned about 4.5 hours, climbing roughly 4,000 feet, to the top of a couloir, a steep narrow gully on a mountain. The result was some of the best and most scenic riding of my life.
Descending towards Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass with spectacular snow.
A skier traverses towards shade on the Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass.
Some time ago I realized I live in one of the most stunning landscapes on the planet, yet fail to truly experience it. I call it the backyard syndrome: it’s so close you rarely walk through it. Not to say Alaska isn’t enormous, harsh and challenging. So more and more I have been taking to the trail.
A few weeks ago four people from the Alaska Alpine Club attempted to summit White Princess — a nearly 10,000 foot peak in the eastern Alaska Range.
The 9 mile approach up the Caster Glacier took all day, but bluebird skies always make great skiing. Unfortunately, bluebird skies didn’t stick around, and near-whiteout conditions high on the mountain nullified Sunday’s summit push. Absolutely no complaints though.
The photos are mostly 35mm film with two iPhone frames.
Approaching an ice cave on the Caster Glacier, even simple Alaska scenery’s stunning.
Inside the ice cave a person’s presence is easily overcome by time, textures and colors.
Ski tracks say where you’ve been, and can be extremely satisfying to look at.
The only view we got of White Princess — the peak in the upper-right quadrant — was rolling into base camp around 9 p.m. Dark and cold quickly followed.
A large rock wall dwarfs skiers and illustrates the scale of Alaska’s environment.
Group shot before leaving base camp.
About the only blue sky seen on Sunday. Snow blowing off the ridge is a good indicator of the strong winds.
Above: The Alps backdrop a morning smoke at Plan de L’Aiguille – 7,800 feet above sea level. I can’t imagine the hell cigarettes play on lungs at such high altitude. A photo I relish for numerous reasons: Magnificent-morning sunrise diffused over many mountain tops, where clouds stream as smoke out of the cigarette. Meanwhile, a bench and sign not only add geometrical designs and useful framing, but indicate frequent human presence.
The total trip comprises two different gondolas and an elevator. The first cable car starts just south of town – roughly 1000 meters – and after 15 minutes arrives at Plan de L’Aiguille, 2,354 meters. Views here are merely a warmup, as are the feelings of vertigo. Continuing on a second tram – the Aiguille du Midi – crosses glaciers and ascends near-verticle rock faces en route to the second viewing platform.
Climbers prep as the second tram departs at Plan de L’Aiguille, July 23, 2013.
The Aiguille du Midi cable car quickly becomes obscured by the mountain it will soon summit, rising 1,500 meters in about 10 minutes. The final destination is all but invisible.
The tall point of Aiguille du Midi is visible top center.
It’s a subject I’ve talked about before, long Alaskan summer light. Dusk and dawn, referred to as “golden light” in photography, are but a few short hours apart. A fishing trip to the Copper River Valley early June gave me a prime opportunity to photograph both ends.
In the first image: Alpenglow illuminates Mount Drum, left, and Mount Sanford, right. Shot at 11:10 p.m., June 11, 2013.
Alpenglow highlights mountains along the Richardson Highway,11:10 p.m., June 11, 2013.
Before getting on the boat the next morning I walked down to the Copper River to photograph a gorgeous sunrise, At 4:30 in the morning, just over five hours later.
Sunrise over the Copper River at 4:30 a.m., June 11, 2013.