Scenery and a sandpiper

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

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.

Skiing World Class Thompson Pass

Alaska, Landscapes, Sports

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.

Descending towards Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass with spectacular snow.

A skier traverses towards shade on the Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass.

A skier traverses towards shade on the Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass.

Mittenwald, Bavaria: Waterfall and More Mountains

Landscapes, Photography, Sports, Travel

Above: A canyon with cool-blue water cuts through the mountains surrounding Mittenwald, Bavaria. Photographed August 7, 2013.

A long day of hiking is guaranteed to make one sore. One way to loosen up is another hike – this time to a swimming pool under a waterfall. A bike ride and a 30 minute trek up a stream bed led to the pool. The water was not warm, but greatly refreshed achy muscles.

A natural shower and a swimming pool to play in outside near the village of Mittenwald, Bavaria.

A natural shower and a swimming pool to play in outside near the village of Mittenwald, Bavaria.

The stream bed alone was gorgeous, with teal water, smooth stone and tall canyon walls. 

Mittenwald-3

Cool blue canyon.

The road between Mittenwald and the stream and waterfall is occupied with farmland. The return trip at sunset gave me a few great photographic opportunities.

Farmers enjoy mountain views at sunset while driving a tractor.

Farmers enjoy mountain views at sunset while driving a tractor.

Faded German signs, a biker and mountain ranges.

Faded German signs, a biker and mountain ranges.

Town of Adventure – Chamonix, France

Landscapes, Photography, Sports, Street, Travel

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.

Paragliders pepper the sky, cable-car wires hardly be seen stretching from one mountain peak to the other.

Paragliders pepper the sky, cable-car wires can hardly be seen stretching from one mountain peak to the other.

Being pulled on a bicycle through the main square in Chamonix, mountain peaks projecting in the background.

Being pulled on a bicycle through the main square in Chamonix, mountain peaks projecting in the background.

Valdez Harbor and Trans-Alaska Pipeline Storage Tanks

Alaska, Black & White, Film, Landscapes, Photography, Travel

While doing some back editing I realized I have a fair amount of work from a few trips to Valdez last summer. Valdez is the northern-most ice free harbor in the U.S. and is home to the terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

Seen here from across the bay, on a rare sunny day in Valdez, are the storage tanks for the oil that continues to flow through the pipeline 35 years after it was first pumped. According to valdezalaska.org there are 18 crude-oil tanks, each capable of holding 510,000 barrels of crude, for a total of 9.18 million barrels. While not nearly at peak production the pipeline still proves to be a vital portion of Alaska’s economy. Watch where you’re boating, if you enter the restricted area around the storage tanks you can be fined up to $32,500 and lose your boat.

This next image is simply Valdez harbor with mountains in the background.