Alaska in 2019 shouldn’t have gone as well as it did- large, remote adventures never unfold according to plan. And although I had no expectations for our trip, somehow the experience exceeded anything I could have conjured up.
After planning for 18+ days on Sanford, we were up, down and out in a quick eleven days. 11. This unexpected blitz of success provided us a new window of time in country. Now we thought to ourselves, what to do?
First, we would eat.
On our first evening back from Sanford, we hit downtown Anchorage and by dinner number three, it was decided that Bruce and Kurt were outta there- The guys rearranged their travel logistics and headed back to the lower forty eight the next day. This left Jake an I to sort out our remaining time in AK together-there was still snow on the peaks, ample gear and supplies and together with a trusted partner, I hoped to get more shit done while in country.
The next day we got Bruce and Kurt on the road. We secured a rental car and headed to the gear shop for a guide book and intel. We purchased the book and found the shop's beta and the staff's intel to be sub optimal. We filled up our shitty little rental car and rolled outta the city, traveling up thru the Mat-su valley and landing in the southwestern Talkeetna Mountains.
At the height of spring skiing, Hatcher Pass is a zoo. The crowds, affectionately called Hatcher Passholes, shred and snomo the fuck out of this zone. Our (very) late season arrival gives us the place to ourselves. We posted up in the lower campground and considered objectives for the next couple of days.
Our first day on Hatcher, we climbed high up the flanks of April Bowl and continued up the ridge to Hatch Peak, 4,811ft. We punched turns straight down the middle. of April Bowl, descending thousands of feet back to the closed road. The skiing was remarkably good and we were inspired by conditions day one to sniff out deepere options in the backcountry.
Our research led us to think this was a good idea. As a ski tour, the Bomber Traverse looked all time. But clearly, the tween' season conditions we found the route to be in proved challengeing.
We gave it a noble try- I didn't feel super well and we had marginal weather with shit visibility. With so much of the route melted out, we opted to leave skis behind, intending to climb thru/post hole whatever snow we'd encouter enroute. But the reality of that strategy hit hard only 5 hours into our day. Miles of calf to waist deep snow, laid over open water and uneven terrain, slowed our progress and soaked our lower bodies. We forced a way forward until we cut fresh bear tracks. The tracks made us pause and consider the risk of pushing forward into shitty conditions without snowshoes. The sizable bruin paws sealed the deal.
The Bomber would be the first objective that wouldn't go this trip. It was the right decision to turn around and I hope I can come back and ski it when the route is in. Additionally, we found mysterious eggs on our retreat from the traverse.
Crow Pass-Chugach Mountains
We rolled southeast from Hatcher and made a quick stop in Girdwood. Our arrival coincided with the final day of a free music festival at the ski area. Great timing! We relished the time to chill out, listen to live music and people watch before heading back into the mountains the next morning.
We decided to run to Crow Pass the next morning and I was amazed at how quickly I dispatched those miles. Jake joined me up high and we checked out the cabin and a really cool goat. We descended back to the TH, ate lunch and dried out wet feet in the sun.
We loaded up and busted outta dirty Girdy, driving around Turnagain Arm until we were on the opposite side of the bay. We took the turn off for Hope, AK. and secured a kick ass campsite, right on the arm and made plans to climb peaks the following day.
I enjoyed a marvelous climb up Mt Hope and we rested and relaxed in this beautiful part of Alaska.
Seward & Turnagain Pass
We continued to roll south and arrived at the end of the road in Seward. This place was killer- it's Mile 0 of the Iditarod
We climbed and shredded big peaks for a couple of days and had a killer camp right on the ocean in the town campground- We looked beyond the guide book and sniffed out a couple of big lines above rainforest and ocean. The bear tracks we found kept getting bigger but we got lucky and never encountered the Kenai's infamous residents. great skiing and climbing-a rad vibe and cool scene. Seward was the right choice and it kept us in overdrive right up to the end!
On our final evening, we gathered with good friends in Anchorage for a celebration dinner. Fresh king and sockeye salmon, caught only hours before, was the perfect ending to our time in Alaska. We'd worked overtime on this trip and put in some serious effort. Our sweat and sacrifice had been rewarded right to the very end . We experienced all the best this state has to offer. Never has a trip up north proven so successful. I'm looking forward to Alaska 2020!