Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Road to Alaska

My man and I have had a few (well, more than a few) conversations about going to Alaska late in the Spring.  While I'm a little scared, I think it will be an EPIC trip.  At first I was shooting high and told him I'll train to climb Denali, but in all honesty, I don't think I'll be ready.  I'd have to take some classes about Glacier travel, Avalanche safety, etc. and I don't think I have the money or time to cram all those with my marathon and triathlon training. And Denali is a scary mountain.

As time went by, looks like Chuck made up his mind and found a place that he knows I'll be comfortable in... although I still need the glacier travel training and of course avy awareness.  I'm sure he'll help me train, but I don't feel the need to get those classes as badly as if I were doing Denali, but still.. I gotta know my stuff to be safe.  He decided to go up to Little Switzerland area, still in Denali National Park, but way lower elevation. Did you click on that link?  The pictures are SICK.

To prepare to go to Alaska, I need to make sure I ski a lot, I workout a lot, I'm in the best shape and I sleep in cold and unforgiving conditions.  I don't think Colorado has those crazy unforgiving conditions, but it may get pretty bad out there, especially at higher elevations.  This is why we decided to head up to the mountains last weekend, with a big storm in the forecast and REALLY cold temps.

Our goal was to climb Father Dyer via the NE ridge.  It looks something like this:

The plan was to park the car where the blue and the black like meet, hike up the black line towards the lakes, camp Saturday night where the red line starts and go up the green (which is the ridge) on Sunday morning.  On the way down, we'd traverse to Crystal Peak (purple line) and come down the Crystal Peak route back to camp. Pack up our campsite and come back home.

As the week went by, we were following the weather and it looked NASTY.  Really cold.  We still stuck to our plan.  Left Saturday around 8am and drove up... only to find this:

This may be a LONG weekend... 
We got to the trailhead, got ready and started hiking up.  The storm cleared out and we got some amazing views.

Father Dyer is that pointy peak way back there in the middle 
Once we got to the lake, we set camp... it was cold.  It was hard to set up camp with gloves on, but if you took them off, your hands would freeze super fast.  It was not breezy, but the storm was coming back, slowly.  Little did we know, that was the last bit of sun we'd see for 24 hours or more...

Our tent was up, and the clouds were coming back.  Father Dyer to the right with a great view of our ridge.  
The snow returned as we were hiking out to get some dinner and attend the CAIC (Colorado Avalanche Information Center) Benefit Bash.

Snowy and cold
We had a great night the rest of the night.. drinking and not thinking about Sunday's (or Saturday night's) hike.  Josh and Joe joined us there and at around 10:30 at night we headed back to the trailhead with the rest of our group.  We started hiking at 11pm and in the dark, with snow, and a small bottle of whiskey, we made the 2 mile hike to camp and got there at 1am (talk about slow hiking!).

I crawled into bed right away.  It was DAMN COLD.  But Chuck helped the guys set up their tent.  I was sort of falling asleep, so to me it felt like it took them 15 minutes, but apparently it was more like an hour.  Can't imagine setting camp somewhere like this:

Headlamp in the snow... Close to camp. 
They eventually all went to bed and I fell asleep quite fast (especially cause I was a little buzzed).  Waking up in the morning was HARD. I slept REALLY well in my new zero degree bag, I was nice and toasty, but the second I poked my head out, it felt SO cold. We had cell service, so we checked the temps in Breck and it was -3 degrees!  Burrr.  Considering we were roughly 3000ft above Breck, we decided it was EASILY -15.  Ok, that's legitimately cold.

Despite it being hard to crawl out of the sleeping bag, we all did.  Had breakfast, some hot tea and started walking up towards the ridge.  While it was not too windy (or at all), it's hard to do anything when it's that cold.  It wears you out.  But we were all good sports and went for it.  Some complaining more than others, hehe.  My only motivation was: "If I don't tough it out, Chuck won't take me to Alaska." And I REALLY wanna go to Alaska.

Chuck, Joe and I a few minutes into our hike
I wanna say, it was not the best conditions to hike anyway... not weather-wise, but also the terrain was odd.  You know, when there's ice and snow, but not enough to cover the rocks... but enough that you don't see them?  I thought someone was gonna break an ankle.  We didn't, but we were cautious.  We made our way to the saddle, which was the base of the ridge.  Took us around an hour.  At that point we decided it wasn't safe to continue.  The weather wasn't great, it didn't seem to be getting better, it actually seemed to be getting a little worse and even breezy, and given the fact that not only did we need to summit, but go over and come down the other way, it would've been dumb to continue since a whiteout was possible and a REALLY bad idea when on a ridge. We took a victory picture regardless.

We made it!!!!  ... to the saddle! 
The hike down was obviously faster, but breaking camp wasn't that much faster than setting it up.  Everything was frozen and hard to pack down.  Again, it was so cold that it was hard to do anything.  Once we finally got everything dialed in and packed in our packs, we left... fast. Took us roughly 50 minutes to get down to the car and another 15 to be sitting in a warm restaurant with heat blasting.

Surprisingly, I can't wait to get back out there this winter.  Just a little more snow and I will be skiing down that thing.  The good thing is... my sleeping bag is awesome and apart from being REALLY cold when crawling out of bed.  I was mostly warm.  So, what's next?

No comments:

Post a Comment