Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hurdygurdy Mountain

Adventure beckoned. This week's objective was to climb Hurdygurdy Mountain. Under looming skies and pending rain clouds, Jesse and I set off from the South Fork Eagle River TH at 7:50 a.m. on Saturday, June 26, 2010. Our hope was for the rain to hold off long enough to take in the magnificent views from the summit. The last several adventures have been organic, diverse, and wet. The crux of exploring the Alaskan backcountry is to be prepared and willing to adventure out into the elements, regardless of what form they encapsulate. This outing proved no different.

The first picture from this journey is a spectacular mountain reflection in Eagle Lake. Cantata Peak and Triangle Peak (Left to Right) can be seen in the distance. Both are awesome climbs!

Our route dove into the greenery and followed the edge of Eagle Lake for several very slow and frustrating miles.

During an adventure last year, Jesse and I discovered an amazingly wide gully almost secretly perched in between Point 5679 and Point 5764. From Eagle Lake, this gully climbs over 3,000 feet and eventually deposits you directly on the ridge leading to Hurdygurdy.

One last view looking back from where we came before heading into the clouds.

The ceiling dropped and we found our way in a sea of clouds and mist.

At times, the interaction of the terrain and weather made it feel like we were someplace on the moon or some galaxy far, far away.

The ridge! I couldn't decide if I wanted to walk on the cornice or on the sturdy ridge. The fog was clouding my judgment.

The remains of Winter were littered along the ridge. We prepared for the summit by changing out of shorts and donning rain pants, gloves, and a winter hat. To the top we go!

The summit of Hurdygurdy! Similar to last week's summit of Thunderbird Peak, the views were nonexistent but the feelings of accomplishment were high.

The descent involved a bit of route finding and nerves. Jesse and another guy we met along the way carefully made their way down a snow field.

Finally off the ridge and back into the gully we initially ascended leading to the ridge, a cheerful patch of flowers clung to the mountainous terrain.

The final portions of the journey entailed multiple water crossings in frigid temperatures, fields of Lupine, organic experiments, and miles of running to the truck parked at the trail head. Another spiritual wilderness adventure and another mountain clicked off the list!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thunderbird Peak

Adventure beckoned. I needed to resurrect my spirit through mountain therapy. My friend Jesse joined me in another Alaskan adventure. The goal was to climb Thunderbird Peak (6575'), including Point 3757 and Point 4575 along the ridge route. My treatment consisted of 19 miles of ridge hiking/running, intense bushwhacking, neurotransmitters, altitude, introspection, summits, fog, wind, rain, uncertainty, snow, and 12 hours of total zen adventure. This session elicited the full range of emotions, feelings, and contemplations that one could expect when pushing your body to the limit and ultimately fulfilling the day's goal. The following pictures chronicle this journey.

The route began at 8:15 a.m. on Saturday, June 19, 2010 from Eklutna Lake. Jesse and I were optimistic, dry, and poised for experiential instruction.

Jesse and I bushwhacked for close to two hours through intense and nightmarish elements, including swamp, alders, Devil's Club, thorn bushes, and fallen trees. Luckily, no bears!

Alas, after intense bushwhacking and steep elevation gain from Eklutna Lake, Jesse and I emerged onto the ridge separating Eklutna Lake and Thunderbird Creek. Despite the fog and ominous sky, we pushed forward along the broad, but up and down ridge.

Thunderbird Peak, our primary objective, was hidden someplace at the end of this valley and in the fog. Jesse and I concluded that the only helpful aspect of intermittent visibility is that it forces you to simply plod along, one foot in front of the other, without getting too caught up with the elevation changes or the number of miles left to travel.

Near the end of Eklutna Lake, God blessed us with views of our surroundings. You can clearly see the fog we just evacuated. On the far right of the picture, you can also see where multiple acres burned due to a recent forest fire.

The journey steepens, the clouds roll back in, and the summit is closer...

A small but brilliant gift crossed my path. These flowers must enjoy the weather, mountains, isolation and difficult elements in order to want to grow above 5,000 feet!

Jesse leading the way along the long and winding ridge.

The wind picks up and the snow begins to fall. However, we are encouraged with a fairly clear view of our goal peaking out in the far distance.

Jesse is cautiously progressing along the summit ridge, comforted by cornices and steep drop offs.

Summit! The well-deserved outcome to a long day. Our views were stifled, but our spirits were high.

Jesse savoring the moment on the summit of Thunderbird Peak.

Did I ever mention that I really love climbing mountains?

Now, the journey home begins. Just think, only 9.5 miles left to go!

Our descent off this ridge is someplace way off in the distance...

I am tired. It is windy and misting. We still have a long ways to go.

My trusted companions: Brooks Cascadia shoes, Black Diamond Raven ice-ax, and Go-Lite pack.

I am always intrigued by Alpine tundra vegetation in the Chugach Mountains. They are adapted to survive short, cool growing seasons and thin to rocky soils.

After a slog and hellish bushwhack off the ridge, we finally approached serenity. This is the end, my friend, the end.

This picture gives you insight into what we just negotiated. Yuck!

Do I look happy? A few words come to mind: Exhausted, wet, and battered.

Although we are tired, we reached the end of our adventure. Back to where we started almost 12 hours earlier: Eklutna Lake.

Thanks, Jesse! We fulfilled our adventure objectives. Until the next one...