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...