Wind slammed the peak of our tent like a grizzly. The walls sagged like potbellies from wind-packed snow. Our living space compressed into a three by five-foot sarcophagus. After three days in the tent, I was suffering cabin fever insanity. If the storm kept pounding, we would eventually succumb to thirst and hunger and bail out the Matanuska Glacier to civilization. If we bailed out, I would spend another year wondering why I only made it halfway across the Chugach.
I lay comatose in the tent, sinking into the Thermarest. I watched the clouds floating above, and only moved when Andrew passed in hot Cytomax. The image of the Pipeline Bar was close to reality and my fear of failing was gone. I relaxed deeper into the Thermarest and listened to Andrew sing Impala. Tomorrow afternoon we’d be drinking those pints at the Pipeline.
In April 2005 Andrew Wexler and I skied from Anchorage to Valdez. Over 18 days we covered 185 miles and about 31,000 vertical feet. We had three caches located at Crow Pass hut (skied in), Grasshopper Valley (dropped ten days earlier), and at the Scandinavian Peaks hut (flown into us) on the Matanuska Glacier. Eight days of clear, calm and cold weather got us to the Matanuska Glacier from Anchorage. One hundred plus mile per hour winds and snow pinned us down for six days and then five more days took us to Valdez.
On the first day my wife Cathy dropped us off at the Glenn Alps trailhead in Anchorage and we skied over Ship Lake Pass, down Ship Creek, up the North Fork of Ship Creek to Moraine Pass and Paradise Pass, down to Raven Creek and up to the Crow Pass Hut in 13 hours. From Crow Pass we covered part of the well-traveled Eklutna Traverse route including the Raven Glacier, Eagle Glacier and Whiteout Glacier. We then descended the Whiteout to Lake George (15 miles of skating), across the Knik Glacier to Grasshopper Valley and up the Marcus Baker Glacier to a 9,000 foot pass and the Matanuska Glacier. We took an easy glacial bench (~8,500’) from the west to east fork of the Matanuska Glacier to gain Turtle Flats and the Powell Glaciers. We crossed a series of easy passes between the Powell and Sylvester Glaciers (7,200’), Sylvester and Tarr Glaciers (6,300’), and Tarr and Nelchina Glaciers (6,700’). Once on the Nelchina Glacier, straightforward slogging took us across the Tazlina Glacier, up Cashman Col (6,300’) and down the Valdez Glacier to the Valdez Pipeline Bar.