Alaska Range Skiing

In 2010 the Marshalls came to Alaska and we skied peaks and passes in the Western Chugach above Girdwood. This year Kent and Brooks came back for a Denali Ski Base Camp in the Central Alaska Range. 

Brooks and Kent with 500 pounds of gear, waiting for a plane in Talkeetna. A six-day storm had just cleared. We were in the queue with a hundred wound-up climbers gunning for Denali's summit. 

Talkeetna Air Taxi owner Paul Roderick flew us into the mountains in one of his de Havilland Turbo Otters, the limousine of big Alaska mountains. 

Kent and Brooks are from Laramie, Wyoming, a place known for it's hardy souls. Kent is a contractor and Brooks is finishing his Ph.D in chemistry at Montana State University. They both love to ski and are among the nicest people I have spent time with. 

A question came up as we reviewed glacier travel skills: what is the single best slide and grip friction hitch? I'm starting to think the klemheist. Compared to the prusik hitch, the klemheist is faster to tie, holds better in one direction and catches better. The prusik does hold in both directions, but does that really matter? Could the klemheist also take the place of the autoblock used for a rap backup? 

Touring high above the Coffee River on our first big day. 

Kent and Brooks with Denali in the background.

One small leg of a HUGE run. 

Brooks skiing toward the East Face of the Moose's Tooth on the right, and Beartooth on the left. After Mount Dickey in the Ruth Gorge, the East Face of the Moose's Tooth is probably the second tallest rock wall in the US, dropping over 4,500 feet from the 10,335-foot summit to the glacier. 

Kent shows the secrets to fitting 64-year old feet into ski boots. 

Skiing down from the Victor Icefall after a ditched attempt to access the pass beyond. That's Victor, as in Victor mouse traps. The seracs on the high left were discharging. The east-facing snow became knee deep. The slots were black and creepy. This tight valley was the most dramatic location of our trip. 

Brooks at our luxury base camp Hilleberg Atlas. We cooked and slept in this six-person tent. The Atlas is my single best piece of outdoor gear. Our only beef with the Atlas was the ceiling strength. It isn't strong enough to hang and swing from, so as to launch into our ski pants each morning. 

We had personal commodes–Denali National Park's clean mountain cans–with a luxury view. For storm conditions and privacy, we also had a Megamid washroom. 

Last run of the trip.

Skiing 2,300 feet straight down to camp for a Turbo Otter ride to Talkeetna. Thanks for an incredible week Kent and Brooks! I can't wait to ski with you again.