Winter AK Climbs

The key to this winter has been to mix things up. Skiing, nordic ice skating, fatbiking and some ice climbing. Here are the memorable days of ice climbing around Anchorage this winter. 

Dusty Eroh shakes off the flu with a dose of overhanging choss in Eklutna Canyon. You can torque the cracks open for better sticks, but don't torque too hard or the climb will fall down. While leading, I thought it would be nice if the bolts were really long, buried deep in the choss. First ascensionist John Giraldo reassured me they were five and a half inches long.  

 

Todd Tumolo and Josh Hoeschen placing an anchor for a dry tooling route.  

 

Todd sending the project.  

 

Joshua Foreman topping out a steep groove of snice with marginal gear above Black Lake. 

 

At least the anchor was bomber. Equalized tools and a spectre beat into turf. Bomber, but I still did a waist belay rather than off the anchor. 

 

Cathy fatbiking back Caribou Creek in the Matanuska Valley. 

 

Without studs on our tires, we ditched the bikes and walked up to China White.

 

Cathy with the screaming barfies, when blood returns to cold fingers, one of the pleasures of ice climbing. As cold air drained from the Talkeetna Mountains, Caribou Creek felt like real Alaska. 

 

 Cathy on a climb that is normally ten feet thick. 

 

The main venue at Caribou Creek. Great climbing, but cooooold!

 

Walking on Caribou Creek.  

 

One Sunday reports came in that Portage Lake was a sheet of glass. Ice skaters everywhere. Climbers laying waste to the route Hands Across the Water. We went on Monday. Six inches of snow coated the glassy ice. Oh well, it was a great group of buddies and the snow made for a better nordic ice skating workout. 

 

John Cobb and Dana D rack up for Hands Across the Water. I roped up with Joshua Foreman.

 

Maddog Hoarder of Marmots realizing that climbing is way more exciting when you don't do it everyday.  

 

Joshua Foreman with iced ropes. 

 

Brian Miller climbing in Eklutna Canyon. The day was a birthday present of ice instruction and climbing from his wife. Some wife, huh? Brian and I did mad skills and climbed juicy flows of ice. It was a calm and clear Sunday in mid-March. The canyon was deserted except ravens calling to each other. The river ice approach was a smooth highway. 

 

Brian with a quad anchor. IFMGA Mountain Guide Peter Doucett—a top East Coast ice climber—told me about this anchor technique. Quad anchors are the way to go for ice anchors if you have two solid screws. In hindsight, having the limiting knots closer together would further minimize extension if there was screw failure. Here is a nice video on the quad by Jeff Ward.