Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 18: Bold Peak (Hiking Edition)

Anchorage has been socked in with fog this last week. It's similar to the SLC inversion: crap low, bluebird and warm up high. And its gonna take a significant system to break the pattern. With the promise of good weather; it was time to go after one of the Chugach State Park's big dogs.

Bold Peak is a giant rising over Eklutna Lake to an elevation of 7,522'. Its not technically difficult but the long approach and big vert make it daunting. Getting to the bottom of the climb is straight forward: bike 10.5 miles down a campground quality dirt road next to the lake. Stash the bike at the junction, take a left, hike about 20 minutes until you get to the 3 cairns at a small creek.

Now the uncertainty begins: 6,700' vert in 3 miles consisting primarily of scree. Awkward scree. Embarrassed and uncomfortable scree. It wouldn't stay put on the way up and won't slide on the way down. It gets good for sections but never for very long. It made me very self-conscious.

Even with the overpowering awkwardness, I made good progress and was at the high pass right on schedule. The summit looked close from here but the map tipped me off that its actually over 2,000' higher. I rested, fueled and sussed potential routes.

"I think I'll head straight up the middle of the mile wide patch of awkward scree."

I summoned my spirit animal (the great white buffalo), put my head down, and pushed into it, trying not to make eye contact. Fatigue crept in and my pace slowed giving me the opportunity to savor the rapidly improving backdrop. Holy shit, that's Marcus Baker! It just kept getting better and better. There's the Eklutna Traverse. Redoubt. Neacolas. The entire Talkeetna Range. Dozens and dozens of Chugach glaciers. Each step higher made my jaw drop a little bit lower. Despite my deteriorating pace, the summit eventually yielded and the Alaska Range from Spurr to Denali was in my lap. All the awkwardness was gone. It was like I was using Axe body spray.

I lingered up high trying to take it all in. I changed my aspect often swapping one mind-blowing vista for another and then another. No clouds, no wind, and warm. Nice enough to forget about the record setting rain this summer. I looked at my watch and I knew that it was time to descend into the unpleasant and humiliating scree below. But I had gravity on my side and a renewed sense of self-confidence.

"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me."

-Stuart Smalley

Eklutna Lake 6,700' Below

Alaska Range

Eklutna & Whiteout Glaciers

Bold from the Parking Lot

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