Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Matanuska Ice Fest & Hatcher Pass: June 11-12

Two hours up the Glenn Highway from Anchorage lies the terminus of the 27-mile Matanuska Glacier. The ice is only a short 15 minute walk from the car-park and 15 minutes beyond that lies a fantastic Dali-esque playground for the Summer ice climber.

A few eager beavers arrived on Friday night intent on "drinking it blue." Our efforts were rewarded and at the crack of noon, we marched into the blue ice under blue skies. Throughout the day, our numbers grew. Top ropes were quickly set on the shores of a glacial lake. These routes ranged from beginner to slightly over-vertical.

Ice Beach

Obstacle Course
(use the pre-set axes for hand holds without moving any)

More Advanced Routes Higher Up

Beautiful Walk Back to Camp

After a full day of climbing, the real fun began. Dean had managed to rally about 30 folks, 10 bottles of liquor, 2 kegs, and 1 miniature doberman to the campsite closest to the ice. Good food, good friends, good beer, good times. It doesn't get dark this time of year, and the sky began to get brighter by 3 and it was blue by 4. OK, one more....

Day 2 found the number of motivated climbers severely diminished, severely. I counted myself amongst the fallen and after a few hours lounging under a blazing sun, I too joined the exodus. The drive South featured a tense battle between sleep and alertness. This conflict was punctuated with brief moments of swerving and terror. However, alertness eventually won the day with the help of a popular Austrian-based energy drink.

High on sugar and "gawd-knows-what", I decided it would be a fantastic idea to make the short detour to Hatcher Pass for a quick ski. The weather at the Pass was cold and rainy, a sharp contrast from just a few hours ago. Despite ESPN radio's proclamations of "can't miss" and "epic battle", I ascended into the grey. Cue the lousy weather black and white photos:

April Bowl

Not Bad for 2 Broken Boots

It was by far the toughest rally of the year. Sure the conditions were awful, and there was a driving rain, and the cold wind stung my sun burnt face, and aggressive dehydration dominated my soul, and where was I going with this? Shoot, I can't remember.

- U.K.