Friday, August 5, 2011

Ptarmigan Couloir: August 4

It was one of those "come Hell or high water days." Common sense and weather forecasts be damned. I wanted my August and today was going to be the day. The destination is that most august of couloirs: Ptarmigan, a.k.a. the "S", a.k.a. the North drainage of Ptarmigan Peak.

In past years ('09 & '10), this has been my go to August ski. I knew what I was getting into so expectations were low. A strong wind head wind made for an exhausting peddle up the drainage. Intense gusts grabbed my skis and tried to wrest me from the saddle. Squirrelly. Once under the shot, I hucked my bike into a bush, upgraded my footwear to approach shoes, and started up the slick mud and loose scree.

80 minutes after leaving the car-pack, it was time to upgrade again to AT boots and clamp-ons. The snow was softer then in previous years and there was less of it. Anchorage was in the midst of a 4 day rain storm which had tenderized the snow into manky mess, but the going was quick. After about 1,000' vert my journey had come to an abrupt end.

Cruxed Out

The bad news was I couldn't go any higher, the good news: schuss time! Ledge: kicked in; boots clicked in. The temp and the pitch were both around 40°. The driving rain made one seem higher and other lower. But in spite of the weather and snow conditions, I was having multiple funs.

Looking Down

The turns were nice and carvy, but littered with rocks. I worked the slarve hard. Several times a strong uphill gust would align perfectly with my turn to send my spray rocketing into my face. It felt like someone was whipping rock salt into my face, but faceshots is faceshots even if they draw blood.

The Aftermath
(Went Left at the "Y" to where it Goes Black)

It was over all too soon or not soon enough. Hung jury on that one. Descending the scree/mud was much easier than the ascent, and the head-wind that fought me the entire ride was now a great ally. The ride was swift and chilly, but with the beer in site, a grin slowly appeared and worked its way into a disturbing cackle.

"Master! Master, you have driven him to the brink of insanity!"

And a swift back-hand instantly wiped that idiotic smirk off WAC's face.

- Rhett Butler

Monday, August 1, 2011

Alaska Fishing in July

The call came in: Crusty Sal was driving to the peninsula for a fishing rendezvous with Halibut Barbie. Hell yeah, I want in! The plan was to dip-net the Kenai River and be back by midnight. The 3-hour commute passed quickly, and Crusty and I picked up Halibut at the Safeway in Kenai. When dealing with Halibut Barbie remember this: no plan is absolute. So, it came as no surprise when after 20 minutes of dip-netting / swimming, HB was had devised a better plan: fly fishing with the Meyer Boys. We weren't having much luck dip-netting, so it was easy to pack it in and move the junk show upriver.

Crusty Sal Channeling her Inner Brad Pitt at Midnight

The new location and technique did not improve our luck and it was time to make the long drive home. Then Halibut gave us the hard sell: "How'd ya like to go commercial fishing tomorrow with my brother, Cap'n Fancy Pants. He could use a few extra deck-hands." I quickly called into work to let the bossman know that I wouldn't be showing up as expected 6 hours hence.

We awoke to to blue skies, warm temps, and calm seas. The weather could not have been any nicer. Milli Vanilli and Technotronic provided the perfect soundtrack as we motored down the Kenai River and into the Cook Inlet. Cap'n Fancy Pants had a spot in mind and we sped towards the mark. Once there, we quickly developed a nice routine: set the net, crank the music, snacks, cribbage, jump into the ocean, dance, sun bathe, and then haul in the salmons. Naps were also snuck in as needed. Commercial fishing is fun!

Halibut Barbie "Freeing" the Sockeye
Mountain Volcano Iliamna in the Background

Cap'n Fancy Pants and a Rogue Sand Shark

We fished between Nikiski and Clam Gulch and the Neacola and Chigmit Mountains were in full view. Glaciers, aretes, and couloirs, oh my! It gets a man to thinking about Old Man Winter and his adrenaline dispensary. But on a day like this, it's tough to contemplate winter for long. Today is for swimming, and flip flops, and no shirts, and thanking the pagan gods of the sea for filling my freezer.

- Salty Pete