Backcountry Skiing & Climbing, Alaska

Southeast Alaska

We have tried to do an annual ski trip in the Haines area for the past several years.  Here are some highlights:

In 2011 we skied from Mt Fairweather to the coast. See the trip report here.

In 2010 we skied and climbed in the Ferebee Range west of Skagway. We managed to get up a couple of routes while the weather held and toured around some impressive spires poking out from the glaciated landscape. We found the rock to be frequently loose and chossy with occasional pockets of solid granite. One day, departing camp under a gorgeous early morning sunrise, we attempted a particularly aesthetic line of snow & rock. Eventually a bowling ball alley of rockfall and impending weather forced us to turn back. The scale of peaks in this area is deceptive—looking back at what took us nearly 12 hours to ascend and subsequently rap and downclimb, we hadn’t even reached the halfway point of this massive feature. We returned to camp just in time as snow and strong winds began to pelt us. We spent the next 6 days hunkered down, digging ourselves out almost constantly, stretching our food thinner and thinner as we waited for the flight to arrive. Tent-bound, we killed the hours of waiting by brainstorming about the route for our 2012 Bellingham-Kotzebue adventure. When Drake, our pilot, finally found a break in the weather, we got a tongue lashing as he vowed never to drop us off again without a satellite phone.

In 2009 we hiked up to the broad Davidson Glacier from our cabin via an unnamed creek below Mt. Sullivan to our south. We were late to start the ski trip, delayed on our way to Haines and then by a spell of nasty weather. By the time the sun came out again, the alders and Devil’s Club had already emerged and the creek ran high with accelerated snowmelt. We hiked along the intertidal to the broad gravel wash of the creek, then crashed our way through brush up to snowline. The weather stayed warm and sunny as we skied spring corn on half a dozen peaks and slathered on the sunscreen. Pat resorted to wearing a pair of my (clean!) underwear around his neck to stem the reddening of his already sunburnt skin. Starting this ski trip from our cabin closed the gap for us between the green of the coastal rainforest and the frozen icefields above. Once again we were reminded why we love this dynamic landscape where glaciers meet the sea.

In 2008, with our friend Colin Shanley, we climbed the SW ridge of Mt. Sinclair, a beautiful thumb of rock that dominates the skyline from our cabin on Lynn Canal. The day was hot, the snow rotten, and we laid on our packs with views of the green ocean below. We were leery of a cornice that hung over the last portion of our descent, a couloir that led to our skis and the glacier below. We waited at the col for the sun to swing around the peak and Pat took a nap in the sun. As Colin and I chatted, Pat woke with a start, shouting out “Caroline!!” as though I might be falling off the mountain. We laughed as we descended safely to our camp below. We spent the next week ski touring in the area.

In 2007 we toured around the glaciers between Glacier Bay and Lynn Canal. One morning, we left our camp and headed out on a 23-mile loop. As we came over a rise on the McBride Glacier, we met the gaze of a wolf on a fresh mountain goat kill. The setting of the encounter was amazing—a glaciated jumble of ice flanked by rocky peaks. The water of Glacier Bay shimmered 2,000 feet below. In the middle of this alpine world, the goat lost the chase. Several days later, we climbed a steep, narrow couloir on Mt. Sullivan, which stands above our cabin.

Southcentral Alaska

During the winters in Anchorage, we take advantage of the amazing backcountry opportunities in southcentral Alaska, ranging from day trips to Turnagain and Hatcher’s passes to longer tours like the Eklutna Traverse, Bomber Traverse, and other linkages via the network of glaciated terrain.

There are endless peaks and routes to explore!

Check out more photos from skiing & climbing in Alaska here

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2 thoughts on “Backcountry Skiing & Climbing, Alaska”

  1. Looks like a fun time.

  2. I was send your site by a friend who attended your slide presentation in Juneau.
    Amazing and very couregous to follow your dreams.
    Keep it up.

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