12/21/09

Adventures in the Dark

It's solstice today, and since it's cloudy in Fairbanks, that means it won't get very bright for very long today. That reminded me of some of the recent adventures I've been having in the dark. Since I'm home for the holidays, and it's cold out, I suppose I have some time to type up a few updates.

Whilst driving north for turkey day, Paul, Clay and I stopped in at Dragonfly Creek for a bit of ice climbing. It's perhaps the most convenient climbing anywhere. A two minute walk from the car leads to the top of the ice pillar that drops down towards the Nenana River. Tie in to the anchor-tree, rap down and start playing. We each did a few laps, and throughouly enjoyed ourselves. We started climbing at about six o'clock, so it was headlamps climbing. Fun, but more intense. We were thankful for the toprope.

On our way South back to Anchorage, we stayed in at the cabin for a couple nights. What a great place to unwind. I almost forgot how much schoolwork I was neglecting. We spent our day there investigating the bowels of the Castner glacier, and were not disappointed with our findings. We came prepared with both ice climbing gear and river gear to be ready for any sub-glacier terrain features. Neat cave. Waded in thigh-deep ice water. Belly-crawled on mud and rocks. Hiked in huge open tunnels. Wahoo.

After school was finished, I picked up a few hours at AMH, Anchorage's premier ski-racing and mountian-climbing headquarters. I've worked there on and off for a few years, and it always feels like coming home when I start there again. One of the perks of working there is that  your co-workers are always planning excellent hair-brained adventures. And so I found myself preparing for a late-night backcountry ski trip with Paul and two of the rowdy AMH crew, Jason and Galen. It had been snowing all day, and we got first tracks  after getting off of work that night. We dropped into the bowl at about 9:30pm, headlamps struggling to cut through the warp of falling snow. What fun!

And now it is full time ski-racing season. So far it looks like my training is paying off, but I still have a ways to go before I'm skiing as fast as I can this season. Last weekend was the first two Besh Cup series races. about 500 skiers from around the state show up to race. It's a big event for the juniors trying to qualify for the Junior Nationals team, but it's a great event for everyone to get some race practice in. Sunday was a 15k classic race. I placed ok, but I didn't feel very strong. Saturday though, I placed 12th in the skate sprint. I qualified 13th in the morning, then placed 3rd in my quarterfinal heat behind powerhouses Reese Hanneman and David Norris. It turned out that we had the fastest heat, so I still got to advance as the "Lucky Loser" despite my #13 race bib. I got my butt kicked in the subsequent heats, but I had secured myself as 12th for the day. The race started with a prelim at 11 o'clock. My last heat started at 4:15. That made for a long day, and it was dark in the stadium well before we were finished.

 
Dragonfly in the Dark


Gearing up: kayaking drysuit, mountain boots, crampons.


Ice Tunnel


Explorer Paul


Ice-bank hopping.


Scharlping some Gnar the day before the dark skiing adventure. Pictures turn out better in daylight.


This is Ski Racing.

(Photos by Clay Roberts, Steffi Hiemer, John Schauer and UAA Seawolves Skiing)

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