Bashful Peak

cropped-14641933_10202430438440122_4077173187280324937_n2.jpg

Bashful (pictured above) is the tallest peak in Chugach State Park, coming in at 8,005′.  That might not sound like a lot, but the climb starts at ~1,200′.  That’s ~6,800′ of elevation gain!  The peak is located at the back of Eklutna Lake, a glacially-fed, turquoise finger lake in the Anchorage area.  This gorgeous lake is rimmed with dramatic, rugged peaks.  We took three separate trips down to Eklutna to hike/bike/climb.  Being that I was living and working an hour northeast of Fairbanks, this wasn’t a little trip.  If we obeyed the speed limit, the drive took about 8 hrs.  On several occasions, we left after working.  So we would get to the trailhead already dogged.

IMG_0111

 

To get to the peak, we followed the bike/ATV trail around the lake (10.5 mi.)  From there, we ditched the bikes and hiked in about 2 miles on the East Fork Trail.  This beautiful, calm strip stayed constant for each trip.

For the first trip, we (my friends Nate, Trey, Natalie, and myself) borrowed three bikes from the place we worked, Chena Hot Springs Resort, while Trey brought his own (much nicer) bike.  We disassembled two and crammed them in Natalie’s little Subaru along with all of our gear.  The other two got strapped to the top with ratchet straps.  There was just barely enough room for the four of us to fit, with one of the seats laid down.  I drew the little straw and had the joy of sitting in the middle seat up next to the bikes on the way down.  So this automatically made for an amazing 7ish hour drive.

Now, to be clear, the borrowed bikes were kids “mountain” bikes, with tiny little wheels and even tinier little seats.  We arrived about 2 or 3 AM the night before and camped by the parking lot.  The following morning, we got up about 8 and unstrapped/reassembled the
bikes.  Because we’re intelligent people, we didn’t really check out the bikes until we got to the trail.  One had a bent rim. The brakes just didn’t work on two of them and barely worked on the bent rim.  They had jacked up shifters that would occasionally shift, but would more often throw the chain off, particularly when a hill was involved.  And to top it off, these bikes had no shocks.  If the scenery weren’t so beautiful, we probably would have torn each others’ heads off.  Our surroundings were about the only thing keeping us going and moderately sane by the end of, quite possibly, the worst experience I’ve had on a bike.  When we reached the end of the 10.5, which took ~2x as long as it should have, we were all walking our bikes.

IMG_0084 IMG_0109

Before starting the hike part of our approach, we stashed the bikes in the scrub near the trail. It felt so good to throw that torture device in the weeds.

We set off down the East Fork Trail, following a route description that I had found online. Where we were supposed to follow the trail for 2 miles before turning up a dried-up stream bed toward Striver’s Gully.  Well we hit the cairns for the turn in no time and thought that there was no way that we could have gone far enough.  So we kept on moving.  We didn’t see anymore cairns after that.  We did, however see a massive waterfall cascading off 100-200′ cliffs.  (There will be a later story about these cliffs from our last trip to Bashful.)  So, after getting some water, we turned around and headed back to the first, and only set of cairns we saw off the trail.  By the time we made it back there, it was already about 11 AM, far too late to make any serious push for the summit.

When we arrived back around the turn for Striver’s, we decided to just head up the hillside (more of a scree field starting to be overgrown by alders, devil’s club, and wild roses).  At the base of the scree, there’s a tiny little pond that would serve as our guide back down.  So, from the pond, we headed straight up the scree bank toward a series of terraced cliffs, each being roughly 20-50 ft high.  Nate and I decided it was a pretty good idea to just climb these.

We only climbed about 2000′.  We were hoping that we could possibly run into the route we were planning on taking, that didn’t happen.  Now, the climbing wasn’t technically difficult, but the Chugach mountains are constructed of a material that is lovingly called Chugach crud.  This stuff is jagged and crumbling.  We had to check and recheck (yank on) holds before trusting any weight to this disintegrating young rock.  Many times, seemingly solid holds would come off in my hand.

After making it up one face of crud, we would be greeted with a small relatively flat section filled with a tangle of ropey, sprawling alders and everyone’s favorite plant, devil’s club.  The dead stalks of the devil’s club were covered in slender ¼ to 1 inch thorns that would break off in your skin with the slightest contact. The worst part of these, was that you can’t step on the devil’s club to break it.  As soon as you step off it, it would come flying up. After every trip, I would be left using a knife to pry bits of thorns out of my hands. (Definitely got some weird looks doing this at work the next day.)

IMG_0112

We eventually reached a little rock platform in mid afternoon, checked our elevation, and it really sank in that we’d have to take another trip to Bashful.  Now, the way up was pretty sketchy, so I was lamenting the descent.  The times that I slipped on the ascent, my stomach hit the valley floor.  I had to use alders as ropes to haul myself up, sometimes missing for devil’s club.  We didn’t have helmets, much less any sort of rope, so I was thoroughly relieved, when we found a passable chute to avoid all of that down climbing.

IMG_0113

 

We didn’t gain too much elevation, but the views were gorgeous the whole way.

 

IMG_0046

 

Advertisements

Arriving in AK

I am going to be writing a few (possibly a lot more than just a few) entries about my time spent in Alaska the Summer/Fall of 2016.  I realized that I hadn’t really explained much about adventures and so these posts will act as a record for myself and anyone who is interested.



I was, of course, nervous about the trip.  My checked bag was the size of me.  Between that and my little backpack I’ve had since middle school, I had pretty much all of my possessions with me.  I flew out of the Raleigh-Durham airport on June 3rd around 6pm headed to Seattle for the first layover.  The sun was declining when I boarded and I would chase the sun all the way to my destination in Fairbanks.  I was glued to the window for, particularly, the second half of the flight to Seattle.  (I had never been west of St. Louis before this trip.)  I know I looked like such a tourist, taking pictures out of the window most of the way and I had a tiny freakout when I saw the Rockies.  

When we started descending into Seattle, I freaked.  Seeing the Rockies from way up in the air is one thing, but seeing the snow covered peak of Mt. Rainier level with the plane floored me.  It was a gorgeously clear day and I was able to see Rainier, St. Helens, Hood, Baker, and Adams.  When I got off of the plane, I know I annoyed the hell out of the people behind me who had clearly seen all his before.  I just stopped in front of some dude to take a picture of Rainier.

I almost missed my connecting flight to Fairbanks because of a gate change and picture taking with the mountains at sunset.  I rushed to my flight and passed out as soon as we were up in the air.  I woke up over Canada to see peaks blanketed in snow.  This scenery changed to flat land with meandering rivers, oxbows, and isolated lakes dominated by black spruce.  When I landed, it was midnight and the sun was still setting.  I wobbled off the plane, blankly made my way to the baggage line, grabbed my me-sized bag, and threw it in the Chena Hot Springs Resort shuttle waiting for me.

The drive out of Fairbanks to Chena was long but despite my jet-lagged and drooping eyes, my head was constantly moving.  The road itself was flat and boring.  But everything around it was new and beautiful.  The Land was crinkled with rolling hills and small mountains covered in black spruce.

By the time I arrived at the resort, it was 2 A.M. and the sun was still giving a faint dusky glow.  I don’t think that there was true darkness for the first few weeks I was at the resort.  I went to the front desk, grabbed the key to my temporary room, and passed out.

The following day I would get my tiny 10×6 room. The view behind my building made up for it though. 

First Hike


The summer in Alaska comes with pretty much unlimited sunlight.  This was a huge problem for adjusting and just being able to fall asleep at “night.”  But this was perfect for doing anything outdoors.  The second day I was at Chena, I went out on the Charlie Dome trail.  I left for the hike about 9 P.M. and  I didn’t finish until about midnight.

I only hiked about 2.5 miles into the trail.  (I didn’t know this going into it, but this trail is actually part of a 26-mile loop that I’ll talk about in a later post.)  The trail was rather steep, especially for me at that time as I hadn’t been hiking often at all.  I kept stopping every quarter mile or so to look back across the valley containing the resort.  The trail starts off rather gently but then quickly heads up the hill.  This trail is not constructed like most.  There are no switchbacks, which caused some pretty serious washing in some of the steeper parts.

Being out of shape and wearing the worst clothes for the hike (jeans and work boots), I tired super quickly and forgetting water didn’t really help. When I finally reached what I thought was the top, I was soaked. The trail circled two yurts. At the time, I had no idea what they were for and just poked around them. There were a bunch of chairs, some snacks, a propane tank, and a couple of pots of water. Really exciting stuff. After exploring these and being wowed by the view, I stumbled upon the next segment of the trail. I was jumping around, making no attempt to control my excitement to see more.


I went on to the top of the next little hill before calling it. On the way back, I stopped in the yurts to grab some of that water. I would find out later that the yurts were used during the winter for aurora viewing. And the water, it had been sitting there since last season.

West Coast Bound

Before this summer, I had not spent more than a week or so outside of Virginia.  I had lived my whole life in this area.  The biggest move for me before going to college, was moving about 20 min. across the Lynchburg area.  When I did go to school, I was only 3.5 hours from home.  I needed a change.  I had seen and heard about so many gorgeous areas around the country, secondhand.  I was glued to the TV when anything came on about these dreamscapes.  So when I finished up at William and Mary this past May, I decided I had to see one of these spots—because everyone knows pictures can only capture a tenth of the experience.  As soon as I could, I packed up my stuff and flew out to Alaska.

I worked at a resort an hour outside of Fairbanks.  It was a pretty sweet gig.  I was out in the middle of nowhere, with everything being taken care of and I was getting paid on top of that.  All the money I made went to seeing and doing more.  I went all over the state, from Deadhorse to Anchorage, hiking and climbing whenever I possibly could.

Alaska did not sate my wanderlust.  It instead worsened.  I’m just not content with going about the “normal” life.  I want to go and see because a place might be beautiful, but there is more to see and more to do.  For that reason, I’ll be going back west again, but this time for the Pacific Crest Trail.

I will be living in some of the most beautiful places in the country.  For +4 months!  I’ll be starting this  expedition in April and I’m beyond excited for this amazing trip!  And I’m thrilled to tell everyone who will listen that I’m participating in mYAMAdventure!  This program brings together several sponsors who will be providing gear to me and the others hiking for mYAMAdventure.  And, all of us will be fundraising for the Pacific Crest Trail Association as well.

More updates will be coming about the planning process and my adventures in Virginia before heading out.