Things that Happen in Just a few Days in Alaska

When one rides their home mountain range with regularity all season, it’s wise to expect a few oddball things to happen every once in a while. Maybe once a week. On the other hand, go on an expedition to the middle of nowhere, and you can expect any of these formerly infrequent scenarios to rear its head on a near-daily basis. Or you might even see a few on a single outing. Maybe it’s related to the groove we get into by repeating familiar patterns, but it seems when I ski away from home, the quirks come pouring down the mountainsides in abundance…

Case(s) in point:

  • Sunglasses fog up and you’re blind just when it gets zesty. Like 60° couloir top-out in hollow névé spicy.
  • Skins freeze over with snow on the sticky side and cause double skin ejects. Resulting in person-sawing-their-planks-with-skins syndrome. Works like a charm.
Double eject!

The rare, simultaneous, double skin eject!

  • Tech binding toepiece pops off while skinning steep firm snow. Ski then begins slide downslope.. Multiple outcomes may result, depending on the speed of all involved.
  • Water lid freezes to the bottle. Never mind bottle straws. They’re frozen solid within mere minutes of being in contact with liquids. Actually, before you’ve even begun your tour in Alaska, expect your straw to be frozen solid, despite all your tricks.
  • Someone forgets real gloves, leaves camp with light gloves meant for skinning, yet unsuitable for booting/crawling up couloirs. Glove shopping amongst partners results.
  • Water runs out or completely freezes. A solid chunk of water-bottle ice thawing for a few hours next to your baselayer, inside your coat, will provide a much needed sip of water just minutes before camp is back in sight at the end of the day. Plus it will assist in cooling you down, aiding your toes (see below).
  • Falling ice chunks disguised as snow will hit your party. This game stings anyone who involuntarily plays a game of catch.
  • The day’s food ration runs out. Long before the tour is over. Because you wouldn’t want to overeat in the early days of touring around amongst a billion tons of ice, now would you?
  • Toes will go numb for two hours at a time inside boots causing days worth of wondering whether you’ve landed some level of frostbite. Typically, the extent of this parlor trick begins creeping onto your feet a few minutes after you’ve exited the warmth of your sleeping bag, continues to worsen during breakfast and the general ‘get ready’ phase, and reaches maximum pain/cold level during the first minutes of your tour. From there, over the course of an hour or so, some semblance of feeling and normalcy returns to your lower digits. The cold toes syndrome gets worse/more prolonged with each day’s outing. Which is nice, because it really helps moderate body temperature and prevent excessive sweating. Once you’ve returned to camp, the process reverses until you’ve been in your sleeping bag for some time…
The Numb Toe Brigade...

The Numb Toe Brigade…

  • Monumentally large cornices will hang overhead during your couloir ascent. Enough said. With any luck, these will be getting blasted with sunlight on the windward side, increasing the odds of finding some cornice chunks atop your backpack later in the day.
Ascending beneath the Lost Cornice Formations of You'll Be Smashed To Bits Couloir.

Ascending beneath the Lost Cornice Formations of You’ll Be Smashed To Bits Couloir.

  • Some sort of snow offering up completely borderline stability characteristics will present itself, usually after you’ve committed some time and effort to find yourself where you are.
Waist deep sugar overlaid with ice, always a nice afternoon treat!

Marginal, steep, waist deep sugar overlaid with ice, always a nice afternoon treat! It helps add a bit of mystique if a tumble would send you over a cliff.

These are a sampling of the extraneous joys easily relished while touring Alaska in beautiful, sunny, and comparatively warm weather. To experience a more comprehensive, lengthier list (all in one day, even!), simply tour there in inclement weather.

Got any favorites that pop up on your own tours?



2 Responses to “Things that Happen in Just a few Days in Alaska”

  • Not proud of this one, but it’s happened. Long day of touring. Getting ready for the last ascent, completely exhausted and I soon find out, completely brain dead. Switched over to tour mode, snacked, drank some water, shed some layers, and quickly got going. Well, I would soon realize that I forgot to put my skins on AND that my partners had both witnessed this, so before I knew it I take my first step and aggressively face plant while laughter erupts from above me. Embarrassing, but more importantly, hilarious. I bought beers that night…

  • Kalen – It didn’t happen unless there is a picture of the face plant. Kidding. Thanks for sharing, I’ll bet you don’t do that again soon. Or…?

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