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Mountaineering in the Arctic Refuge with Osprey Athlete Joe Stock

July 26th, 2015

Osprey Packs Athlete Joe Stock is an internationally certified IFMGA mountain guide based in Anchorage, Alaska. He has been climbing and skiing around the world for 25 years with extensive time in the mountains of Alaska, the Southern Alps of New Zealand, the North Cascades of Washington and Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Since 1995, Joe has been freelance writing for magazines starting with a feature article in Rock & Ice on climbing the Balfour Face on Mount Tasman in New Zealand. Since then, he’s published numerous articles on adventures and mountain technique in rags such as Climbing, Backcountry, Alaska, Climbing, Trail Runner, Men’s Health and Off Piste.

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In 2009, Paul Muscat and I climbed Mount Chamberlin, then considered to be the highest summit in the Brooks Range at 9,020 feet. Now, Mount Isto might be the highest at 9,060 feet. It was just the excuse we needed for another trip to this pristine wilderness.

Joining us was Glenn Wilson and James Kesterson. Over the past 17 years we’ve been on many trips together: Denali, Mount Baker, Marcus Baker, Mount Bona, Mount Iliamna, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Mount Chamberlin, Mount Logan and the Central Talkeetna Mountains. On this trip we didn’t get up Isto, but we had a blast exploring and bagging peaks.

With logistics help from Alaska Alpine Adventures, we flew direct from Fairbanks to the Jago River with Wright Air. It was a two and half hour bush flight, with no in-flight service. This region is better known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where Alaska’s embarrassing half-term governor once said, “Drill baby drill.”

The plane is a Helio Courier, made in the 1970’s and designed for a low stall speed. Supposedly it will fall horizontally rather than nose dive. The tires are Alaskan Bushwheels, made near Anchorage in Chugiak. They are the “premier tire for extreme backcountry adventures.”


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Glenn and I got brand new Volt 75 packs for the trip. They were perfect! The right size for our eight days of food, fuel and mountaineering gear. They fit like a slipper, straight out of the wrapper. Once again, Osprey made our trip better.

 

mtn.anwr.stock-720Our first summit was the 8,625-foot Screepik. While conducting summit LNC (Leave No Cairn) we found Tom Choate’s name in a sodden film canister. In 1999 he climbed Screepik and made the impressive scramble over to Isto. His trip reports are in the October 1999, February 2000 and the November 2013 Scree newsletters from the Mountaineering Club of Alaska. Choate called Peak 8625 “Spectre”. First ascentionists called it Shadow Peak. Keeping with the tradition, we called it Screepik. Scree for the endless boulderfields, and “pik” for the Inuit word for “genuine.”

 

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Descending from the summit of Screepik. Nobody out there. Just us.

 

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After eight days of mountaineering at high camp, we returned to a base camp by the landing strip on the Jago River. Here’s Paul on one of our day-hikes from camp. Our tent is a tundra-colored dot in the tundra fields way down there along the river.

 

mtn.anwr.stock-790Another day hike along the Jago, this time up the big split in the river. While the first part of our trip was cold, drizzly and snowy, the second part was warm, calm and sunny. The bugs weren’t even out yet. Conditions were ideal for snoozing in the soft tundra.

 

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James, Paul and Glenn mid-layover at the Arctic Village Airport terminal on the flight home. Thanks for another great trip guys! And all the memories. I can’t wait until the next installment. Maybe to try Isto again. Maybe to try the next highest Brooks Range summit. There is a rumor that it’s now some unnamed peak. Oh bummer. I guess we have to go back…. 


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Around the World: Alison Gannett’s Favorite Places to Ski

February 4th, 2015

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I’m often asked about my favorite places to ski, so here are some of my recommendations from around the world:

Kootnay Mountains, British Columbia’s Red Mountain Resort and Whitewater Resorts:
While I love almost all of the skiing in BC, I’m choosing this area because of the consistently great snow that adheres to rocks, GREAT ski towns, the friendliest locals, phenomenally varied steep terrain, affordability and easy access (flights to Spokane,Washington,USA and short drive across border). When folks ask me if and where I have a pass, I respond that I don’t, but if I did I wish it was here and I wish I could live in Nelson or Rossland! Almost nowhere in the world have I experienced pillows like those in Steep Roots at Red Mountain, or powder that felt like backcountry but was actually inbounds like in Whitewater. It’s no wonder I choose to spend most of my season at these two places and that I run most of my Steep Skiing Camps in the Kootnays. What I also adore is the non-resort vibe at these towns/ski areas – reminds me of my childhood at Crotched Mountain New Hampshire. This is skiing as it should be.

Tip: Don’t miss the $25 dorm rooms at the Adventure Hotel or pay-as-you can or trade for rooms at Angie’s B&B. Don’t forget about the great slackcountry — bring all your backcountry gear almost every day to these areas.

 

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Verbier, Switzerland + Chamonix, France or La Grave + Serre Chevalier, France:
I’m mushing these together because different folks may want one over the other or, ideally, both. Both are beyond words when using the lifts to access the backcountry. When I want to scare myself, I go to ski the couloirs in Cham. Besides Argentina, I don’t think I’ve ever almost peed my pants like when we skied the Rhonde when icy, and a guide died that day in the couloir next door in the same hour. I’ve also skied almost 7,000 feet of blower snow in a chute almost all to ourselves. Verbier also has epic backcountry off the lifts, but it is more wide open peak to peak adventure skiing and if you want to end up at a place with a bus or train back where you started, hire a guide or make a good friend at the bar. Another strong contender in this category is La Grave (pucker factor even higher than Cham) and Serre Chevalier (OMG steep trees/spines).

Tip: Be prepared to always wear a harness/crevasse rescue gear and use a rope frequently. Make sure to have great maps and at least two ski touring guides.
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Manali, Indian Himalayas:

Typical response, “what Mountains are there?” Duh, they’re the HIMALAYAS, only the greatest, tallest and most epic mountain range in the WORLD. But great mountains don’t always make for a great skiing experience. Case in point, I adore skiing in the Chugatch Range of Alaska (Valdez, etc), but the rest – grey weather, greasy food, epic down time, heli expense, lack of trees for backcountry hiking on gray days, etc.) don’t contribute to my absolute favorite overall experience. Manali is an breathtaking Indian honeymoon destination, which changes everything. Epically tasty and inexpensive cuisine, no AK47’s like Kashmir/Gulmarg, colorful and almost weekly Buddhist and Hindu  festivals, 5-star lodging and service at a budget hostel expense, Colorado-like weather/snow with Utah-like Intercontinental snowpack, and the mountains? Well, need I say more? Don’t leave home without: CR Spooner’s book “Ski Touring India’s Kullu Valley.”

Tip: Use airline miles for dirt bag trip sidetrip and go surfing in Sri Lanka!
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To Be Continued…

 

Osprey Athlete ALISON GANNETT is a self-sufficient farmer, World Champion Extreme FreeSkier, mountain biker, award-winning global cooling consultant and founder of the multiple non-profits. In addition to being an athlete, ambassador and keynote speaking, Alison runs KEEN Rippin Chix Camps which offer women’s steep skiing, biking and surf camps around the globe. She has starred in many movies, TV shows, and magazines receiving many awards for her work including National Geographic’s “Woman Adventurer of the Year,” Powder Magazine’s “48 Greatest Skiers of All Time,” and Outside Magazine’s “Green All-Star of the Year.”  In 2010, she and her husband Jason bought Holy Terror Farm, kicking off their next chapter of personal health and self-sustainability.

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Chugach Rock Climbing

November 25th, 2014

Osprey Packs Athlete Joe Stock is an internationally certified IFMGA mountain guide based in Anchorage, Alaska. He has been climbing and skiing around the world for 25 years with extensive time in the mountains of Alaska, the Southern Alps of New Zealand, the North Cascades of Washington and Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Since 1995, Joe has been freelance writing for magazines starting with a feature article in Rock & Ice on climbing the Balfour Face on Mount Tasman in New Zealand. Since then, he’s published numerous articles on adventures and mountain technique in rags such as Climbing, Backcountry, Alaska, Climbing, Trail Runner, Men’s Health and Off Piste.

 

The Chugach is not famous for rock climbing. Probably the most fame it received was in a Rock & Ice article containing the Seward Highway among the five worst climbing areas in the United States. But the Chugach does have some solid rock. And if you don’t compare it to Colorado rock or California rock then you’ll have a great time.

The foothills of the Chugach Mountains above Anchorage have some of this solid rock. The problem is finding someone to adventure up there. I recruited my buddy Joshua Foreman to go exploring on O’Malley Peak. After hiking almost two hours we reached the base of a 500-foot buttress. As we climbed we found evidence from other parties, going back forty years: pitons, bongs, nuts, rotting slings. These  climbers had intense personal experiences on this cliffs. They told stories to a few buddies at the bar. The adventure became a faint memory in their lifetime of adventures. Without social media, the adventure was able to refresh itself for the next party.

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Joshua following the first of four long pitches on the Deep Lake Buttress. He’s using the new Mutant 38–light and sleek! The solid Chugach rock has a weathered brown veneer.

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Joshua leading pitch two. He pulled this second roof onto 60 feet of wet and runnout slabs. For an hour the rope inched up the rock as grunts and explicative floated down. Joshua also enjoys high-speed downhill biking and has competed as a speed skier in Alaska’s notorious Arctic Man. Leading a runout wet slab as his first rock climb in six months was perfect.

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Joshua and I with the Deep Lake Buttress behind. Rock climbing in Alaska in mid-May. We are so lucky.

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Black Lake Chute–The Run of the Season

July 9th, 2014

The Black Lake Chute took me ten years to ski. All that time it teased me from Anchorage. Above my home it looked like a thin white thread tied to the summit of O’Malley Peak. It hung down the north face and draped off of the lower wall. It became my White Whale. Sometimes, between attempts, I’d try to talk myself out of it. It’s too dangerous. There’s plenty of other stuff to ski. But I wanted it so bad….

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Read more…

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50 Shades of Osprey

March 2nd, 2014

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Osprey Athlete Payge McMahon is an adventure athlete, ‘rockin’ yogi’ and journalist who travels the world inspiring others to get outdoors, try new things and start checking off that bucket list.

In 2007, at the age of 33, my life changed forever. I bought my first Osprey Pack, an orange Stratos 24.  I loved it. It took me to places I never imagined. Read more…

Active Lifestyle, adventure, Backpacking, Bike, Hiking, Osprey Athletes, Outdoor Activities, Product, Snowsports, travel, Travel , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Springing Spring with Osprey Packs

June 7th, 2013

Osprey Packs is a key partner in my KEEN Rippin Chix Mountain Bike Camps, shown here in Fruita at the Fat Tire Festival. Great event. Great riding, great people, great beer…

I could go on all day! While I could spend all my time off (which is almost none) riding, surfing, skiing and playing, I now teach these women’s camps almost year-round, and many times at least 2-4 days per week. It is rewarding beyond belief, and who doesn’t love giving back to the sports that give so much to our lives? I believe I would have almost zero confidence if I had not discovered skiing, biking and surfing. I LOVE them all.

Speaking of skiing, here I am in California testing the new Osprey Kode Ski Packs for 2014. Great pack, great photographer… but really too much snow to ski anything that was sufficiently steep (and also safe). Most of the time it is “one turn wonders” on the same run all day long, which is quite boring until you see the results (hopefully!!!!!).

I know that often folks mention they want this “testing” job, and how can they apply to become a tester. Firstly, I quit my job, flew to Alaska with some new credit cards, competed in the World Championships of Freeskiing, then asked TGR and MSP almost daily if they needed another athlete for filming, slept in depressing hotels eating junk food and whiskey, called my mom and hoped for the best. Perseverance, right?

In another lifetime, I would wish to be witty and funny. After a depressing day of sitting around waiting for the weather to clear, I went back to the hotel for a cat nap. I flopped on the bed, not realizing that there was a queen mattress on top of a twin box-spring, which left me on the floor before I could realize what had happened. Big bonus, under the bed had not been cleaned and I collected a recent issue of Hustler. Luckily, nothing else more personal!!!

OK – back to this blog and something more PG rated. Gareth at Osprey recently asked me to photograph what was in my pack:

Osprey Raven 6 w/Reservoir (100L)
Patagonia Traverse Jacket
Crank Brothers mini-pump w/gauge, Crank Brothers multi-tool 17
Solar flashlight w/hand crank backup, Juice multi-tool
Osprey tire levers, First aid tape and electrical tape, zip ties, Clif Shot Blocks, Elemental Herbs sunscreen, all-good goop and all-good lips
lighter, Cash.

Missing: Map and guide book, compass.

So, those who know me from my youth, I’m the chubby-dorky-math-geek. I’m going to skip the photo, as I’m still sensitive. One of my biggest fears was biking down stairs, so this is a skill that I now teach as much as possible. This video below is from the Red Rocks Rendezvous with Osprey this spring:

Ok, I know many of you are out there with me wanting MORE SPRING WEATHER. If there is dust in the snow, I would rather be biking, surfing, rafting, gardening… blah blah blah. Speaking of growing food, I’ve got to go fix the backpack sprayer so we can treat the peach trees with very very very diluted neem oil (aphids and leaf curl). I’m not very good at the pest end of chemical-free growing, but I’m learning! The hay fields got their first cut yesterday, summer here we come!

Active Lifestyle, adventure, Osprey Athletes, Osprey Life, photos, Travel, video , , , , ,

Pow: Alaska Ski Adventure

April 24th, 2013

If a picture is worth a thousands words, then you’re in for a real treat. Check out the following album, with shots taken by the amazing Ken Lucas during his travels in Alaska, which, in his words: “included backcountry skiing and some snow-kiting. We hit both the Chugach Mountains and the Kenai Mountains, including a great ski-plane segment.”

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Two For Two on Guide’s Day Off

April 5th, 2013

I’ve had two personal ski days this winter. With no snow in the early season, I ice climbed and taught avalanche classes. In the midwinter, I taught back to back avalanche courses and guided skiing. A lot of fun days on skis, but all of them on the clock. When skiing off the clock, I can kick back, let my friends make the difficult decisions and ski steeper, higher consequence terrain.

On my two personal days this winter, I skied the pointiest peak in the Hatcher Pass area and the pointiest peak near Turnagain Pass. Both near Anchorage, Alaska.

Dana Drummond booting 50-degree powder near the summit of The Pinnacle at Hatcher Pass.

Dana on the summit of The Pinnacle after leading the exposed summit pitch.

Dana on the summit of the Pinnacle. The Western Chugach are in the far distance.

Dana skiing the approach gully to The Pinnacle. See more photos of The Pinnacle here.

Dana breaking trail below seracs on Carpathian Peak in the Kenai Mountains.

Andy Newton and Tobey Carman heading to a break in the sunshine below our ski route on Carpathian.

Dana lining up to jump ten feet across the bergschrund to the Spencer Glacier below. See more photos of Carpathian Peak here.


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2,000 Vertical Feet in the Chugach

November 27th, 2012

Last winter it snowed in Southcentral Alaska from October through April. This winter it hasn’t snowed since mid-September. But that’s great! The ice is fat and juicy and the temps warm. Ice climbing season is here!

Last week, Cathy and I climbed 2,000 vertical feet of ice in a shrubby gully deep in the Western Chugach Mountains.

We used the rope on five pitches and soloed the rest.

Cathy pulling over the top of another belayed pitch. She’s wearing a big metal orange knee-brace to prevent her knee from locking. The next day she got the flip-flopping part of the meniscus cut out.

On the last belayed pitch. We topped out at 5:30 p.m. in total darkness. Over two hours we thrashed down 2,000 feet of thick alder back to the road. Oh, we long for the sun and easy approaches of Colorado!

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Dreams of Brown Moose: A Classic Alaska Ice Climb

November 14th, 2012

Joe Stock is a mountain guide and photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.

Dreams of Brown Moose is a classic early-season ice climb in the Portage Valley near Anchorage. This 500-foot, Water Ice IV route has the ingredients of a proper Alaska adventure with a bushwacking approach, dodgy thin ice, overflowing water and deathly avalanche terrain. I went with Sam Johnson, a life-long Alaska climber, artist and Ph.D candidate to give it a shot.

Read more…

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