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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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Aiguille du Peigne

September 24th, 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.

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Half of the reason for coming to Chamonix is to climb with other guides. I’ve spent the last two weeks climbing with Andrew Wexler, an IFMGA guide from Canmore, Alberta. We’ve been buddies for 15 years and been on our greatest adventures together: the Ptarmigan Traverse in a day, the Eklutna Traverse in a day, full-length ski traverses of the Neacola and Tordrillo Mountains and a ski traverse from Anchorage to Valdez. These will probably remain the apex of our athletic careers. Since then we’ve become more work-focused, but that feels right.

Now Andrew and I get to guide and play together in Chamonix. This is one of our free days. We chose the Aiguille du Peigne in the Aiguilles du Chamonix. This is a moderate alpine rock route that starts with the classic Papillion Arete.

The lower altitude of Aiguille du Peigne seemed right for a forecast calling for afternoon thunder showers. Most of the route is easy fifth class like this.

 

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Some places the rock kicked up to 5.8, with lots of exposure.

 

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This is the crux pitch, a delicate traverse to a chimney with perfect finger and hand cracks in the back. The pitch was streaming with water, but the finger locks and hand jams were so solid it didn’t matter. Behind is the north face of the Aiguille du Midi.

 

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Andrew’s beautiful photo of me leading moderate rock on the summit ridge. The new Osprey Mutant 38 worked perfect. Thanks Osprey! Chubby bolts made for four easy rappels, then we lost the rap route in the fog. We ended up slinging horns for rap anchors to get back to the normal descent route.  Thanks for a great day Andrew! See more of Andrew’s photos on his site globalalpine.com.

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Inca Trail

September 13th, 2014

The Inca Trail in Peru is perhaps the world’s most famous trek. This four-day camping trip follows a 500-year old stone path that ends at Machu Picchu, an ancient city reclaimed from the jungle. I hiked the Inca Trail with my Dad, my sister Kate and her girlfriend Kim. We started and finished the trip in Cusco.

Cusco, Peru.

A mushroom cloud of smoke from hundreds of barbecues rises from Inti Raymi celebrations in Cusco. Inti Raymi is the biggest festival of the season. This party is taking place at Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “Sexy Woman”), a location famous for 100-ton stones fitted together so tight that a toothpick can not be fitted in.

Cusco, Peru

While city center Cusco is tidy and historic for tourists, the surrounding streets are real Peru. This woman is selling chopped up snakes in a soda bottle. Other bottles contain the hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus juice and various  potions for what ails you.

 

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru.

The Inca Trail is lined with ruins. Here’s Kate exploring the Phuyupatamarka ruins.  The fascinating thing about all these Inca ruins is that nobody really knows what happened. There was no written language before the Spanish arrived. And all of the written accounts have a Spanish Conquistador twist. This results in each Inca history buff having their own theory of what happened. Historical spiels by tour guide’s often start with “I believe….”

Inca Trail, Machu Picchu Cusco, Peru.

Dad eleven hours into the second day. What is a comparable trek in the US? Rim-to-rim on the Grand Canyon? The Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier?

Dead Woman Pass on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru.

Porters resting at the high point of the trip at Dead Woman Pass at 13,829 feet. Porters carry 20 kilos of group gear plus their personal gear. We carried our sleeping bag, pad and hiking stuff in 35-liter Mutant 38s.

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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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Vacation in Spain

December 6th, 2013

Cathy Flanagan walking to the Alhambra Palace  in Granada, Spain.

Cathy controlled herself. She didn’t bring climbing gear to Spain. Still recovering from a whopper climbing injury in June, she knew bringing gear to Spain would be too tempting, and a backward step in PT. Although Spain is stacked with five-star sport crags, it is also a great place to be a tourist.

Being tourists was a new activity for us, rather than climbing or skiing. Cathy read 10 books. I worked on my next book. We drank gallons of coffee and wine. We hiked and ran. And we visited some old buildings.

After traveling from Chamonix, France to Barcelona, we drove to Grenada for a week of exploring the area. We stayed in a cave house dug into a mountain in the village of Monachil above Grenada. Above is Cathy walking through historic Albayzin toward the Alhambra Palace.

Cathy Flanagan on Pico del Veleta (3.396m), Sierra Nevada Mountains, Spain.

A short drive above our cave house were the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the highest mountains on mainland Spain. We hiked up Veleta (3,396m), which is the fourth highest in Spain. The highest mountain in all of Spain is Teide in the Canary Islands at  3,718 meters.

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Joe bouldering on Monsul Beach in Cabo de Gata, where a portion of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed. We spent a second week in Cabo de Gata National Park. This was the only non-crowded location we found along the Spanish Mediterranean Sea. There must be other quiet areas, but they’re hard to find.

Cathy Flanagan in Cabo de Gata, Mediterranean Sea, Spain.

We hiked to a remote beach at Cabo de Gata where many Spanish with lengthy dreads lived in the trees and swam in the turquoise water.

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Cathy and I at the artist Salvador Dali’s house in Cadaques, north of Barcelona, near the French border. We spent a third week in this classically beautiful Spanish coastal villa. We were about 20 years younger than most of the retired French vacationers who walked the Cadaques beach hand-in-hand. Straight out of a Viagra advert.

Condor Airline in Frankfurt, Germany.After a four-hour delay in Frankfurt, they found a screwdriver and fixed our Condor jet bound for Seattle.

Osprey Athletes, travel ,

Climbing with Eric

October 2nd, 2013

Mountaineering in the Alps, Frace.

Eric Larson lives in Telluride, Colorado. But not very much. During the few winter months he works snow safety for Telluride Ski Resort. Then he ski guides in the Alps, guides expeditions on Denali and then guides mountaineering in the Alps. We see each other somewhere every year.

This year Eric and I overlapped in Chamonix. For a month, we guided trip after trip together. We had a blast working together. The best thing about Eric is that he’s always ready to go. We climbed every free day, then drank a few Stella Artois.

Eric leading the first pitch of the Contamine Route on Pointe Lachenal.

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Eric following the money pitch on the Contamine Route, a 160-foot 5,10b.

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Eric rapping the Contamine Route to the Vallee Blanche Glacier. This is classic Chamonix; we climb a beautiful six-pitch crack on orange granite at 12,000 feet. Then we get swished back to the city. It may sound soft, but if you like to climb…

Mountaineering in the Alps, Frace.

The next day we climbed a 400-meter mixed route on the Triangle du Tacul. The route is called the Via Gabarrou-Marquis. Since every inch of the Triangle du Tacul has a route, we should probably call it the Larson-Stock-Artois route.

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Eric leading money pitch on the Via Gabarrou-Marquis. Payback after I got the money pitch on the Contamine the day before.

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Eric crossing the bergschrund on the Tois Sommets route on the Tacul. The Tacul is a low summit of Mont Blanc and is the first peak of the Trois Sommets route. This is the second most popular route on Mont Blanc, despite the major serac-fall hazard.

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Then we drank Stella.

Osprey Athletes, Travel , , ,

High in Bolivia

August 16th, 2013

In 1999 I guided in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real mountains for two months. I’ve wanted to go back ever since. This year I was lucky to return with Glenn, Paul and James. We’ve  been on many trips together including Denali, Marcus Baker, Bona, Mount Logan, Ecuador, Iliamna VolcanoArctic Refuge and the Central Talkeenta Mountains. Our motivation for Bolivia was to get Glenn above 20,000 feet. See more photos here: www.stockalpine.com/posts/bolivia.html.

We based our trip out of La Paz, the world’s highest capital city. La Paz sits in a valley ranging from 10,500 feet to 13,500 feet. The wealthy live at warmer, lower elevations. The poorer live in El Alto, which sprawls across the altiplano above La Paz.

Paul on our three-day acclimatizing trek. Some valleys had hundreds of llamas milling about.

Descending from our first summit, the dramatic Pequeno Alpamayo (17,600′).

Huayna Potosi is 6,088 meters. The problem is that it equates to 26 feet short of Glenn’s coveted 20,000 feet. We still had fun climbing the knife-edge summit ridge of Huayna Potosi (19,974′).

Glenn feeling the hard turf of a yareta plant while hiking into Nevado Sajama. Many yareta are over 3,000 years old.

A VERY stoked Glenn gasping around the crater rim to the summit of Parinacota. Eight hundred and twenty seven feet over 20,000! Tick! Congrats Glenn!

Joe, Glenn, James and Paul on the 20,827-foot summit of Parinacota. Thanks for a great trip guys! I can’t wait until our next adventure!

Osprey Athletes, travel , , ,

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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