After forgoing my dream of moving to a ski town in the lower 48 post college graduation in favor of gaining experience backcountry skiing, I was certain that my decision to stay at home in Alaska for the winter was bound to be a good one. This was the winter that I would spend every day off touring and taking in the beauty of the mountains in my backyard. This also happens to be the year that it just isn’t snowing, as in we haven’t got a dump since sometime in December.
I have been working two jobs lately in order to afford all the gear I need, as well as to save for unforeseen future adventures, so needless to say haven’t had much time to play, which can be very frustrating for an avid adventure seeker like myself. It has only been bearable due to the lack of fresh snow. My friend and I had set aside a specific weekend to do a backcountry trip to a hut in the Talkeetna’s. We had planned the trip three weeks out, which gave us plenty of time to prepare, and I was stoked! The weekend finally rolls around and Houston, we have a problem. For the past three weeks while everywhere else in America is dealing with a crazy cold spell “the Poler vortex”, we are having a heat wave! And by heat wave I mean 45 degrees and raining, in January!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Alaska’s climate, January is often the coldest month, temps barley get above freezing. The warm spell that we are experiencing has made the mountains a mess, super unstable snowpack, avalanche’s going off all over the place, which is some really scary stuff considering how many people we’ve already lost this year.
So while I had accepted the fact that our backcountry trip wasn’t happening, nevertheless I still needed to get the hell out of the city. I felt like it was crucial for me to do something outside or else I was going to lose my mind. The problem arose as my friend and I were completely stumped as to what to do. Ice climbing, ice skating, cross-country skiing were all thrown out, as it was just too damn warm all the snow was melting! After going back and forth bitching about the weather, talking about all the things we couldn’t do, just being negative Nancy’s, I had an idea, Hiking! We can go hiking and turn it into a photo mission, it was just about the only thing that seemed to make sense. So we gathered some gear, made huge breakfast burritos and hit the road. We drove about three hours from the city to arrive at the Matanuska Glacier. There is a little hill/mountain called Lion’s Head (see photo below), which overlooks the glacier. I would argue that although to summit (during summer) takes barely over an hour, it is one of the most magnificent views I have seen in my lifetime.
Having no idea what to expect with all the crazy weather, we decided on hiking in our Sorels with trekking poles. The snow ended up being a lot deeper than we had anticipated, and we were losing daylight fast. After a lot of post-holing, and following moose tracks up the hill we realized reaching the summit wasn’t going to happen. The problem is that the trail starts on the backside, and snakes around, so in order to see the view of the glacier, you have to go up and over. We ended up posting up in a spot that at some point has been a moose’s bed, cracked some beers and enjoyed the view. What we could see was not the active glacier, but the beautiful valley that had been carved out from the days of old, which to me was almost just as beautiful. Although I wasn’t able to shred deep pow lines, stay the night in a mountain hut and while my frustration with this strange season persists, it still felt incredible to get out and enjoy the beauty of the wilderness.
Please Pray for Snow in Alaska! (we really need it)