Tuesday, August 25, 2009

60 days working in the mountains...

Well I am now back in Vancouver after a summer fulled with mountains, lakes, snow, wildlife, lightning, sunshine, bushplanes, hiking, fishing, bush wacking and a lot of laughter...

I have been working for NOLS this summer. I started in the Beartooth Mountains in Montana. 30 days of hiking. This area next to Yellowstone NP is quite spectacular, being around 9,000ft - 12,400ft in elevation made for an exciting trip. Having lightning storms roll in 10 days in a row, we perfected the art of lightning drills. Having endless lakes with crystal clear water made fishing an easy task. Tackling steep terrain, snow and boulderfields was an every day occurance. The Beartooths truley are an amazing place...

Frozen Lakes

Resupply by packhorse

My first fish on a fly rod!

The classroom

Upon getting picked up by bus after 30 wild days, I was handed a letter from the staffing office asking if I wanted to work a contract up in Alaska....tomorrow. So within 24 hours I was on a plane headed to Ancourage, and straight into briefing for the next trip. I hiked both in the Wrangells and the Chugach Ranges here is a snippet of this vast and amazing country...

The far distant "cloud" (to the left) down the valley is actually a glacier

Grizzly tracks not only fresh but frequent...

Resupply by bushplane next to the tonsina glacier - this plane is made out of fabric!

Classroom inside the 3 person tent - we got a lot of rain

All female Instructor team - high five!

Alaska is an awesome place to explore, it is consatntly moving with rock fall, glaciers and the wildlife...we saw a tone of wildlife including black bear, dahl sheep and even a wolf on the full moon (which is pretty rare to see). Oh and the blueberries just topped it off...endless supply!

Well until the next adventure...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Yukon and Alaska meet Team Extreme

The following is a combination of the literary aptitude from Luc and Shaun. Photos are care of Luc, Gareth, Shaun and Chris. Enjoy!

A tale of greatness and magics. A confrontation between some of Earth's massivest Strengths.
A team facing two contiguous territories. Yukon wanted to face Team Extreme. Yukon met Team Extreme. Alaska felt neglected, so it got included.

Shaun the Faun, Chris Von Riss, Gareth Son of McBeth, Luc the Duke populated Rastafari the van for 3.5 weeks with the added company of Ellen d'Eben for 3 days.

With more than 10,000km to cover, driving obviously constituted one of our main activities, before tramping, swimming, party-shirting, commenting on the world and kayaking (although everyone realises that, a few years down the track we will refer to this trip as a premiere first descents kayaking expedition through the most remote part of Alaska).

We left Vancouver with a rough plan: We had 3 days to get to Whitehorse & pick up Chris. From there, do a hike somewhere in the Yukon - its a big place surely we can find somewhere to go walking... Hit the Dawson City Music Festival (Northern Yukon). Cross the border to Alaska and do a longer duration hike in Denali National Park. Finally fill in some time and then drive about 4 days back to Vancouver. With a solid plan like that how could we not have a good time? Luckily we kept a captains logbook of daily happenings so that we could share it with you fine people...

Phase 1: "Vancouver to the bears and beyond - but no further" (Whitehorse)
'Twas the night before departure and with an early start looming Shaun and Luc made sure they were well prepared. Gareth was nominated as first driver so that Shaun and Luc could go party with some old Christchurch buddy's. With such a good preparation it was only fitting that we were on the road at 6:31am ready to rock and roll.

The 3 days drive to Whitehorse were long but by no means tiresome. We kept ourselves entertained along the way by having themed days throughout the trip. Themes such as: Wing it day, Electrostatic day, No swear day (push up punishments), double day, no teeth day, all kept us well entertained. We camped, fished and swam at some awsome lakes & rivers throughout BC as we drove up. Shaun caught a delcious little trout for breakfast on the first morning and cooked it over the fire. But we were all really just getting excited to pick up Chris in Whitehorse and get out into bearcountry .

Shall we camp here fallas?


The Rastafari complete with wet weather setup

We passed this random spot on the way up. Apparently this is where all the stolen signs end up... In the photo is Ellen who we shared 3 days with.

Luc's so xtreme that he can drive a dozer without even sitting in the seat.

We decided it would be a great idea to race up a steep sand dune about 80-100m high. Not easy after 3 days in the van. The 3 of us were weezing and could barely stand at the top. We're so extreme...

As is becoming custumary with Team Xtreme these days, we picked Chris up in full party attire - party suits and shirts are a must on any xtreme trip...

Whitehorse Airport, 2am

Phase 2:
The first real mission of the trip was on. We elected to hit up Kluane National Park in South Western Yukon. We paid a quick visit to the park ranger to pick up some bear proof food canisters and were off. The van was super excited about getting stuck into the Yukon so we said "nah" to the highway and took the river route instead. It was about this time that Luc introduced us to his new motivational quote "Put ya calf on your neck mate". It should be used in situations similar to where you would tell someone to pull finger and get moving. So next time you fell like telling someone "Come on buddy, get on with it" Just tell them to "put their calf on their neck" instead. Insightful.

The Rastafari "putting its calf on its neck" and getting the job done

The hike itself was great. We got up quite high and achieved some fantastic views. It was a great warmup for us, especially after 3 days in the van. We were out for 3 days on this trip and were privvy to a late afternoon thunderstorm happening all around us one afternoon. Our campsite high on a ridge provided almost endless sunlight as it only got truely dusky dark for about 2-3 ho

Happy faces at the start of the hike

Basecamp. A good photo to send to Bruce for promotional puproses

Gin camp. High levels of wisdom got reached that night as you would expect.

Getting higher

Glissading down (it was sideways in reality. This is what you can achieve with commitment and speed)

Phase 3:
Next on the hitlist was the Dawson City Music festival. To paint the picture of the atmosphere here, consider that everyone who attends has driven at least 300-500km to get there. The town is tiny and is located on the banks of the Yukon River. None of the roads are paved, it's reminiscent of a cowboy ghost town with leaning wooden buildings everywhere. The music played is everything from Acapella to rap to german techno to string bands. All sorts of people, all ages and everyone is friendlier than your local fish and chip shop owner. We had a blast. The party suits were a hit, we got interviewed by tv stations and old ladies wanted our autographs. If you ever get a chance to attend this event definitly take it.

Which way is the party?

It's the Dawson Robot Dance

Proud and luminous

Chris selling his soul to the tv crew

Random Girl: "Look, if I tilt my head back a little you can see up my nose"
Shaun: "Argh - It's a mullet. Help!"
Na, this girl was actually quite cool, her and a few friends paddled for a few days in canoes down the Yukon River to get to the festival. I think that photo's hilarious.

Camp Dawson. Party shirts and sun. Note the exercycles in the left of the photo. The toys at the back are a rigorously accurate reproduction of the ferry "terminal" errected by two young kids who we ended up socializing quite a bit with.

Shaun - 24km/hr warming up for the record (which he held against Oliver and Stu our two contesters (age 4 and 7 but they were good))
Luc - Mach 10 (but sometimes it is just not enough)

After Dawson we followed the top of the world highway accross the border to Alaska and onto Denali Nattional Park. The park is massive. You can only drive a small ways ino the park and from there you are required to use a bus system which runs through the main valley. To have an understanding on how big this place is, it takes about 6 hours on the bus to get from one end to the other. We jumped on the bus and travelled about 3 hours into the park. You just tell the bus driver where you want to get off and he'll literally drop you on the side of the road to start your hike. It's a good system and the strict permiting system meant that we only saw other people on the first and last days of the 5 day mission - pretty impressive for a popular national park.

Our mission involved walking up a riverbed for a day to get to the confluence of two glaciers. We camped there and did a few day missions up to some saddles and down into the glaciated valleys nearby. It was an amazing 5 days, plenty of animals, ice, solitude and reasonably good weather. The photos will tell the story better than I can:

Team X...

Green meadows above the glaciers

Lots of cool & weird plants The North Branch of the West arm of the Upper Upper Upper Ice Cold Creek, which got first descented in July 1994 by an experienced portaging party (that is also the first reported encounter with the Girls from Area 23 who, as most people now-a-days know are recognized for their boob flashing communication signals. Despite our engaging attempts they failed to meet their appointments with us twice)
Running repairs, if it can't be duct - it's f&%$ed

Mr Squirrel, our nextdoor neighbor. Luc nearly destroyed their home early one morning...

Nice legs, the pants really bring out the colour in my eyes

The man, the legend - Gareth, Son of Macbeth
Mt McKinley - North America's Highest

We then took off South and spent a night with some friends of Chris's in Anchorage. They cooked us a massive meal, treated us to all sorts of goodies and best of all, they had a hot tub with a view of Anchorage and it's surrounding mountain ranges.

From Anchorage, we were in search of more adventure. Luc was looking everywhere for it:
We found it in Valdez, a small town on the shore of Prince William Sound.

Even the drive in was spectacular, massive hanging glaciers coming right down to the road. Prince William sound is best seen from the water. So we grabbed the only patch of sun we could find and took it with us as we hired a small boat for the afternoon and explored some of the fiords.

The best thing about Valdez however was the sea life. It was teaming with Salmon. We got a 24hr licence and started fishing. Within seconds we had our first bite and within minutes we were realing them in.
Thats a school of Salmon right offshore. We wearn't allowed to fish at this site as it was to close to a spawning stream, still the fishing 500m away was pretty easy.
Our first of manyThis guy was chowing down on fish too. He knew an easy meal when he saw one.

After about half an hour of fishing, Luc got sick of waiting for a go on the one rod that we had, so he started "dipping" with the net just off the rocks. Sure enough within a few minutes he pulled two fish up out of the water! It turned out that this was actually the most efficient way for us to catch fish. For the next three days we ate our bounty, very delicious.

And thats about it. After Valdez, we had a big drive back to Vancouver which was also awsome but alot of time in the Rastafari. Super good trip with an awsome crew, cheers fallas.
Mr Grizzley says Cheers too

The road goes on forever, but the party never ends