Archive for the ‘Trip Tales’ Category

Reports, accounts, lies, mistruths and ramblings about ambling and rambling.

Hidden Creek – the Fosse to the Lakina River

Saturday, October 9th, 2010
Dawn light on the Wrangell Mountains and reflection in an alpine tarn near Hidden Creek and the Lakina River, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Dawn light on the Wrangell Mountains and reflection in an alpine tarn near Hidden Creek and the Lakina River, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Here’s another photo from the trek we did in August, from the Fosse, near the Kennicott Glacier, over to Hidden Lake, up the Hidden Creek drainage, and down to the Lakina River. What an absolutely gorgeous morning this was!

We’d spent the previous day basecamped near here, and it rained and sleeted virtually all day long. Rather than pack up wet and move on, we simply dayhiked and spent another night here. The main hope was to avoid packing up camp in the rain, but part of me was also hoping maybe, just maybe, we’d get a break, and score some nice light in the morning. Fingers crossed, I went to bed listening to the endless patter of rain on my tent, the temperatures sinking ever lower and lower.

The rain ended around 3am, and the temperature had dropped further. I went back to sleep hoping against all hope the skies might clear up.

Unfortunately, I slept too soundly, and missed first light, but immediately upon waking, I knew things must be good. It was very cold, definitely below freezing, and silent. A good sign. I unzipped my tent door and viola! What a sight!

I threw on some clothes, and got outside to photograph as quickly as I could. I woke the folks on the trip, the Ball family from Texas, because I knew they’d love to see this. ‘Wow’ was all Saundra uttered when their tent door slid open.

‘Wow’ was right. This was definitely a ‘wow’ morning. Indeed, a ‘wow’ trip, but this morning the ‘wowest’ of them all. Fresh snow covered the peaks just west of us, and the air was so wonderfully clean the light literally dripped off the mountains. Absolutely amazing morning.

We photographed for a couple of hours, had a great breakfast, packed up camp, and took a fantastic hike down the valley into the Lakina. We spent the following evening camped on a gravel bar in the Lakina river drainage, with a gorgeous sunset over Castle Peak. This was a great, great trip, and one I’m so glad the Ball family got to share. They still hold the record for ‘worst weather yet’ on a trip, their infamous Skolai-Wolverine trip of August 2006. I can’t think of anyone who needed some really great weather on their Alaska trip than these great people, and I was so glad they got it this time. Good times for sure!

Cheers

Carl

… and Fresh snow

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Brad and Tracey take in the views from 8200'. Near Mt Jarvis, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Brad and Tracey take in the views from 8200'. Near Mt Jarvis, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a quick one from the backpacking trip around Mt Jarvis. Brad and Tracey, soaking up some sunshine on Day #1. We hiked from the airstrip up to a  killer campsite, then clambered up on to this ridge, summiting at around 8200′. We’re just yards from the east flanks of 13 000′ Mt Jarvis here, and the views are superb.

We spent a while here, then descended back to camp for some hot food and a fun evening, enjoying the grand scenery. Nothing quite like being high in the Wrangell Mountains on a sunny afternoon!

Kudos to Brad and Tracey for slogging through way too much slushy, wet snow. We were all saying we should’ve brought skis with us; I’d have blasted some huge telemark turns on the way back down. 🙂 Well .. I’d have tried, anyway.

That’s all for now, until the Image of the Month posting Oct 1. I’ll be back from my current trip to Katmai, photographing Grizzly Bears, and will try to post some images from that trip later.  I’m sure it’ll be a blast, and I hope to have a bunch of cool new bear photos. We’ll see how that goes. Until then, be safe.

Cheers

Carl

Camping on the Tundra

Monday, September 13th, 2010
A backpacker sets out on a trek toward Mt Jarvis, in fresh fall snow, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Backpacking; setting out on a trek toward Mt Jarvis, in fresh fall snow, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. To view a larger version of this image, please click on the photo above.

Hey Folks,

From our recent exploratory trip to the Mt Jarvis area, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. As you can see, September in Alaska, particularly around the 7000′ altitude, can be cool; fresh snow, and we had 2 more snow storms during our trek.

What a great trip we had though; Brad and Tracey, from Chicago, were quite the troopers, and really made the trip easy. Being flexible is critical on a backcountry trip, as the weather and conditions can often dictate the best course of action. Their easy going nature contributed to a great hike, and we enjoyed a lot of laughs, some superb views, and a mix of conditions and elements that made the trip a wonderful adventure. For great vistas, it doesn’t get much better than this one. We camped right on that little shoulder to the right hand side of this frame, tents looking straight across at 13 421′ tall Mt. Jarvis. Awesome!

I’m off again tomorrow (Monday) to photograph for a couple of days before packing for the Katmai Grizzly Bear Photo Tour. Should be a blast and I can’t wait; but, in the meantime, the forecast is for sunny skies and great light, fall color and big mountains. Shoul dbe some nice photo opportunities.

Cheers

Carl

Hidden Creek Backpacking trip

Saturday, September 4th, 2010
A backpacker hikes up the valley of Hidden Creek, in the Wrangell Mountains. Fall colors glow on the tundra. Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Backpacking up the valley of Hidden Creek, in the Wrangell Mountains. Fall colors glow on the tundra. Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a photo from our trip last week up Hidden Creek and over to the Lakina River. What a great trip this was. The weather was amazing; huge sunny skies, bluebird days, warm afternoons, crisp cool nights and that great fall air.

The landscape – well, incredible doesn’t touch it. Jaw-dropping scenery at virtually every turn marks this route, and we lapped it up. The views of Mt Blackburn the first day were simply unsurpassed. The view from my tent the final morning in a high alpine pass, with fresh snow (“termination dust”) on the soaring jagged peaks of the Wrangell mountains, reflecting in the glassy water of the tarn (lake) was more than anyone could ask for. (more…)

Monahan Creek, Iceberg to Bremner

Monday, August 9th, 2010
A hiker takes in the view in the Chugach Mountains, Iceberg Lake to Bremner Mines or Seven Pass route, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Charlie Sprayregen takes in the view in the Chugach Mountains, Iceberg Lake to Bremner Mines or Seven Pass route, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click the thumbnail to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a photo from our trip last week to Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Charlie was gracious enough to pose for me here on this little ledge, one gorgeous morning on the Iceberg Lake to Bremner Mines trip.

We were so lucky on this trip to get some nice weather; it’s not been a fantastic summer, weather-wise, so far, yet we had more sunny days than not on our hike. Charlie and his family, from Chicago, had somewhat of a mad rush to get here, flying directly from Chicago to Anchorage to McCarthy to Iceberg Lake; including a short, mad dash thru the streets of Anchorage to replenish gear when, upon arrival in Anchorage, they learned Charlie’s backpack hadn’t made the flight, and was still in Chicago. The bedlam settled when we arrived, after many hours of travel (for Charlie and family) at Iceberg Lake, on a gorgeous sunny evening. (more…)

Brooks Range, ANWR

Sunday, July 25th, 2010
A waterfall in a small stream near the Upper Marsh Fork River, Brooks Range mountains, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska.

A waterfall in a small stream near the Upper Marsh Fork River, Brooks Range mountains, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska. Please click the thumbnail to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey folks,

Here’s another image from our recent trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. this trip was simply awesome. A great group of folks, from Florida, Colorado and Washington, who all carried the most ingredient for a great trip – great attitude. Everyone really clicked, and we had a ton of fun; lots of laughs and good times.

This photo was taken on our 1st night out; we camped on a big alluvial fan that comes out of the mountains, on the west side of the Marsh Fork River. After dinner we hiked up the stream and climbed a small ridgeline for some amazing views back south, to the heart of the mountain range and the contintental divide. The light was really happening, and I was pretty happy with a few of the images I made.

Afterward, the light began to fade and we hiked back toward camp. The sun began to poke through again, for one great show, and I saw this little miniature waterfall that I knew would make a great foreground. The light show only lasted a couple of minutes before high clouds to the north dulled the glow. By the time I’d rearranged this for a horizontal composition, the light was noticeably dimmer on the distant peak. Minutes later, the glow was gone.

This image was taken around 2:00am. Photography in the arctic summer is a challenge, shifting ones mental and body clock to the wee hours of the “night“, to capture the nicest light. Oftentimes I’ll shoot til later and go to bed around 4:00am, or later. They don’t call this the land of the midnight sun for nothing.

Here’s a photo below of Steve, from Colorado, shooting the following morning, around 4:00am. We’d gone to bed, got some rest, and then the sun came around the corner of the range to the north, and lit up the valley. I was up immediately, woke Steve, and we shot for a couple of hours before going back to bed. It’s an absolutely incredible experience to watch the mountains here, in the quiet hours of the “dawn“, and feel the arctic air start to warm. Magical doesn’t describe the experience.

Steve shooting at Dawn, ANWR.

Steve shooting the Marsh Fork River, Brooks Range, ANWR.

What a blast we had! To view some of Steve’s fantasic work from this trip, visit his gallery here. He made some amazing images.

It’s really nice to have another serious photographer along on a trip like this, even the trip is not promoted as a ‘photography tour’ at all. Steve inspired and motivated me to work harder and longer, and to look more closely than I otherwise might. I learnt a lot from watching him shoot.

Cheers

Carl

Horseplay on Aufeis

Sunday, July 11th, 2010
Hikers enjoying horseplay of aufeis, Canning River, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska.

Hikers enjoying horseplay of aufeis, Canning River, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska. Please click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a shot from our recent trip down the Canning River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. You can see we had a lot of fun, great spirits, great weather, spectacular scenery and a great, great group of folks. What more could we ask for?

Aufeis is a German word to refer to overflow ice, that typically melts out during the summer, and re-accumulates in the winter. It’s pretty common along most waterways in the Arctic. Here it provided a platform for some tom-foolery. Good fun all the way around.

Minutes earlier we’d been watching a mature bull caribou wander along the ridges of Aufeis; caribou often hang out on the ice to keep cool and stay away from the oft-present mosquitoes during summer’s brief madness. Fortunately this year the bugs were largely gone by the time of our trip, and we all had a great time with no insanity from the mosquitoes.

Cheers

Carl

Lookin’ for the Wolf – Image of the Month, Feb 2010.

Sunday, January 31st, 2010
Winter travel through the boreal forest, in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve. A man hikes on snowshoes through the snow-covered taiga, white spruce forest in winter.

Snowshoeing through the forest in search of the wolf, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

A week or 2 through the winter boreal forest hoping to find wolves is always a treat – whether the wolves show themselves or not. So far, no luck – they remain the mystery.

But what a treat it is to hear their howls, or find their soft tracks in the snow, and to know they too sift through the boreal forest. To enter the winter boreal forest is to enter the realm of the wolf – the home of Canis lupus. Few creatures can quite so vividly engage our mind and spirit like the wolf – so rarely even seen, yet so enmeshed in our cultural histories and stories.

I’ve walked I don’t know how many miles and waited hours, days, hoping for a glimpse, (more…)

Video – Russell Glacier.

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Hey Folks,

This short video was taken on the Skolai Pass Phototour, fall 2009. We had a great trip, some great weather, some great people, and loads of fun. This particular afternoon we put in some miles hiking out along the Russell Glacier toward Mt Bona and Mt Churchill, to awesome peaks 16 000 and 15 000 feet high, respectively. The Russell Glacier runs right up to the north face of Mount Bona, and inspiring sight.
We had a fantastic hike, enjoyed lunch on the high flat plateau, and then walked back toward camp at Chitistone Pass for the afternoon, and to shoot the evening light on the mountains. And, I must say, we had a simply unbelievable evening, with gorgeous alpenglow on the mountain peaks. It was a lot of fun being in the right place at the right time for some photography. That doesn’t happen everyday, but when it does, it makes al those hours and miles worthwhile. (more…)

Sanford Plateau Backpacking trip, 2009.

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
School teacher Natalie keeps up with her reading on the Sanford Plateau trip, July 09, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

School teacher Natalie keeps up with her reading on the Sanford Plateau trip, July 09, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a photo of school teacher Natalie from this past trip. We had a great walk across the Sanford Plateau in July. The weather was awesome, as you can, and we had an absolutely gorgeous evening after dinner up on the Plateau; the sun going down to the north lit up the entire region just beautifully. Natalie wanted some photos of her reading a book that she could show to her school students when she returned to teaching after the summer. I took a couple of her in front of Mt. Drum, and a few with the awesome west flank of Mt. Sanford as a backdrop. You can also see some of the glacial moraine in the valley below, a remnant of the receding Sanford Glacier. We hiked across the lower portion of the moraine, and then climbed up on to the plateau the following morning. It’s a steep climb, but as is the case so often with climbs like this, so well worth the effort. Once upon the plateau, the walking is easy, and the vast open range of tundra really a great place to visit.

This trek was a first for Natalie, she’d never taken on quite a trip like a backpacking trip in Alaska before, (more…)

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Owner and guide Carl Donohue.

 

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