I’ll talk here briefly about one of the issues people seem to have backpacking in Alaska. Sure, trips can be strenuous and hard in terms of endurance and cardiovascular fitness, but a more common issue for people is hiking over uneven terrain. For those folks who are used to backpacking and hiking on trails, such as in the Lower 48, the trailess mountains of Alaska pose a new challenge. One of the things some people struggle with is hiking over a moraine, or a talus slope, like this one here. A moraine is a glacial formed pile of rocks. Sometimes, that pile might be huge, miles across. Sometimes it’s much smaller. A talus slope, such as this one overlooking the Bremner River near where it joins up with the Copper River in the Chugach Mountains, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, is usually formed by a rock slide. Talus and scree are actually the same thing, but talus usually is used to refer to larger rocks, and scree smaller stones. They’re often unstable, because Continue reading…
Here’s another image from our jaunt around the Tebay Lakes area.
This is one of the few photos you’ll see posted here with me in them. To allay your concerns, no, I wasn’t fixin’ to jump. I was simply enjoying the sunset. This is from our second night on the trip. Camped right by this cliff, looking south towards the Bremner River, or west towards a Glacier. Definitely one of the all-time coolest campsites. We even had a mountain goat come wandering down towards our camp at dinner. I, of course, was unprepared, and way too slow, and so got no pictures of the mountain goat. Continue reading…
I think I’m going to upload some photos and stories on this blog this fall/winter, instead of doing the usual slideshow for the year. Hopefully it’ll be a little more interesting.
This photo was taken on the Tebay Lakes trp we did this year, with Sergei and Mark. What an awesome time that was! The flight from McCarthy to the Tebay Lakes landing strip is along one, nearly 45 minutes. We took off from McCarthy in gloomy drizzly weather, and I know Sergei was a little anxious about that. he came out the previous year on a trip from Skolai to Wolverine and got absolutely nailed for 10 days with this kind of weather. The look on his face was ‘oh no, not again’!!! Continue reading…
Welcome to the beginning of a lot of chatter about backpacking gear. The first thread is about tents. Specifically, MY tent, the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2. I can’t recommend this tent highly enough.
1 – it’s reasonably light. Any 2 person tent that comes to close to 4lbs is light, IMO.
2 – it’s super-easy to set up and take down. Ridiculously easy. Continue reading…
Well, here it is. I’ve started yet ANOTHER blog – the world should be so lucky!
I just want to say first off, “G’day, and welcome”. I aim to keep this set of discussions somewhat entertaining, and informative. I’ll try to post on all things backpacking related, such as gear, trip reports, ideas and plans for trips, maybe do some accommodation places in Anchorage, and stuff like that. Useful stuff for anyone planning a trip to Alaska, as well as backpacking in general. I might even get a little adventurous and open it up to other outdoor adventures as well along the way. And, of course, you’re all invited to post away, and add your comments.
OK OK OK .. I’ll quit posting Denali, or Mt. McKinley, photos in a little while! I’m just glad I finally got some! This one was kind of unusual for me. I do like this kind of abstract mountain peak photo, but normally I don’t shoot photos like this when the light is really happening.
On this particular morning, I had been camped in this location for several days, already had a number of decent images of alpenglow on the mountain with wider lenses, and decided I would ‘go for it’. I’m glad I did because I got this one and a couple of other similar images that I really like. The alpenglow was warm and juicy, a real treat.
I used my 500mm lens on my D2x camera, giving me an effective focal length of 750mm, which required some patience and technique to get a sharp image. The shutter speed was not as fast as I might’ve hoped for, but with some effort I managed to get some sharp photos.
I get asked a lot about whether I call the mountain Denali or Mt. McKinley. I almost never use Mt. McKinley, the mountain’s official name, but almost always go with the local name, Denali. For those of you who don’t know the history of the 2 names, I’ll offer a summary here:
The people who lived in the area prior to the Europeans were Athabascan people, and the name they used for the mountain is “Denali” – it translates, closely, in English as “The Great One”, or “The High One”. The official name, given to the mountain in 1896, is a reference to the former Governor of Ohio, and later President of the US, William McKinley. The State of Alaska recognises the name Denali, but the official US name is Mt. McKinley. What’s interesting to me is the difference of abstraction here: one group of people named the mountain after what it is, a great, or high mountain .. a tribute to the mountain itself, it’s grandeur and it’s majesty. Our culture has failed to do this, and instead named the mountain after one of our own, a senator and later president. We do this too often, I think.
And it goes further than this; the peak that sits just to the south of Denali, Mt. Foraker, is named after a Senator from Ohio, Joseph Foraker. Again, we can look to the native people for a name that best fits the mountain and mountain range: the name “Menlale”, translates as “Denali’s wife”, or “Sultana”, meaning ‘the woman” – both a reference to the mountain being slightly smaller than nearby Denali, but equally respecting the mountain itself. I think this is possibly one of the most poignant examples of how our culture fails to value the landbase for something unto itself, we only recognise it’s utilitarian value, it’s value to us. Hence, we often name places and features of the landscape after people we admire – maybe a symbol of respect to people, but a complete disrespect to the landbase on which we live.
I think it’s also a lack of respect for the people who lived in the area before us that we fail to honor the names they had for the characters and features they shared the land with. When European settlers arrived here, humans had already given names for the animals and plants, the mountains, streams and watersheds. Our unwillingness to honor those names is just one example of a complete lack of respect for the people who lived here.
For these reasons, I prefer Denali, and Menlale, or Sultana. My mum said she likes those names, too.
PS: You can see more photos from Denali National Park here.
A little with my Denali series. This one I’ve waited for a long time now, and though the reflection wasn’t perfect, it was WAY closer than anything I’ve come close to so far with Denali. Like I said in an earlier post, I’ve camped at this location many, many nights, and rarely even seen the mountain come out – when I did, it was in bad light, windy conditions, and not conducive to decent photography. This trip I did better than ever before.
I thought I’d continue on my little slideshow of Denali photos.
I got to shoot the mountain more this summer, in one short week, than in all of my previous sojourns into the park. Call it good luck, or call it persistence, or call if what you will, I had a great time in Denali. Mt. McKinley is certainly one of the grand mountains of North America, and probably the world.
Denali so dominates the landscape that when it’s out, shooting any other photo, often even wildlife, makes me feel slightly guilty. Sometimes I’ll take some photos of Mt. McKinley, then look around for other interesting compositions or subjects, particularly if the light is good, but I can’t help look back over my shoulder at Denali, and “What are you thinking, Carl, THERE’S your subject” runs through my mind .. time and again.
I took this photo after breakfast, and was finishing up with a cup of coffee, and I thought that’d be a cool shot, coffee and the mountain. Thank the Lord for a built-in timer on the camera and a solid tripod. As always, for stock shots, I took a few frames, vertical and horizontal compositions, but I like this one the best. I enjoyed the coffee. Coincidentally, for backcountry coffee, you can’t beat Mary Jane’s Farm – their dehydrated organic coffee is awesome. It tastes like real coffee, with no grounds to clean up or pack out afterwards – that’s always a plus in my book! I don’t know if they’re still selling it, but I see they have a few new products I’m keen to try out next season here. Bummer if they aren’t gunna do their coffee again!
This photo was taken a couple of hundred yards away from the last one. Why? Because it’s not good form to eat near your camp in bear country. So I set up my tent, and set up a little kitchen/cooking/eating area a short distance away. This one is a little further than normal, across the other side of a small kettle pond, up on a ridge. It’s a pretty sweet view to have dinner/breakfast by.
You can see how tough life is for a backcountry guide.