Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Redoubt Erupts

Magma on the inside, lava on the outside. She huffed, puffed, shimmied, and shook for months. Chicken littles ran around yelling of impending doom. Suppliers ran out of respirators, Spam, and shrink wrap. The media screamed into microphones while status colors changed from yellow to orange.

The populace looked west, some with fear others, with longing. Longing for a view of a sun fading out, a foot of ash, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. Maybe longing because it's the only way to feel connected to the natural world while texting, twittering, changing one's clock for daylight saving, and eating Argentinian asparagus.

It faded to page 3, people forgot. Scientists spoke of "geologic time" and of patience.

On March 22 at approximately 22:38 local time, Mount Redoubt erupted for the first of six (and counting) times. Ash went from 40,000 to 60,000 feet in the air. Wind patterns steered most of the ash toward Skwentna. Residents reported half an inch on the ground.

Planes heading to Anchorage hauled twice as much fuel just in case the wind switched and they had to turn around. Even if the passengers made it to their destinations, their luggage often did not because it had to be left behind to offset the extra fuel.

Brooke took off from Seattle on Monday evening. The plane turned around by Sitka, 590 miles southeast of Anchorage, and landed in Seattle. Her luggage made it to Anchorage on another flight. She and Neil hit the thrift stores on Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Take a break from skiing, go skiing!

Brooke and I spent a week in British Columbia at a backcountry lodge. What a treat to stick your head in different snow. Alaskan skiing big, steep, wide-open ramps can't be beat but pillow-drops, tree-skiing, and 6% snow are pretty nice too.

The players: Heather, Gwen, Kyle, Brooke, Stacy, Ken, Rachel, Rory, Nels, Phil, and me. Most knew each other before arriving. My wife the connector was the common link. Digging into her trusty costume bag every night helped forge and tighten bonds.

Shelly and Martin Glassheen run Valkyr Adventure Lodge. They built it, they love it. Lots of thought went into the place. A pipe from a nearby lake brings water first through the hydro power system then to the shower. Yep, sauna or shower or both, feel free to bring a beer. The rooms are comfy, the sauna perfect after a day of skinning, and the food both tasty and filling.

We took a twelve minute heli ride in. Brooke and the kegs of beer went in the first ship. Weather moved in and the rest of the group was stuck on the heli pad drinking whiskey and throwing snowballs for a couple of hours.

The clouds broke and we got to the lodge just in time to drop our bags, click in, and start skinning. The lodge sits at 7200' at the base of a sweet face. We skinned the 800 vertical feet to the ridge and got one run in before dark. I think the whiskey really helped most of the group enjoy the first skin. We came from sea level and it was for the best that the burning of our lungs had been dulled.

I'd recommend Valkyr to anyone from lower intermediate on up. The terrain is varied, the travel straight forward, the ridge walking, world-class.