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by: Tim Kelley

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A Few Pictures From Summer Ramblings
Last summer I had a really good time road tripping on the Dalton Highway.  I had so much fun that I decided to do it again this year.  Each time I did these trips it was in conjunction with working on the North Slope.  So I would drive the 850 miles from Anchorage to Deadhorse, with stops along the way for hiking and peak bagging in the Brooks Range.  Work for a week or two in Prudhoe Bay.  And then drive home, with more stops in the Brooks Range for hiking and peak bagging.  After two trips have I gotten my fill of exploring off the Dalton Highway?  Nope.  I'm already planning what I will do on my next trip up the Dalton Highway.
Brand new pavement leading north out of Coldfoot.  The distinctive spire on Sukapak Mountain's ridge can be seen in the distance.  The Trans-Alaska Pipeline is to the left of the road. On Sukapak's ridge, looking south.
360 degree panoramic shot from the summit of Sukapak Mountain.  North is on the left, with Atigun Pass in the distance.  On the right you can see the Dalton Highway and TAPS heading towards Coldfoot.  In the center you can see the sheep / hiking trail traversing the slopes up to the summit.
Wide open hiking in the northern Brooks Range. View of the Atigun River valley.  South is to the left, the big lake is Galbraith Lake, the North Slope is in the distance to the north. TAPS Pump Station 4.
In 2009 I tried to get up Peak 6902 east of Atigun Pass, but I didn't make it due to snow conditions.  This year I was able to make it to the summit. Summit view.  A nice day above the clouds.  The hole in the clouds looks down into the valley I came up from.
"Hey Tim!  I found more caribou antlers.  Get over here with your pack! ..." More fodder for the antler chandelier at our cabin. Old pipeline anchors Hiking near Atigun Pass.
    Dalton Highway "art".  Rain drops on road grime. Coiled tubing on its way to Prudhoe Bay.  25 foot reel, 18000 feet of 2.5" tubing, 80,000 lbs, cost $200,000.  
An archaeological relic - a bulldozer track from the 70's when the Haul Road was made. These are pictures taken on a mountain ridge in the Brooks Range with clouds below me.  What you see is a parhelion or "sun dog" with my shadow inside it.  For more info about sun dogs, click here. This is a "floating pingo".  A pingo is a frost formed hill.  This is a pingo in the distance that is distorted from light diffracting through cold and warm air cells - a phenomenon which is called Fata Morgana. When parking on the Dalton Highway to go hiking I put a foam sleeping pad on my window to protect it from flying rocks.  And I make my vehicle more visible.
Some Prince William Sound shots ...
Prince William Sound hiking. You see a lot of these "earthquake trees" in Southcentral Alaska.  Where coastal land subsided during the 1964 quake, tree roots ended up in a salinated aquifer which killed and preserved the trees. Blackstone Bay

A Rare 12 Hours of Sunshine in PWS
July 23, 2010:  I think I'm through skiing for the 2009/2010 season (see previous post), so I'll end this season's pictures with some recent Prince William Sound peak bagging photos.  For the most part, this summer has only offered short,12-24 hour, windows of cloudless weather between storms in PWS.  Weather patterns like this challenge you if you want to peak bag or hike in PWS.  You either have to have to rely on luck or have a system dialed in to take advantage of the few weather opportunities you are offered.  Recently the weather forecast showed a short clear weather system coming in from the west.  My wife and I headed out by boat 60 miles south of Whittier to be ready for it.  At about 5 in the morning the clear weather arrived.  We headed off on a long bushwhacking approach to get to the alpine zone and scramble up a peak that had been on my list for a few years.   The time above the brush was PWS hiking in all its glory.  But soon after we got back to shoreline the weather changed and the next storm rolled in and our clear weather window ended 12 hours after it arrived.  That's the way it goes with hiking and peak scrambling in Prince William Sound.  Often if you blink ... the good hiking weather will have come and gone.
The view of our destination the day before.  Lots of PWS liquid sunshine. Prince William Sound is a very wet place.  And bushwhacking up to the alpine zone is usually very wet and slippery ... with lots of bogs, bugs, bears, boot-sucking mud, butt-sliding gullies and brush bashing.
Taking a break from the 2 1/2 hour uphill bushwhack to the alpine zone, and looking back to where we started from. Bushwhacking up through the inevitable cliff bands. Breaking out above tree-line ... finally.
I use a GPS to track my bushwhacking route, but I also leave navigational clues - like arrows in pond mud. The start of the alpine zone.   There was an interesting cirque lake embedded in the peak we were climbing.  It was still snow and ice covered on July 23rd.
A nice day to be ridge rambling in PWS. An old goat ponders the route choice.  (It's hair that a mountain goat shedded.) Almost on the summit.  No poles ... it got a bit steep and they were left behind. On the summit, checking out the neighborhood.
360 degree panoramic view taken from the summit.
  The Princeton Glacier in the background.  
Heading back down. Wow - the bear that left this footprint was huge!    ;-) Back at shoreline you could see the front of the next storm coming in ... ... and soon Prince William Sound weather was back to normal.

North Ridge of Culross Island - Summer Skiing
July 9, 2010:  It's been a normal summer so far in Prince William Sound.  Normal means lots of rain, and very little sun.  So when my wife and I saw that a 24 hour stretch of sun was coming to the Sound, we headed out to do some hiking and skiing.  I had been thinking that the north ridge of Culross Island would be a fun late season ski.  This ridge gets a huge amount of snow from ocean storms that move in from the southeast.  So there is often a lot of snow on the north side of Culross Island late into the summer.  I had been to the top of Culross Island a couple of times before (2006, 2007), but my wife had never been to the top.   So we gave it a go and ended up having a good time  - I hiked and skied, my wife hiked and ran.  On top we could see the next storm front coming in, so we just squeezed in this trip, with literally minutes to spare, before the good weather shut down and some severe, nasty weather engulfed the area.
Maps above show where Culross Island is, and our route. Heading up from Culross Bay. Neat shallow lakes on top of glacial-smoothed bedrock.
Switching to skis at the 700 foot level. On the snowfields of the north ridge.  If you expand the picture you can pick out my wife.  Summer snow here is often good for both skiing and hiking. The Diamond Princess cruise ship heading past Esther Island.  The white dots in the water are commercial fishing boats out gillnetting salmon.  The Diamond Princess is 965 feet long, handles 1950 passengers, has 4 anytime dining rooms, 3 pools, a 9 hole golf putting course, casino and 7 bars. My wife hikes the north ridge, the cruise ship is turning up Port Wells in the background.
As we got higher we could tell weather was moving in from the south, so we picked up the pace. On the summit.  You can tell by the smoothed rocks that glaciers once ran over the top of this peak. Tough Alaska girl.  Ready to run down the mountain.
360 view from the summit of Culross Island.  You can see clear skies to the north, storm coming in from the south.
Let the fun begin! Ride 'em like ya just stole 'em!
  Skiing off the summit, Port Wells in the distance.  
For PWS summer xc skiing I use wax-less Fischer Superlight Crown skis (width: 48-44-46 mm) Shredding a wind rib.  The snow was great "hero snow" ... corn snow that is so easy to turn on it makes anyone look like an Alpine skiing hero. Milking and cherishing every turn - just in case it's the last ski of the season.
On the way out:  It's nearly mid-July.  A 100 degree heat wave is cooking the US east coast.  But at 500 feet above sea level in PWS there is still some ice on the lakes. Hiking/ wading out.   Time-honored footgear of Prince William Sound - XtraTuf rubber boots.  Recent news indicates that manufacturing of these boots will be moved overseas.  Sad. Back in Whittier.  Modeling the official uniform of the Prince William Sound Summer Ski Team.
Here are a few pictures, taken a week before, of gold mining remains in the Culross Bay area.  We hiked past this mine on the day we went up the north ridge of Culross Island.
    Minke whale   A ferry of the Alaska Marine Highway system.

Oct - Dec Jan - Feb Mar - Apr May - Jun Summer
Alaska Backcountry XC Skiing 2009 Skiing Pictures
2008 Skiing Pictures
2007 Skiing Pictures
2006 Skiing Pictures
2005 Skiing Pictures

2004 Skiing Pictures