The sun/shade line of the ridge split the photo down the center. It was glaciated and rose straight up off the glacier for over 6000 feet. I was immediately sold and quickly the emails went out to all the usual suspects. Now, 6 months later, bags are packed (and probably overweight), food is planned (not packaged), and the team of Anton Sponar, Jordan White, Riley Soderquist and I are sitting in Denver International Airport and ready to make our pilgrimage north to mecca.
Of course the real Mecca isn’t north of Colorado but for North American skiers and snowboarders mecca means only one place: Alaska. The last frontier is home to multiple high, glaciated ranges and to countless ski routes of all sorts; fluted spine walls, steep technical couloirs, long rolling glaciers, moderate alpine ridges and everything in between.
Once again we are headed into the Alaska Range. Our goal is to climb and ski from the summit of Mount Hayes, highest mountain in the eastern Alaska Range. We plan to ascend the 13,000 ft peak via its South Buttress, a beautiful feature rising roughly 7000 ft off the Susitna Glacier. The weather and snow conditions will have the final say but our hope is that this will be a quick “smash and grab” type trip for Anton and I and a longer trip with some more skiing and male bonding time for Riley and Jordan.
Anton Sponar: Born and raised in Aspen, Anton spends his life on skis for both work and play. At night you can find him working tables in the Red Onion and during the summer you can find him living in Chile with his father, running Arpa Cat Skiing. Anton really doesn’t like frost on the inside of his tent.
Riley Soderquist: Born in Minnesota, Riley moved to Colorado for college and never looked back. He has been living in Aspen for 3 years working as a ski coach and ski tech. He spends most of his winter skiing around the Elk Mountains. During the warmer months you can find him pedaling his mountain bike in those very same mountains.
Jordan White: Born in Denver, Jordan has been a staple behind the bar of Aspen’s Red Onion for years. During the day you can find him guiding and skiing in the Elks. He has multiple ski descents in the Alaska Range and if you put him out in front, he’ll put in a staircase booter to heaven.
And then there is the odd ball, me, Aaron Diamond. I’m the only snowboarder and the only one not from Aspen. I’m from Pennsylvania but spend winters in Jackson WY working and riding in Grand Teton National Park and summers working and hanging out with Anton in Chile. I couldn’t be more excited to get out on the ice with these boys.
Side note for all aspiring expedition organizers: these guys are not the best skiers, climbers, or cooks I know but they are some of the best guys around. When picking your team remember that friends come first. Skills (although necessary) come second.
Anyways, we’re off to Fairbanks to cram into a small hotel room and prep our food and gear for a few days before driving down to Delta Junction/Black Rapids where we will load onto a Supercub and make a couple trips in and out to get everybody and all our stuff onto the Susitna. From there we will suss out conditions and wait for our ace in the hole, meteorologist Joel Gratz of www.opensnow.com, to give us an “all clear” and we’ll be off. We’ll bring light bivy gear with the hopes of knocking out the route alpine style over one or two days. It should be fun and were looking forward to sharing the experience with you guys. If you have any questions (or book suggestions!) feel free to ask away. We’ll be around wifi for a few more days.
We’d like to thank a few companies (and Lou for hosting us!) for their continued support of our silly ideas. Voile, Liberty skis, Eider Outwear, Folsom Custom Skis, Oakley, Honey Stinger, Mountain Hardwear, K2 skis, Backcountry.com, 40 Below, Black Diamond Equipment, Millet and of course our parents, friends and girlfriends/fiancées. We couldn’t do it without your support.