After a not-so-good night of sleep with Jordan in our shared queen bed, we gather the last of our gear and load it into the van. A winding dirt road takes us to the airstrip, which is a cleared field with a hangar.
At the airstrip I see Super Cubs, and assume they must have bigger planes in the hanger that we’ll be taking. After a few words with the pilots I realize these are the only planes they have and the ones that will taking us in. I’m not a huge fan of tight spaces, and straddling the pilot with gear on the lap doesn’t get me excited. Luckily, Anton and Aaron will be the first two flying in, while Jordan and I drive to Black Rapids landing strip 30 miles down the road.
We load up the gear and the guys, and take off to Black Rapids before they even take off. The pilots have given us a 250 pound weight limit that includes ourselves. That leaves little room for gear for everybody except for Anton. We hope that we will only need to do one extra gear flight because it isn’t cheap. Two cases of beer sit in limbo wondering if they’ll make the cut or not.
At Black Rapids, we unload all the gear next to the runway and prepare it for quick packing into the Super Cubs. We hear the planes buzzing in the distance. With the huge landscape of the Eastern Alaska Range as the backdrop they are hard to spot. They land one right after another and pull up directly to us. I board one plane, and the other is full of gear and beer. Jordan waits behind until one of the pilots can swoop back around to get him after the drop.
I’m not going to lie; I’m not a huge fan of planes. I actually hate them, but as soon as we are in the air with the huge peaks to my right, my angst is almost forgotten. I take about 100 photos in the first 15 minutes. I’m in awe. The peaks are huge. The glaciers are huge. We could spend the rest of our lives in this range and never ski the same line twice. I pull my jaw off the ground and we bank a hard right. For the first time I catch a glimpse of the south buttress of Mt. Hayes. The limited photos available of this magnificent peak don’t do it justice.
The pilot puts the plane down in smooth fashion and I see Anton and Aaron already hard at work setting up what will be home for the next week. After the pilots cut the engines, we unload all the gear. I turn and look at what will be the biggest goal of my life. It’s one of the largest faces I’ve ever seen. I can’t help but get a huge smile on my face.
Guest blogger Riley Soderquist lives in Aspen Colorado where he works as a ski and bike tech. In his free time he enjoys attempting to ski like he is in Blizzard of Ahhhs. He is still working on his mohawk.