Over the past few weeks Wildsnow readers have been barraged with pictures and words from our crew raving about steep lines, deep powder, and beautiful mountains near Haines, Alaska. In between picking our jaws up off the snow after getting another mind-blowing view from a peak, joking about things that only get said on a glacier by four twenty-something guys, climbing up 65 degree spines, waiting for Russell to get ready in the morning, outrunning our slough in choker-depth AK powder, and eating 4000 calorie dinners to refuel for the next day, we did manage to pull the cameras out a few times to get some footage. I hope you enjoy.
In total we spent 9 days out on an arm of the Davidson Glacier near Glacier Bay National Park scoping, climbing, and riding some classic Alaskan lines in some of the rowdiest mountains any of us have ever seen. Words cannot describe how much fun a trip like this is – but sometimes pictures and videos can help.
This was my second year in a row heading to Haines in the spring for the Alaskan experience. I speak with certainty when I say that I will be going back every year as long as I can stand on a snowboard and climb mountains. So why is Southeast Alaska such a special place?
The people of Alaska are an extremely unique breed – some sort of strange cross between rednecks, hippies, political defectors, and Canadians (no offence intended to anyone!). Nobody “ends up” in Alaska; they all mean to be there for one reason or another. Some are there to escape the suburban hell that most of the continent is stuck in, some are there to fish and work, and others are there to escape the rules, regulations, and norms of the rest of America. But one thing seems to be common to Southeast Alaskans – they are there to live the simple life in the outdoors. Every single person I have met in Alaska has a special story about why they are there and what they are doing, and they are more than happy to spend an hour of their day telling you all about it.
But the thing that stands out most about Alaskans is their hospitality. One would think that being from Canada, I would be accustomed to this sort of thing, but Alaskans take it to the next level. On every step of our journey, old friends, new friends, and complete strangers paved the way for our first-class Alaskan experience. Breakfasts, salmon dinners, advice, floors to crash on, drinks at the bar, conversations at the coffee shop and grocery store — you name it. Four complete strangers to the state experienced the best Southeast Alaskan’s have to offer.
The mountain ranges and glaciers of Southeast Alaska make you feel like you are on another planet. Every direction you look, there is an ocean of ice with steep, rugged peaks rising high above. The terrain is infinite – the entire Alaskan coastline is a vast expanse of mostly unexplored and untouched beauty. There is something about the mountains here that have a different feel than anywhere else you will visit. It will make you want to keep coming back for more every year.
Covering the vast expanse of glaciers and peaks is some of the highest quality, most stable snow you can imagine. The plentiful coastal storms almost always start warm and finish cold, resulting in a deep and stable snowpack consistently year after year. The downward winds coming off the 15,000ft peaks near the coast build the unique spine lines on the more inland mountains that Alaska is famous for.
Nothing in Alaska comes easy. Even the easiest runs we did involved some sort of technical glacier walk, exposed ridge climb, cornice exposure, or some other unavoidable objective hazard. Every step of a trip to Alaska is a challenge, from the planning stage, to traveling, to bootpacking up the scariest line of your life. The amazing people, the remote locations, the stellar scenery, the endless wilderness, the unpredictable weather, and the undeveloped and unexplored nature of Alaska all play a part in creating the sense of adventure that you will feel as soon as you arrive in this northern playground.
Not many things are for sure in my life but this one is: I will be returning to AK every spring (and hopefully several more times during the season) for more trips this like for many seasons to come. So until next season…