July 5, 2011

The 4th of July, AK Style

As indicated by the moose charges and other training adventures, AK is crazy.

It is light here all night making it easy to stay up and late, wake up early and go, go, go. I celebrated my Dartmouth teammates 21st birthday to start the weekend off. Then we headed south to the town of Seward. Seward is a small port town on the coast in which most people in Alaska travel to over the weekend of the 4th. It is quite the scene. People camp bumper to bumper all over the town. People come from all over Alaska so the people watching was outstanding! A bunch of skiers from UAA, UAF, and APU all crammed into a campsite and celebrated the holiday over a campfire and watched the fireworks over the bay. Fireworks in AK are not all that spectacular as you can hardly see them with the sun still up. It was still great to hang out on the beach with friends.

The day of the 4th is marked by the Mount Marathon race. This is the craziest race I have ever witnessed and means the world to many Alaskans. Mount Marathon is a jagged peak rising out of the town of Seward. There is no established trail up it so the racers spend years studying the best routes up and down the mountain. It is about 3 miles from town, up the mountain, and back down again and about 3000 vertical feet. Needless to say, it is steep and there is no break. The first obstacle going up is a cliff in which there are many routes and lots of scrambling, then the trail become slick dirt that is very difficult to get traction on. Lastly the peak rises above treeline and loose gravel provides a tricky finishing ascent. On the way down people get out of control, jumping of cliffs and waterfalls and sliding down scree fields in hope of passing those more reserved descenders. Racers were beat up by the time they got to the bottom with many taking serious diggers. This race is my worst nightmare and yet people spend years trying to get a spot in the race through the lottery system they have established. There were spots selling for $2000.00 the night before the race. Once you race and perform well your spot is reserved year after year until you fail to race, then your spot is put back into the lottery. It is a BIG deal.
Just over the half way point of the race looking down into the town of Seward. This picture fails to show how very steep this mountain is.

The cliffs at the bottom that require some tricky maneuvering and cause those with tired legs some big falls.

After the race, my friend and teammate from Dartmouth, Eric headed up to the Exit Glacier and Harting Ice Field to go for a hike. It was a really astounding place. The glacier was quite large, but the ice field was enormous. It's a 3,000 ft valley filled with ice and it extends around 100 square miles. It was quite remarkable. The weather cleared up and the sun came out up top so we basked in the for some time up top before heading down and back to town.
Eric and I approaching the view into the ice field

The Harting Ice Field, about 3,000 feet deep and 100 sq. miles of ice!
Eric giving a little bit of scale to the ice field.

Anchorage is a city and not that spectacular but once you leave, everything is just beautiful. It was great to see the amazing things Alaska has and to get out of the city. I hope to do some more adventuring in the coming weekends. Tomorrow, I head to my first glacier camp so I will get to ski hours upon hours all week. I am hoping for nice weather and a cooperating knee.