Watch for links to video below, and click on pics for larger versions.
On a glistening, crystalline morning as beautiful as today, it's sort of a shame that an unfortunate misinterpretation of our plane's arrival time on the glacier turned into another full-on hurry up and wait kind of day again. Also a bit comical... you shoulda seen us move. HAHA
But then... wouldn't ya know it... just as our heartrates came down and we'd all relaxed, and I'd unpacked the remaining food from one of my stuffsacks into a messy pile of Ziploc bags in the snow to rummage for a tasty morsel or two for "breakfast", sat down on my pack in the snow to snarf while enjoying a leisurely wait for a plane that was still an hour hence--wait... uhhh... what's that soun... omg, THERE'S THE PLANE NOW! Quick, put the food and coffee away! Repack your crap! HAHA
Turns out that the misinterpretation of the misinterpretation that had rousted us from toasty, fluffy slumber in the first place--was misinterpreted! (Ever hear of radios, people? Sheesh lol)
Total goofiness ensued as we split up teams to decide who would fly out first. The weather was certainly good for flying today, but having already jumped all over the front seat position for the flight in, I decided to sit in the middle of the plane this time to let someone else have a shot at it. As it turned out, my decision would have been overridden anyway, because there was some dude riding shotgun that, by all appearances, was from K2 Air's HQ. He seemed to be here to inteview pilots and ground personnel on the status of various operational and performance aspects of the company itself. Weirrrrd...
Watching the snow and ice give way to black, rich, and wet glacial moraine and earth with rivers of crystal-pure glacial runoff snaking its way in giant rivulets in all directions, ultimately coalescing into what would eventually become the Susitna river (and other major tributaries and waterways) was a reluctant joy.
On the one hand, I was sad to see mighty Denali and the Range fade into the distance behind us, but at the same time, I began to notice my own involuntary amazement at the new-again experience of the flash-flooding of vivid color that seemed to be rushing back into the world around me.
Having spent the last 9 days in a staggeringly beautiful but nevertheless austere world of pretty much just white, black, and glacier blue, seeing the deep and variously green-shaded forests, black earth, blue waters materialize around us below sent my brain into a pleasureable state of information overload.
Once back in Talkeetna, we set to the mundane work of pitching the tents to dry, sorting out group gear, throwing away all the garbage we generated on the glacier (since it has to be packed out) and unpacking and repacking all the other crap we had left behind 9 days ago.
We all also took the time to divest ourselves of all the extra food we'd brought along, so we didn't have to pay the airlines to ship it back home with us. And since the food would all go into the food stores of an RMI Denali expedition two weeks hence that would be led by Tyler, assisted by Jason and Mike, it would not go wasted.
In fact, Jason and Tyler had told stories a few days earlier about how it was possible for a knowlegeable climber to come to the Alaska Range with almost no food at all and eat for free every day indefinitely, because there are so many climbers on the glacier eager to shed the weight of their extra food to any willing takers. I was astonished to learn that there's something of a minitaure grey market here for valuable items like salami, cheese, peanut butter, crackers, extra fuel, and all manner of other desireable, non-perishables.
Anyway, that all took us a few hours, and in the process, Tyler asked Denis and I to pitch the huge Mountain Hardwear Dome tent to dry it out along wit the others--the monster space station shaped canopy that was used to protect our hidden cache from enterprising ravens as we moved up the glacier to climb Mt. Frances on the 18th.
The comedy of this exercise was that neither he nor I had any idea how to pitch this one, but since it was just a drying out situation, we figured getting it perfect wasn't THAT important, as long as ventialtion was able to flow through it.
The lumpy, not-at-all-huge-or-correct tent-like travesty we erected resembled nothing of what a properly pitched MH Dome should look like... this was bumpy, small, lopsided, and totally hilarious--and once again, we cracked up laughing and shot a few goofy photos of us "expert mountain climbers" posing with our misshapen handiwork.
Once done, Denis and I headed back to the Teepee (our motel) for some much needed hygeine. (Lemme tell ya, a single pair or two of underwear just never seemed like enough for 10 sweaty days in the Range. LOL)
Denis has had an interesting fascination with Denali since we got here, but since he and I have been chatting more and more about the possibility of coming back to AK next year--after spending a lot more time on mountains like Shasta and Rainier--his attentions have turned more and more toward Foraker. I can't tell you how much that would please me... Denis and I get along great, and we seem to share similar levels of acceptable risk, as well as climbing values.
As such, my drive to reach new heights, improve my knowledge, build on my experience and to put in plenty of time between now and next May on big mountains, ever-more-challenging terrain, and higher elevations is very stong. Foraker is definitely in my sights... it's just a question of whether those more expert than me think I'm up to it. I am absolutely confident that I am, but whether it happens in 2011 or beyond, I will definitely be back to AK to climb Mt. Foraker's magnificent Sultana Ridge.
One more AK entry to go...