Alaska Part 1: Juneau Again!
I flew from Seattle to Juneau on July 8th, as part of an American Alpine Club-sponsored climbing trip to the granite spires in the Juneau Icefield. I met my friend Jason Nelson and we took off via helicopter on the morning of the 9th, as the weather was the best in any recent Juneau memory. And although the memories of Juneau-ites are hampered by the local pastimes of binge drinking and full-contact sports, we still knew that this amazing sunny weather would not last.
We climbed and climbed and climbed, then climbed a little more. With thrashed hands, bloodshot eyes, sunburned faces, and trashed ropes, we made the most of our window of opportunity. Jason and I then spent 2 days skiing, climbing, hiking, and schwacking back down to town from our basecamp in the Mendenhall towers, a series of 7 granite peaks that rise for thousands of feet from the Mendenhall glacier. Overall we had an amazing time, and established 3 new routes to the tops of these peaks, as well as added a headwall variation to the one route which we repeated.
My friend Ryan Johnson has taken us under his wing, and we spent today sleeping in, getting free beer at the Twisted Fish restaurant where Ryan works, and taking part in a really FUN! community-spirited climbing competition at the Juneau warehouse/rock gym. The free Subway Sandwhiches did not hurt either! Tomorrow, Ryan and his roommates are taking us ice climbing in some big caves and caverns at the toe of the glacier. It will be great to get back out there without a 70lb pack on my back! On our way out, we got mildly lost in the alder forest at the foot of the glacier, and got set on the right path by a Juneau local who then drove us 20 miles out of his way to bring us back to my friend's house during a storm! It was one of the best hitchhiking experiences I've had and was another reminder of how generous and friendly most people are, and how I need to strive to pass along this goodwill to friends and strangers alike. We have been so fortunate the whole trip and I feel like we were really blessed to encounter such a person in the middle of the woods when our spirits were at rock bottom.
I'll write more about our climbs in the coming days, but here are a couple pictures to give a slight impression of the area. Words fail me.