Ski Mountaineering

This semester I’ve been taking a class in ski mountaineering with Stan Justice from the Alaska Alpine Club and UAF. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learned a ton. My adviser recommended it to me since we’ll be spending a good amount of time on the Black Rapids glacier for field work and I need to be up to par on the important things like avalanche safety and rescue, crevasse rescue, and how to hike with a rope on and pointy objects. This is also good stuff to know, because Alaska glaciers are huge . . . HUGE. They make things like the Blue Glacier in Washington look like a backyard patch of snow. So this class has the added benefit of teaching me how to use the Alaska glacier “highway” system so hopefully I can start getting to some really cool places with my camera. I’m incredibly lucky because not many students working on a degree in Physics get to take mountaineering classes.

Yesterday our class was on the lower slopes of Panorama Peak just south the the Denali National Park entrance. It was a gorgeous day and a great break from normal classroom work.

A-cooler-classroom
This was our classroom for the day. If I ever teach or TA physics again this is where we will do our lessons. There is physics everywhere.

up
A large part of what we covered was avalanche safety and rescue techniques. Before we started our instructors, Max and Chad cut a couple of pieces of snow to perform the rutschblock test to make sure that the other groups practicing anchor building and self-arrest were also safe.

Digging-a-bollard

Hillside-anchor-instruction

On-the-hill

Glissade
Glissading is fun!

Rope-skills

Testing-anchors
Building and testing multiple kinds of snow anchors.

I said it was a beautiful day, right? This part of the Alaska Range is pretty spectacular year round.

One-Snowy-Mountain
One of the peaks to the west of Panorama in the mid-morning light.

Low-grade-snow

Panorama-Slopes

In-the-clouds
The view of Panorama peak from near the road. The main route follows the snow gulley just right of center.

Snowy-Mountains
More snowy mountains to the west.

Snow-rock-and-trees
Scenery on the east side of the Park’s Highway just south of the park entrance.

Trees-on-a-hillside
More gorgeous morning light!

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Glad you had fun and are learning to be safe!

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