Tuesday, February 26, 2013

ICE CLIMBING IN THE ALSEK VALLEY


ICE CLIMBING IN THE ALSEK VALLEY

The Alsek valley has some great ice routes, but they demand an adventurous spirit, especially in February. Shane Dooley and I ventured as far as Beach View Canyon (55 km round trip) to to check out some legendary Yukon ice seen and climbed by Paul Henstridge, a local ice climber and explorer of the area. Considering Paul, we would be the second party in the Canyon.
Shane Dooley at the base of Lone Wolf WI 4, 130m

Shane and I saw some nice lines in the area, and yes, there are some solid ice and hard mixed lines to be done. Unfortunately, our exploratory adventure allowed us to climb one line only, deep in the canyon starting late on day two. We called it Lone Wolf, a WI 4 with 130 meters of solid ice. The name Lone Wolf comes from a single wolf track we followed into the Canyon - the track came to a sudden stop in a small hole on the bank. The GPS coordinates for the Ice climb in the Canyon are:
60˚38.745' N
137˚ 45.005' W.
 On the way in, about 12km, there was a nice 70 meters WI 3. It was extremely fat, much more than I have seen it in early winter when the access by car is permitted. You could get to this one in one day from the parking area. The GPS coordinates for this piece are: 
 60˚ 43.542 N
137˚ 44.700 W

WI 3, 70m (about 12 km from parking)
 You can get access to the Alsek Valley area by driving about 10km North of Haines Junction on the Alaska Highway toward Fairbanks. Turn left into the Nygren subdivision (Bear creek) and park you car at the end of the road. From there, follow the trail, which will lead you to the river. Cutting across a washout to reach the river will be faster. These ice climbs are often formed in early November, and the fastest way to reach Beach view canyon is to drive to the river, and bike on the Dezadeash river until reaching the Canyon. A small kite on your return could make you come back fast, as winds are often blowing from the West in the valley. Obviously, this is hoping the river is completely frozen with the best conditions. I have not done this option, but Henstrige told me he did (with a bicycle, not a kite) in one long day in November with Sean MacFarland. Shane and I completed the trip in three days with excellent weather conditions (despite some of the Alsek Valley's famous winds).

The trip is remote, and the climbs become more committing mentally, as you are far away from any help. There is more to be done and discover. Paul Henstrige has flown over the canyon three times and has seen ice formed everywhere during one of these flights. The two other times he noted that the ice was thin or not formed. The line we climbed seem to have a good flow of water, and was still forming steadily. If you want more information about the climb, let me know.

Alain Dallaire

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