Ptarmagin North Face Early Season

Early season can be hit or miss with conditions and weather. I had a couple good days on Ptarmagin last week ice and alpine climbing. The low snow is helpful for getting around the mountains when you don’t have skis on your feet, and ice seems to be forming up.

Joey and I climbed Hookers (WI5-5+) on 11/16. Joey and I met guiding for the Alaska Mountaineering School. He’s a climbing ranger for Denali National Park now, but he stays in Anchorage in the winter with his family. It’s always fun to get out with him. We had both been climbing in the desert in the last week, and it was an exciting first day back swinging the tools for both of us. I have been watching this climb for years, finally conditions, partner, and free time all worked out to make it happen.

The next day Alan and I climbed Right Ski Track on the north face. Its a great 8-10 pitch route that has various difficulties based on the conditions. We climbed rock, ice, and snow on the line. Its a great prep route for bigger climbs in Alaska. When we topped out it felt like winter conditions, but we made it back to the bikes before dark and were able to coast out by headlamp. Another fun day.

The north face of Ptarmagin is a great venue in the front range. It so cool to have a wall like this with so many good routes so close to town.

 Joey on the first pitch of Hookers

Joey on the first pitch of Hookers

 Joey enjoying the view from the top.

Joey enjoying the view from the top.

 Joey rapping back off the crux pitch of Hookers on the descent.

Joey rapping back off the crux pitch of Hookers on the descent.

 Alan finishing up the pitch 5 snow simul-climb.

Alan finishing up the pitch 5 snow simul-climb.

 It was better to get on the easy ice instead of wallowing in snow.

It was better to get on the easy ice instead of wallowing in snow.

 Alan finishing up the last pitch, mixed climbing in full spindrift.

Alan finishing up the last pitch, mixed climbing in full spindrift.

 Walking back east over the top of the north face.

Walking back east over the top of the north face.

Portage and the Seward Highway

11/28/17
We went down to Portage this weekend. Saturday and Sunday had comfortable conditions and the ice is pretty fat. Ben and I did two trips down into the Portage Valley to try to get some classics in, many of them seem to be in good condition right now.
Day one was Bullwinkle. It was a fun WI4, and a consolation prize due to the fact that more ambitious climbers had shwacked out there earlier than we had that morning. On the way back we spotted more flows we wanted to get on and  made our plans.
The next morning involved doing hip waders to get across the Portage river to our destination: Follies. It's a classic WI4 that I had looked at since I have been in AK but for some reason had not climbed yet. 60m of nice sticky ice and an easy rap off, a fine time had by all. We drove back up to climb Flame Out in the sun, and finished our weekend.

It's a warm and wet forecast, so conditions will be changing in the near future.

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Looking across Portage Lake to Dreams of Brown Moose and Bullwinkle

 Ben on Bullwinkle

Ben on Bullwinkle

 Ben after Bullwinkle

Ben after Bullwinkle

 Follies approach

Follies approach

 Ben topping out Follies

Ben topping out Follies

 Flame Out, Turnagain Arm

Flame Out, Turnagain Arm