Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Three more pictures from the Ball Field

Three more pictures from Sunday night and Monday morning - all different views of O'Malley Peak.

Andrea on TV

Results from the half-marathon on Saturday on KTUU, the NBC affiliate in Anchorage. Thanks again to Bill for the pictures.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sunrise Photo

Here is one of the pictures I took at sunrise, facing the ridge just behind Wolverine Peak. High wind in the upper atmosphere created an amazing effect on the cloud formations hovering above the peaks.

The Ball Field - Photo Mission

Last night, Andrea and I headed up to the Ball Field under O'Malley Peak to camp out and take some photos of the sunset. My plan was to get some nice shots of the sun setting over Anchorage, go to sleep, and then get up a few hours later to get pictures of the sunrise (you have to be committed to get sunrise pics in Anchorage in May).

The hike up to the Ball Field is short but steep - basically you walk across the valley from the Glen Alps parking lot and head straight up. Ouch. We had already done a lengthy trail run that day for our Crow Pass training so walking up the steep snow with full packs at 9 pm hurt.
After setting up camp and eating sandwiches we packed up, we started scoping out photo ops. The sun was moving fast and we ran all over the ridgeline looking for good shooting spots. Towards the end, it became a race with the sun but we witnessed a beautiful sunset - the sky was hazy and detail hard to make out but as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, the whole of the Alaska Range was set up in hard relief against the red sky. It was breathtaking.
As the sun set, we managed to snap off a few good ones. Then we drank some beer we stashed in the snow prior to dinner and hit the sleeping bags around 12:30. My alarm went off four hours later. Andrea, my willing companion only four hours previously, would have nothing to do with sunrise photos so Emerson and I walked to the ridgeline in the growing dawn and took more photos.
Then it was back to bed at 6:30 and breakfast at 9 (which Andrea graciously cooked while I slept). I am working on processing this week and should have some nice images to put up in a couple of days.

We used our new Black Diamond Beta-Mid tent - it is an ultra-light tent that has no floor and pitches with a set of trekking poles. It was an interesting first night - we had trouble keeping the edge of the tent tight against the ground. The wind blew up a bit and the temperature dipped below freezing; Andrea froze in her old sleeping bag. I was toasty, but since my "night" was really only four hours, more testing is needed. All in all, we need some practice pitching this remarkable tent but because it weighs just over two pounds, I think it will be worth it to figure it out.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Trent Waldron Half-Marathon - Crow Pass qualifier

On Saturday, Andrea and I ran the Trent Waldron Glacier Half-Marathon as a qualifier for Crow Pass. Part of the deal with Crow Pass is if you didn't run it the year before, you have to have run a full marathon in 4:00 or a half-marathon in 1:45 within the previous year to qualify. The last half-marathon Andrea and I ran was mid-way through lawschool and both of us finished close to 1:43 - because we have been doing mostly long trail runs as training, we weren't sure what our speed was going to be like for the race.

We picked the Trent Waldron because it starts right outside our back door and it is pretty much dead flat. If I am going to pound pavement, I don't want to deal with hills as well - save that for the trails! We both ended up running really well - faster than we thought.

I had a pretty good gap on everyone behind me by the last mile and the pace dropped off significantly - my 13th mile was a 7:30, by far the slowest. Andrea, on the other hand, had a sprint finish with another woman and missed third place overall by only a few inches.

Thanks to Bill for the Google Earth graphic.

The results are below and full results are here.

Aaron Ostrovsky 1:35:45 (3rd in age group - somewhere in the middle overall)
Andrea Ostrovsky 1:37:10 (1st in age group - fourth overall)

Special shoutout to our co-clerk Bill who met his goal of sub-2 hours with a 1:52:32.

And Andrea beat her boss, which means she may be working late next week...

Friday, May 26, 2006

"Being Caribou"

One would think that with all the time we spend in such an incredibly beautiful and often quiet place, that moments of reflection would come while we are out in the mountains and wilderness. Sometimes that happens. And sometimes, like last night, sitting on our couch, shades drawn to keep out the late-evening sun, I had one of those moments watching the documentary "Being Caribou."

"Being Caribou" tracks the journey of two young Canadians -- Karsten Heuer and Leanne Allison -- as they follow the porcupine caribou herd on its annual migration from Old Crow, Yukon, to the winter calving grounds on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Karsten and Leanne travelled alone, on skis and foot, for 5 months and over 1500 km. They lived among, and filmed, the caribou, as well as bears, wolverines, fox, squirrels, and other arctic creatures. As they grew emotionally attached to these incredible animals, migrating on the paths they have migrated on for thousands of years over vast tracks of undeveloped, unspoiled, pristine earth, I couldn't help but get tugged in myself.

I won't share any more details of the film -- you should all watch it yourselves. You can order it from their website (or borrow it from us if you're in Anchorage) -- http://www.beingcaribou.com/index.htm.

"Being Caribou" did not affect me in a way that makes me want to go on a long, wild adventure (I already have that bug). It reminded me that there are pristine, incredible places left on this planet, and it would be ridiculously short-sighted and selfish of us to take them for a little bit of oil. It reminded me that we should be humble because we share this planet with creatures who have a memory of these places older than humans have been here. It reminded me that we who enjoy these beautiful places have a responsibility to protect them. It reminded me how important it is to choose a path that is purposeful and of service to others and our planet.

Those are my thoughts. I'd love to hear yours.

Thanks to our new friend Eric for sharing Being Caribou with us! We'll be sure to share it with other friends!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rainbow Pics, Part Deux

Here's some more pictures from our hike up rainbow this weekend. Thanks, Teeny!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rainbow Peak

After deliberating about whether our bodies could handle a full day of hiking after the Homestead Hill / Middle Fork run (see post below), we decided to suck it up and join the regular gang for a hike up Rainbow Peak. We definitely made the right choice and were not disappointed.

Larry, Sandra, Aaron and I met up with Teeny, Ray, Rich and Phil (and three pooches) at the Rainbow trailhead (just south of the road into Rainbow off the Seward highway). We headed up the Turnagain Arm trail and then veered off to the right at the top of the very long initial hill. The trail was steep and scree-ee, but manageable. As we got higher, we were doing some scrambling on our way up to the summit. The ridge line at the top was great -- just a little snow right at the top and on the back side.

Great views of Rainbow and the Inlet and the mountains on the Kenai Peninsula. Eagles and moutain goats. Little plants popping up everywhere. The day was beautiful -- sunny and warm on the way up, a little cloudy when we were on the summit, and sunny again on the way down.

Instead of heading back on the same trail, we traversed south and walked down the shoulder to tree line. Nice option now, although we wondered if it might get too brushy in the forest later on in the summer.

Homestead Hill + Middle Fork

Training for the Crow Pass Crossing continues: We started our weekend with a 19 mile trail run -- definitely our longest yet this season (and probably my longest trail run ever). Chester, Aaron, Emerson, & I started at the Campbell Air Strip parking lot, ran up Rover's Run, jumped on the Homestead Hill trail, then caught the Middle Fork trail -- followed that to Prospect Heights, then down the Powerline to Spencer Loop, Richter Loop, to Brown (black?) Bear Trail and then (eventually) back to the car. There were some seriously trying moments where we each "got in our little box" (as Aaron calls it), and just kept pushing our legs. Recommendation: don't go on Middle Fork yet. Lots of postholing interspersed between running through inches of freezing cold water and mud.

Check out Aaron's GPS map of our route:

Friday, May 19, 2006

Flowers in the mountains

Found some...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Spring is here! (and I'm sick)

The flowers may not be out in the mountains yet (has anyone seen flowers in the mountains yet???) -- they are out in the front yard. So here's a picture for spring.

Tonight was the Turnagain Trail Race and I am sick so I didn't go but Andrea did and Chester did and I got to sit at home and take pictures of f&*@#! flowers. I would prefer not to talk about it...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Glissading in the Chugach

Andrea and I headed up to Peak 4 (yes, one peak on the ridgeline past Peak 3) to do a late afternoon hike on Sunday. We left the skis at home and took our ice axes to do some glissading off the summit of Peak 3 on the way down.
Below, Andrea demonstrates the "Chugach Technique" of glissade - you carry a plastic garbage bag in your pack with you and cut holes in it for your legs for the slide down. Normally, the Chugach Technique is done with cut-off jeans and Nike Lava Dome light hikers. Well, we will just call her version a modern variant. For getting off a peak fast, nothing beats black plastic!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Homestead Hill

Training for the Crow Pass Crossing continues; on Saturday Chester, Chris, Andrea, and I ran the Homestead Hill run. It's a great run that combines neighborhoods, primitive roads, technical trails, and a few hills (ok, its almost all hills). After an hour and fifty minutes (1:50), the GPS read 10 miles, which put us at just over ten minute miles. Not bad considering how technical the trail is.

This weekend the weather has been fantastic, clear sunny skies and temperatures reaching into the 60s. Is summer finally here? Well, if I know Anchorage in June, we have plenty of rain in store but any sun we can get we will take.

On Saturday morning, I met Andrea's co-clerk Jon at Westchester Lagoon to take some early morning bird pics on the mud flats. After 100 plus pictures, I got a few keepers, including this Mew Gull [edit: actually, I think its a Ring Billed Gull]. I was telling Jon that I actually can't stand taking pictures of birds (the whole birding thing kind of escapes me) and I didn't expect alot of pictures of gulls (kind of boring) but I was pleasantly surprised with this shot. The eyes are so cool. And gulls' white heads make them perfect in direct sun for practicing with exposure because they have a tendency to wash out.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Peak 3 last hurrah

Last night Chester and I bid adieu to our old Tuesday night mistress, Peak 3. She may be lacking the snow she did a few months ago but she was up to her old wily tricks and took it out of our hides both going up and coming down.

That mountain never seems to get easier to skin up and last night was no exception - there was plenty of wind-blown hardpan and soft blown sugar to make every step a fight. At least it wasn't windy. (Well, at least it wasn't super windy)

A storm was rolling across the Kenai Peninsula and big black clouds began to obscure the sun. But golden sunlight broke through the clouds over the Tordrillos across the inlet and gave them an otherworldly glow. As usual, Peak 3 rewarded us for our hard-work with a stunning view. Looking over the city reminded us that we were really lucky to have this mountain this close.

Then the descent. The snow was soft and deep but there were multiple layers of crust that made every turn an adventure. By the time we reached the bottom, it had become true adventure skiing. We couldn't reach the car on skis (although I tried, ski-walking across a short section of tundra) and were reduced to walking the final meters.

Chester commented that perhaps we should have taken the day two weeks ago when we went up with Nate and the conditions were perfect as our final day just to leave on a good note. I agree with that sentiment - perhaps one more go before ALL the snow melts?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Pictures from McHugh Ridge

As promised, some pictures from our hike up McHugh Ridge on Sunday. I was using a 70-300 mm telephoto lens and was hoping to get some animal shots but with four dogs and six people, I think I was being a little naive (we did see sheep and they promptly ran like hell). So the pictures look more like portraits than anything else but I think they turned out well. My personal favorite is Larry's "Master and Commander" pose below.

It snowed this morning in Anchorage...

From the NOAA website:


Ok, admittedly, winter is probably over - but with new snow on the Hillside and even in town, Peak 3 is going to be great skiing this week!

On Saturday, Andrea, Chester, and I ran the Turnagain Trail as an out-and-back from Potter - over 16 miles. Our time was around 3:10 and we were all completely wasted at the end (the hills just kept getting BIGGER...). Hopefully this will all pay off during the Crow Pass Crossing.

On Sunday, we did a nice hike up McHugh Ridge - I will try to post some pictures tonight.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Alaska Biodiesel? (not to bump Pastoral but...)

Andrea pointed out an interesting article in the ADN today talking about expanded use of biodiesel in Anchorage. Apparently, Alaska Mill and Feed has been picking up used cooking oil for years and sending it to pet food companies in the Lower 48. But with shipping costs on the rise (guess why, yep, high cost of oil), AMF was trying to figure out what to do with the oil they could no longer afford to ship south. Well, the article explains what a huge response they received from the community.

Photo from ADN - cooking oil at AMF

Driving long distances is a necessary evil for many backcountry enthusiasts - we are lucky here in AK to have some of the best terrain right outside town. But we still head far out of town almost every weekend. Because we here at AKBC are always interested in new fuel alternatives (see our new link to NRDC on the sidebar), I thought this would be an interesting read. Andrea and I are both thinking about getting a biodiesel (well diesel that runs grassoline) car next year in Seattle where winter cold doesn't prevent use of the fuel year-round.

For more info on biodiesel in AK, click here.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

PASTORAL (yes, it was that good)

Last Saturday we returned to Turnagain Pass to take another stab at skiing Pastoral. We had a large crew - seven of us in all. With the sunny weather and endless fields of untracked snow, it looked like the makings of one of the best any of us had experienced in the backcountry. We gained the saddle that Andrea and I had been turned back at in a storm a few weeks earlier and had lunch. After lunch, we started the big treck up the glacier to the summit.
There was a small camp in the valley below the saddle. The campers had gotten an early start so, at the summit, we didn't have untracked snow, but it was pretty close. Lots of folks seem to have abandoned TinCan in these long spring days and have set their sights on bigger projects. Luckily, with the long treking distances, there is still plenty of snow for everyone.
The approach was long - almost 3 hours - to get to the summit of the peak that overlooks the main glacial valley. When we reached the final climb up the ridge, we were rewarded with views of the Center Creek Valley, which runs north-south parallel with Turnagain Pass.

This isn't really about the approach, its about the skiing, and everyone agreed that this was one of the GREATEST DAYS OF SKIING EVER (I put that in all caps just so you know I'm not kidding). Ok, so the summit ski (which Chester and Ray and I did twice) was not the best but then we traveled off the next ridge and down to a bowl below where we had lunch (Teeny and Ray seem to know the secret spots in every part of Alaska). And this was the goods. See below - a huge valley of untracked champagne powder.
We ate it up like kids in a candy store. It was a long way back to the car - on the way we skied more great light snow and even some nice corn at the very end - and we all left with smiles on our faces.
One of the cool things about my new camera is that it can take four frames per second - which is great for action shots (As I joked to Chester, its useful for getting that nano-second of good form within all the chaos). So without further ado - here are some action shots - I went a little artsy with the last two, apologies in advance.

Andrea on the final ski of the day

Ray on the last run down