Alaska, Land of the Midnight Fun

Alaska is the 49th state I’ve visited, the second-to-Final Frontier. No plans as of yet to go to North Dakota, my 50th. But in my 2 weeks there I found that Alaska has enough charisma and size to count as two states, probably…

After a 90 minute run in Anchorage through the coastal trail and a park, I can see why Alaska’s Goeff Roes can come down the lower 48 and win Western States: the running trails up in Alaska are rugged beyond rugged. Single boards as bridges, moose droppings and constant ups and downs. At one point the trail just ended. I was a bit perplexed until I realized it dropped off the steep embankment- almost a cliff- so down I went. It was truly a thrill a minute.

The focal point of the trip was of course Denali; Trip reports for the climbing are linked below. In summary I summited solo via the west buttress in an alpine style ascent; I then tried to summit via the more rugged West Rib with Kostya but we were turned around at 17,000′ due to his frostbite. See links to West Buttress and West Rib.

The wackiness of Alaska is well documented. First off, the population is tiny and the land is vast. What is more, it is teeming with lakes, mountains and forests. OK, fine so far. Beautiful but not odd. The strange part is the northern-ness. Sarah Palin (who home town of Wasilla I bought a Gatorade in) was not that far off in being able to see Russia: the whole place feels like Siberia with the birch trees, the wooden houses, the smell of the air (which smells just as much like northern Europe- odd that a latitude can have a scent-but it does).

The 24 summer light is also worth a mention. Though I was never in the Arctic circle, I was well north of 60 degrees in the 2 weeks leading up to the solstice. Hence, sunsets after midnight, a sort of bright dusk set in till sunrise, and no need to ever have a flashlight. Alpine climbing is already an around-the-clock activity; the light just makes it seem more normal to be traipsing across a glacier at 3 am.

The odd state attracts characters. We observed a beer kickball game- commencing at 9pm, where everyone must always hold a beer (or other beverage) in their hand as they play. Every Wed night in Talkeetna! And every Thursday is a hip hop night…

Summer is busy tourist season for Alaskans. Not much sleep and they make all their money in a 4 or 5 month window, then it’s a winter of drinking or going to Hawaii. They carry 3 surf magazines in the airport. No climbing magazines. Not sure I’d be willing to live with the bizarre light schedule. But a nice place to visit in Summer- as long as you can find a hotel room…


About zoomloco

I zoom-zoom loco like the pony express.
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