Friday, July 29, 2011

White Russians, Cobras and V-threads

Life has been steady here at MICA. Below are some pics from the season so far. My tent (with the two broken, duct-taped poles) is still holding up, I haven't been trampled by the moose that visits my tent at night, and my anchor-building skills are improving.


a long, overhanging route that's killer---one of my favorite

climbing above route

Moulins are some of the most dangerous features on glaciers. They are dark, slick, cold, wet places to be, and if you trip and slide down the funnel-sloped sides, you will die one of three ways:

1) you plug up the hole, the water keeps rising and you drown
2) blunt-force trauma or hypothermia
3) The sides are super slick, so every breath you take you slide down further till your rib cage is wedged tightly inside and you suffocate.

The take-away message is that if you fall in, there's almost no getting out.

My tent with two broken poles that I pulled out from under the Chuck Norris Guide hut
 The book is called "Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know" and it's about a British polar explorer called Ranulph Fiennes.
Noah and the naked ladies road soda, on our way to see Harry Potter

view from camp

not quite the Himalayas, but still pretty big

I just finished reading "Blink", a book by Malcolm Gladwell, (author of "The Tipping Point"). It's all about split-second reactions, first impressions and intuition. It's remarkable how well our brain can process the information bombarding our senses and turn it into a gut-feeling or emotion, without us even realizing why we feel or think the way we do.

midnight hikes 

practicing the "step n' stem" technique on an easy climb 

Richard was in the circus before working in Antarctica and then becoming an ice climbing guide

4th of july festivities 
taking pictures of clients while hanging inside a 200' crevasse

Noah modelling his downsuit he used for his Denali summit-attempt in May

there's no running water, but we have wifi

4th of July a neighbor of our company drove a beater off a cliff and shot bowling balls from a cannon----typical Alaska

worn out and sun-baked client

Bouldering some overhangs. 

I find bouldering on ice much scarier than on rock: there are no pads to catch your fall, and you have spiky crampons and ice axes to watch out for.

Denali fly-by

Rafting in Denali---the Nenana River----with clients
In progress

Pre-haircut: Chris is the barber and Noah the client

Chris and Noah post mohawk

Smoked salmon and avocados---we get fed well on Exposure trips

John after 3500' elevation gain and a night out on the town in Seward consuming White Russians ----still smiling

old mining equipment in the hills

lowering clients into crevasses

Denali---Highest point in N. America. Someday when I'm rich.......
Do I want to climb Denali? Yes. Ski across Greenland? Yes. Climb Elbrus, Ama Dablam and Cho Oyu? Yes. I also want to finish college, get my degree in chemical engineering, and find a job that challenges me mentally, but can I have it all? 

Most of the people I work with are what I call "full-time" seasonal workers. There's Jeff and Matt, who guide on the Fox Glacier in New Zealand during the summer season and then come up to Alaska for our summer. There's a couple people who've guided in Norway and Patagonia. Then there are others like Joolee, Bill and my boss who work in Alaska, and then spend the rest of their time down on the Ice at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. None of them have a permanent home, but it seems to suit their lifestyle. Things don't get stale, and they escape the 9 to 5 daily grind. 

The downside is that they can't settle down, they're always on the move, sending out job applications for their next "gig", packing their bags and paring down the amount of gear they can bring with them. The future gets murkier and more uncertain, and many evenings in the CNB are spent discussing future plans for when the glacier guiding season is over. 

Matt the kiwi

lots of carabiners and ice screws, radios and daisy chains on the harness
I don't think guiding will be my end-career choice, but it's a nice back-up summer job to have----better than working at a restaurant or retail store anyway. You meet cool people (one client from Colorado gifted me her old pair of ice axes, and the vice president of an industrial steel manufacturer wants me to intern with his company next year). I'm a pro at small-talk and gained some group management skills (hint: trying to control six army jarheads on leave from base is quite the challenge). Being able to climb whenever I want is also a plus. 

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