Castner Creek and Castner Glacier

Winter Driving on the Richardson
The snowy drive south of Delta Junction.

Last weekend was the last outing for the ski mountaineering class. Saturday morning we drove down the Richardson Highway. After a brief stop at the IGA in Delta Junction for food and coffee, the caravan arrived at Castner Creek where we unloaded the cars, snapped on our skis, shouldered our packs and began the trek up the creek.

Castner Creek
The bridge over Castner Creek.

Unload and skin-up
Skinning up the skis on the side of the Richardson Highway.

Suited Up
Ready to go!

We set up camp in front of the terminus of the Castner Glacier. After finding a good flat spot to set up camp, Sam and I began to pack down the snow and build a snow wall to protect us from wind. About an hour, or two (I frankly had no sense of time all weekend) we had our glorious campsite!

Home for the evening
The tent is up, Sam puts the finishing touches on the wall, time to ski!

Camp and ski

Once camp was up it was time to explore a bit. The group spread out a little for a ski around on the glacier. It was pretty overcast, but the mountains could still be seen through the clouds, fog, and snow. Our leaders, Nick and Rick, probed an area that would be good for practicing prusik skills for crevasse rescue. Then it was time to cook, eat, and pass out for the night.

Anchors in the snow
A couple of students work on building snow anchors in the late afternoon.

Nick and Rick probe for crevasses and/or holes near an ice-wall.

Since much of the terminus of the Castner Glacier is covered in old moraine, there is quite a bit of vegetation on the surface.

A collapsed wall or cave at the terminus.

I was pretty comfortable in my twenty below bag, so it probably wasn’t quite minus 20. Getting out of the sleeping bag in the morning was a good reminder that we were winter camping in the interior of Alaska. Once awake we had to cook breakfast, put some boiling water in our water bottles, strike camp and skin up the glacier. There were a couple of stations to practice prusiking and z-pulleys for crevasse rescue scenarios. We all skied to stay warm. I had to stay on ‘foot-freezing’ maintenance to make sure that I could still feel my toes. It turns out that ski boots are a lot colder to hang out in all day (or two days) than mountaineering (double) boots. We skied back out Sunday afternoon and hit the road back to town. I had to look back a few times because the moon was hanging over the mountains and glacier behind us. It was a pretty cool sight.

z-pulley practice
Practicing setting up a z-pulley system for hauling a climber out of a crevasse.

Here’s some more of the scenery of this place:
On the Castner Glacier

Some lenticular clouds forming over the mountains to the east.


Beyond the Hills

Monday morning I realized that skiing with a heavy pack uses vastly different muscles than hiking with a heavy pack. Muscles that I didn’t even realize that I had were pretty sore. On top of that my feet were tingly from slightly frostbitten toes.

There will be more photo uploads in the future. You can find them all in the flickr set here.

Blog Comments

We'll have to figure out that boot situation. Frozen toes are no good!

It was pointed out to me that $700 for some nice boots isn't that bad when you think about it as $70 per toe 🙂 Your photography continues to make me envious!

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