Ski Mountaineering

This semester I’ve been taking a class in ski mountaineering with Stan Justice from the Alaska Alpine Club and UAF. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learned a ton. My adviser recommended it to me since we’ll be spending a good amount of time on the Black Rapids glacier for field work and I need to be up to par on the important things like avalanche safety and rescue, crevasse rescue, and how to hike with a rope on and pointy objects. This is also good stuff to know, because Alaska glaciers are huge . . . HUGE. They make things like the Blue Glacier in Washington look like a backyard patch of snow. So this class has the added benefit of teaching me how to use the Alaska glacier “highway” system so hopefully I can start getting to some really cool places with my camera. I’m incredibly lucky because not many students working on a degree in Physics get to take mountaineering classes.

Yesterday our class was on the lower slopes of Panorama Peak just south the the Denali National Park entrance. It was a gorgeous day and a great break from normal classroom work.

This was our classroom for the day. If I ever teach or TA physics again this is where we will do our lessons. There is physics everywhere.

A large part of what we covered was avalanche safety and rescue techniques. Before we started our instructors, Max and Chad cut a couple of pieces of snow to perform the rutschblock test to make sure that the other groups practicing anchor building and self-arrest were also safe.




Glissading is fun!


Building and testing multiple kinds of snow anchors.

I said it was a beautiful day, right? This part of the Alaska Range is pretty spectacular year round.

One of the peaks to the west of Panorama in the mid-morning light.



The view of Panorama peak from near the road. The main route follows the snow gulley just right of center.

More snowy mountains to the west.

Scenery on the east side of the Park’s Highway just south of the park entrance.

More gorgeous morning light!

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Glad you had fun and are learning to be safe!

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