One of the most amazing trips. Beautiful country, beautiful people.
One of the most amazing trips. Beautiful country, beautiful people.
Nepal. Himalayas. Hell yes.
Despite all that is written about flying into Lukla (dubbed one of the most dangerous airports in the world-short runway, mountain on one side, cliff on the other, 11.7% gradient), we had a pretty uneventful, anticlimactic landing. Maybe I’m jaded from growing up in Alaska and riding in bush planes….That being said, everyone else on the airplane cheered when we landed 🙂
The trek took us 12 days, none of the days being very long-distance wise or a lot of elevation gain. However, it was the altitude that kicked our asses, backpacking at 9,000-15,500 feet.
Living at sea level, landing in Lukla (9334 ft.) put me at almost the highest I’ve ever been. Rachael & I had quickly organized our gear and set off for Phakding.
Beautiful prayer wheels were abundant along the trek.
On the way to Phakding. The first two days of the trek weather ranged from warm & sunny (60-65f) to cold & raging rains (40-45f). Everyone in the region commented that the monsoons were later this year than usual.
Beautiful stupas and large boulders carved with prayers on them are commonplace along the trek.
Much respect to the porters. They climb up and down the valley carrying crazy loads, no matter the weather. We repeatedly got passed along the trek by porters carrying 60-90 lbs wearing flip flops.
One of many suspension bridges crossing the Dudh Kosi. Sharing the bridges with yaks, burros & cows felt like getting double bounced on a trampoline.
The beautiful Dudh Kosi. A violent, raging, gorgeous river. This is the final suspension bridge crossing before the climb to Namche.
Namche Bazaar! Just above 11,000 ft. We stayed in this beautiful village a couple days to acclimatize. It was mostly foggy (this view was rare), wet, and cold-about 40-45f. Pemba Sherpa & his staff at the Khumbu Lodge treated us like family.
We spent one of our “rest” days climbing up to Kunde & Khumjung. Khumjung is the largest Sherpa village in the region, and where many people higher up on the trek live in the off season. Everyone was so welcoming! We got invited into an older woman’s house for tea, where she told us stories & shared her potatoes with us. Afterwards, she took us on a “short-cut” to the bakery, hoping over stone walls and almost running so fast where we could barely keep up with her!
Young boys making faces at us 🙂
The monestary in Kunde.
Much of the next few days were spent again in a fog & cold. This is actually good visibility. Mostly, we could only see about 10-15 feet in front of us.
Rachael climbing out of Dole. Brief window of sun, before more clouds & rain. Weather typically was nicer in the morning, then clouds and rain would roll in by early afternoon.
Young Sherpa girl.
Yak dung drying. Yak dung is the fuel that heats every tea house in the region.
Prayer tablets at Machermo. We escaped the rain and upper 20/lower 30f weather and went to a altitude sickness talk at the local clinic. Super informative & worth the time! Machermo is at 14,600 feet-it’s typically where altitude sickness starts affecting some people. Everyday on the trek, we heard helicopters buzzing up and down the valley, many carrying patients back to Kathmandu. The doctors in Machermo said that they would have 1-2 patients fly out per day. Gokyo had many more leaving by heli.
After pouring rain all night, we woke up to blue skies, fresh snow on the peaks & sun!
We finally had great visibility & sun! The views were stunning in every direction!
Rock cairns at the first lake. Cairns are viewed as makeshift stupas and everywhere in the Gokyo region. The five lakes in the Gokyo region are sacred places to the Nepalese. The Gokyo area reminded me of Alaska on steroids-stunningly beautiful, with 8,000 meter peaks, prayer flags, and yaks!
Entering the third lake & Gokyo (15,500 ft). This area was so unbelievably gorgeous, it’s no wonder it’s considered sacred.
Although, I got a touch of altitude sickness once we got to Gokyo (which I was able to solve with medicine), Rachael really suffered. On top of that, we both had acquired horrible sinus infections in Namche (which stayed with us for the rest of the trip) and the Khumbu cough (which lasted much longer than the trip 😦 ). We stayed at the Fitz Roy-They were amazing & so helpful, checking in on us, sending up pots of hot water & warm juice to help us get better. Can’t say enough great things about them!
Trail through the yak dung patties in Gokyo.
Gokyo, from Gokyo Ri.
We bagged our original plan of going over Renjo La pass to Thame, due to the altitude sickness & climbing another 2,000 didn’t seem like a good plan. We chose to descend the other side of the valley and stay in Phortse to get some different views instead. It is the path less traveled & definitely took longer, but well worth it.
Old abandoned Sherpa home.
Good morning from Phortse!
Yaks, Phortse, & Ama Dablam-by far the most beautiful mountain in the Himalayas!
Everest & Ama Dablam.
Definitely a trip & trek of a lifetime. Amazing from start to finish.
Despite our last minute planning, we were able to pull off a backpacking traverse on the Alaska Peninsula. Our plan was to traverse the Valley of 10,000 Smokes to the Coast……As usual, things didn’t go quite as planned, but we still had an amazing trip!
Day 1 was spent hanging with the bears at Brooks Camp. Since we spending week backpacking, (and not coming back to Brooks Camp) I accepted the fact that I wasn’t able to bring my long lens…..it still didn’t make it any easier standing on the platform thinking of the shots I could have got…..
Sarah, Kasey, and I met Nick at Brooks Lodge that night and invited him on our backpacking trip. Although he only had one night to spend with us, he was up for an adventure. Nick camped with us near Novarupta (approx. 14-15 miles?) and he made it back by 2:30 pm the next day to catch the bus back to Brooks Camp. Pretty awesome way to spend 28 hours and 30 miles in the Valley.
After getting dropped off by the bus in the Valley on Day 2, Nick, Kasey, Sarah, and I headed into the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. We found easy walking, mostly on pumice, and crazy, amazing views. The further we traveled, the less vegetation, the more it felt like we were walking on the moon.
Sarah & Kasey walking next to Windy River.River Lethe.Another view of the River Lethe.Nick, Sarah, and Kasey hiking next to the River Lethe.Footprints in the pumice.
Looking back down valley. The hiking was incredibly easy, with spectacular views in every direction.My partners in crime-Nick, Kasey, & Sarah.Mount Mageik. There are crazy colors in the Valley of 10,000 smokes. Almost looks like a box of colored chalk exploded everywhere.Novarupta!More amazing colors at Novarupta. We found ice melt for water & a small stream. Novarupta still lets off steam and at the vents felt like a steam bath at the spa.
Awesome colors everywhere.Day 3, we hiked up Broken Mountain & looped around Novarupta. We had hoped to also hike up Fallen, but the weather moved in & soon it was blowing 30 mph.
View of Baked Mountain, taken from Broken Mountain.Kasey coming around the backside of Novarupta, with Mt. Katmai in the background.Novarupta in the foreground with Baked Mountain in the background.Little vegetation (and less water) in the Valley of 10,000 smokes. We did find some water areas that others didn’t. Dwarf fireweed, Baked Mountain.The winds picked up early on night 3, 30-40 mph. Luckily, we had a 3 person, 4 season Hilleberg. We camped in a pretty protected area (as protected as it gets in the Valley), we still had to tighten guy lines a couple times through the night. We woke up the morning of Day 4 with high winds and little visibility. We checked weather, and was told it was going to stay like that for two more days, then break. We decided to make a go for Katmai Pass and head out of the Valley.
Photo by Kasey Keogh. Me & Sarah. This is not Katmai Pass.
Admission: We used a map to navigate with very limited visibility (high winds and fog) trying to save batteries on our DeLorme (we were saving what was left of batteries for communication with pilot). Anyone familiar with my navigation skills wouldn’t be surprised we went in big circle……..Day 4 ended up being the day we took our packs for a walk…….
That afternoon the rain came with the wind. Sheets of rain and 30-40 mph winds. More tent time……At least we stayed dry in the Hilleberg. Around 2:30 am we heard a large animal outside our tent, we didn’t invistigate-just made a lot of noise……It was hard to tell the next morning with how saturated the ground was, but believe it was a bear.
Day 5. Still raining sideways. Promise of good weather to come tomorrow. We pack up and head to Katmai Pass, this time using the GPS 🙂 The rain quickly soaked through our Gore-tex, we kept a good pace, eating while walking to keep warm. We wished we had visibility to enjoy the last of the Valley, but that was not to be. We crossed the swollen rivers and creeks. Finally making it down to the other side, we set up camp early, stripping off our drenched clothes and warming up with hot tea and sleeping bags. More tent time……
Day 6. Holy Smokes! Sunshine, blue skies, and over 70f. Visibility! Day 6 is off to a good start! We weren’t too sure which way to head around Observation Mountain. We chose the wrong way. Hours of bushwhacking through thick alders in bear country, making little progress was deflating. We finally got to a place where we could head straight up the mountain and rise above treeline. Crazy going from the Valley of 10,000 Smokes where water & vegetation were scarce to overflowing rivers and dense alders in just a few miles.
Sarah & Kasey fueling up on meat sticks after the schwack.Coming down Observation. Beautiful view of Katmai River valley & the coast!Really cool rock formations on Observation.A look back at Observation & waterfall.White sand (actually it’s pumice). It felt like a day at the beach! Certainly was hot enough for it 🙂We had what felt like hundreds of river crossings to get to our destination. Kasey & Sarah crossing one of many braids on the Katmai River. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it all the way to the coast-the rivers were too high from unseasonably late snow melt (the Alaska Peninsula had a huge snow year….crazy, the rest of Alaska didn’t see much of the white stuff). Luckily, our pilot was able to give us an alternate destination he could pick us up at.Deckload Aviation. Keller. Best Air Taxi EVER.
Perfect weather + 3 day weekend + Alaska = Pure awesomeness.
I hadn’t been to Kennicott/McCarthy in years, so when Becca suggested the Donoho Lakes trip I jumped at the idea. Evan, Becca, Shiloh (pup), and I did the 18 mile loop overnight and enjoyed some spectacular scenery along the way. Starting at the Kennicott mine we hiked the 2 miles to the Root Glacier. There we strapped on crampons and began our trek across the Root Glacier.
Looking up the Root, with the medial moraine on the left.
Crossing the next section of the Root. We found the Root relatively easy to cross, but there are definitely some sections that would be trickier. It took us about an hour to navigate our way to the other side.
First Donoho Lake, with Donoho peak on the right.
The scenery was terrible 🙂 Evan & Becca hiking towards the second lake.
The Mid with Donoho Peak. Donoho Peak is approximately 3500 ft. above camp.
Evan, Becca, Shiloh trekking past small glacial lake on the approach to the Kennicott Glacier.
Moraine of Kennicott.
On the Kennicott!
The crew passing one of many spectacular turquoise glacial lakes.
Storming in the distance. Crazy storm moving our direction.
The storm quickly approaching on the Kennicott.
After leaving the Kennicott Glacier we crossed a huge moraine back to the Root. The storm barely hit us on the moraine with a few drops then retreated back down valley. We saw a crazy ice tunnel in the moraine you could drive a semi through, unfortunately my camera (for once) was safely tucked inside my pack 😦
Back to the Root. Perfect trip, perfect crew.
With fresh snow on the ground and little time to pack, we still managed to pull off our annual October canoe trip. I met Adam & Melissa in Moose Pass on a sunny (yet chilly) Halloween day to explore new territory. We put in at Trail Lake paddling 1/2 mile or so to a trail that led us 1.7 miles to Grant Lake. Although, I’d never heard of Grant Lake before, Adam has been interested in getting in there and exploring it for awhile.
The put in on Trail Lake.
Once we got to Grant Lake, we paddled down the lake to check out an old mining camp. Here’s one of the buildings still left. The rest are in much worse condition.
Returning to camp on Grant Lake. Grant Lake is one of the most gorgeous lakes I’ve seen. I can’t wait to explore more of it on longer summer days…
It was a crystal clear, starry night. The Kifaru’s wood stove kept us toasty. Later, the moon was so bright I asked Adam if he left his headlamp on inside the tent. He told me it was the moon & I stuck my head outside to see one of the brightest moons I’ve ever seen.
Sunrise, Grant Lake.
Andres was able to join Rachael and me for a quick overnighter to the Royal Basin. We did the 7 mile hike in, set up camp, then hiked a mile or so to the upper tarn to do some recon for future trips. The Olympics did not disappoint with more amazing views & stunning scenery.
This is what happens when you try and take a nice picture of your friends…..
Rachael hiking towards the upper tarn.
Andres testing his rock climbing skills on chunky choss.
Deer were pretty abundant in the area. Mom with twins.
The High Divide is a gorgeous 18 mile loop in the Olympic National Park that starts (and ends) in a lush rainforest full of gigantic trees that seem large enough to build a tiny house in, then rises to high alpine tundra with spectacular views of the Seven Lakes Basin & Mt. Olympus. Although the loop can easily be hiked in a day, spending a few days backpacking there exploring the lakes & soaking in the amazing views is definitely the way to do it. I haven’t spent anytime backpacking in the Lower 48, so when Rachael invited me on this trip I jumped at the chance to see her & check out some new territory. With temperatures in the mid 80’s it was slightly warm for this Alaskan girl, but I managed 🙂
Sol Duc Falls.
Our first camp was Deer Lake. Sunset, ginormous trees, & of course, the Mid.
Another beautiful, sunny morning in the Olympics.
We decided to take a long lunch break, siesta, & swim at the Seven Lakes Basin. The Basin is the premiere camping spot on the High Divide Loop, but fills up quickly. We planned this trip months ago & weren’t able to secure a site there. The lakes are pretty cold (as you would suspect any high alpine lake to be), but a perfect way to cool off from the heat 🙂
Rachael descending into the Seven Lakes Basin.
View of Round Lake.
Rachael soaking in another amazing view of the Basin.
Wildlife was abundant! I felt like I was in the Disneyland of animals & gorgeous views! We saw black bears, mountain goats, & tons of deer.
We took the very short side trip & climbed Mt. Bogachiel. Well worth the 360 degree spectacular views!
Descending back down to the trail we found these guys…..
Rachael looking back to the Seven Lakes Basin.
Rachael fulfilling her promise to pump water for me at Sol Duc Park 🙂
Rachael & me.
We finished the loop & headed over to Olympic Hot Springs for one last perfect night out, ending our amazing trip with a soak in the hot springs.
Morning sun shining through the trees at Olympic Hot Springs!