Snowbird to Bomber

11 09 2014

I love Hatcher’s Pass-especially in the fall. The colors were perfect last weekend when Becca, Evan, and I set out to backpack Snowbird Glacier to Bomber Glacier and out Reed Lakes. Although I’ve been to both the Bomber and Snowbird a few times, I’ve never done the link between the two. I was excited that Becca & Evan were on the same page.

It was lightly raining when we left the truck, which eventually turned into a more steady rain with low clouds. We arrived atĀ the Snowbird Hut to find some of my co-workers and their friends staying there as well. As night came, the clouds started to lift, and the tops of the surrounding mountains emerged.

The tarn below the Snowbird Hut with Alpenglow on the peaks in back.

view of lake

A few minutes later, 180 degrees from the last image, we were treated to an amazing (but quick) sunset over Snowbird Glacier.

sunset glacier

Evan & Becca at the start of our descent from the Snowbird Hut. We were all smiles until we realized it froze the night before & the talus field was a icy nightmare šŸ™‚

Becca & Evan

Evan at the bottom of the talus field below the Snowbird Hut on the way to Bomber. Hatcher’s Pass has no shortage of talus fields and this trip was no exception. In fact, we took a detour and hiked up and down an extra one because we like them so much šŸ™‚

boulder field

Evan taking a look at the valley we were descending into.


We enjoyed amazing amounts of fresh blueberries! While the low bush blueberries were past their prime, the high bush blueberries were perfect! Even Shiloh (their pup) thought so.

The fall colors were perfect.

becca evan shiloh

Although the sun was shining, it was definitely crisp outside. I was hoping to wear shorts one more timeā€¦..but happy it’s almost ski season!

fall c olors


Becca, walking up the glacier. It’s pretty wild to stumble across so many parts of the plane strewn across the much of the glacier. Some parts of the plane, dozens of feet apart, are stillĀ connected to each otherĀ by wires.Becca Glacier

wing mountain

bomber 2

bomber 3


After we made the descent down the monster talus field Ā to Upper Reed Lake, Becca announced she was so glad to be done with boulder fields. I then realized she had never hiked to Reed Lakesā€¦ā€¦.I tried to, as delicately as possible, tell her we still had one more talus field. Ā There was a very sad look on her face. I think she found some solace in the fact that it is the easiest & smallest one of the trip. We had an amazing, beautiful weekend in the Talkeetnas!

Blue skies, nice Pow….a few recent excursions

21 02 2013

Winter inĀ AK started off slowly…early season conditions and a terrible snowpack plagued us till January. To top it off, I took a bad jump in flat light and injured my foot, so I’ve been on gimp status for most of Jan/Feb šŸ˜¦

Pre-gimp skiing @ Hatcher’s with Dan.hatchersĀ Eva.eva

Ā Dan skiing above the cloudsĀ on Marmot.dan marmot

skin b & w


Went snowmachining at -13F in Hatcher’s with a fellow gimp,Ā the Pirate, while I was gimpy too. Probably not what the doctor ordered, but I couldn’t resist and the powder was amazing…..IMG_6696pirate smallĀ IMG_6872-pirate smallĀ IMG_6887-pirate small

I finally made it back to skiing afterĀ 5 weeks off! Blower snow above 1000 ft. at Pete’s North. It was fabulous-until I fell and re-injured my foot.Ā šŸ˜¦ Back on gimp status.

Jon getting after it at as the sunĀ just crests Pete’s South.IMG_7227-small

Skiing at Hatcher’s Pass

14 03 2012

We decided to switch things up a bit and head to Hatcher’s Pass to get someĀ touring in. I usually only head up there early in theĀ season, and was excited to find nice light powder, a few untracked lines,Ā and good stability.

The crew.

Lee getting after it.

Jon making some turns.

MichelleĀ aka Skittles.

Jon on the uptrack.

Kasey and Ryan.

Kasey dropping a knee.

Another beautiful day in the Talkeetnas. One of many spectacular views.

Michelle about to drop in on the sweetest, untrackedĀ long line.

Kasey wrapping up a great line and a beautiful weekend.

R.I.P. the Lane Glacier

13 10 2011

The Lane glacier is dead. Well, almost. We headed up there last weekend for some early season fresh pow (it used to be THE place to go skiĀ in September.) We figured, certainly a week into October there should be something decent.

Dan, Parker, Cosmo, Chad, and Jon on the hike in.

What we found was the Fast and Slow Lanes no longer connect. The Fast Lane is very short. The boulder field to get there always sucked, now it seems 4x as long as the glacier has receded, and you have to travel up the valley a lot farther to reach skinable/skiable terrain.

A look back partway up the talus field. We used to be able to skin through this area.

Hiking over boulders with 4 inches of snow is always a little challenging-although it’s better than the last time I went 3 years ago and there was 8 inches….although then you could ski all the way down to the boulder field above the Lane hut.

More boulders. Chad and Boone negotiating the endless field of talus with the Fast Lane above them.

We checked out the Fast Lane first. We didn’t end up skiing it-the measly four inches of snow was not bonded at all to the glare ice underneath. Boone, Chad, and Cosmo hiked up and over, meeting the rest of us at the Slow Lane. Dan and I decided not to join them when we saw Cosmo lose his footing and slide halfway down the icefield.

Boone hiking up the Fast Lane.

Chad on the Slow Lane.


Boone skiing what he called “loud powder”- four inches of snow on top of glare ice.

Our tracks on what’s left ofĀ the Slow Lane.

Boone, Chad, and Cosmo on the trek out.

The Bomber Traverse-My Birthday Backpacking Trip!

1 09 2011

The Bomber traverse has been a trip on my list for years and I figured the bestĀ way to spend my birthday weekend was with good friends onĀ anĀ awesome 18 mileĀ backpacking trip in the Talkeetnas! The B-29 Bomber crashed on a glacier (now known as Bomber Glacier)Ā in the Talkeetna MountainsĀ in November of 1957. There wereĀ four survivors, and six people perished in the crash. At the bottom of this blogĀ I’ve included an interview with Calvin Campbell, one of the survivors and hero of the crash, that I found online. The traverse starts at Gold Mint trailhead in Hatcher’s Pass, heading 8 miles to the Mint Hut.

We started in some sprinkling rain that broke to blue skies and sunshine when we got to the hut. Sabrina hiking in.

Laura and I havingĀ a Toyota moment šŸ™‚

The Mint Hut.

The mountains above the hut. Backdoor Gap is to the right of the peak in the middle.

From the hut you climb aĀ boulder field to Backdoor Gap (5715 ft above sea level),Ā then descend down to the Penny Royal Glacier.

Sabrina headed approaching Backdoor Gap. ThereĀ are dozens and dozens ofĀ beautiful, turquoise alpine lakes littered throughout Hatcher’s Pass.

The crew at Backdoor Gap. Kasey, Laura-our token Canadian :), Sabrina, and Dan. I figured Dan is either very lucky or not so smart to go backpacking with four girls. After the trip, he said the jury is still out šŸ™‚

The Penny Royal Glacier. We were treated to perfect views of Denali.

There is no shortage of talus fields in Hatcher’s Pass. Sabrina descending one of many.

Kasey and the bomber. Airplane parts are strewn across the glacier, but this is the main wreckage.

Laura on theĀ 2000 ft descentĀ down from Bomber Pass to Upper Reed Lake.

Sabrina hiking out at Upper Reed Lake. By the time we got to the lake, low clouds had rolled in, obscuring the pass. By the time we hit Lower Reed Lake it was raining cats and dogs with a little bit of hail. 30 minutes later, it wasĀ clear skiesĀ again. Got to love Alaska.

18 miles, 2 mountain passes, and 5,000 vertical feet later we finished the traverse. The best birthday weekend!

Here is the story behind the bomber. It was originally a radio interview on September 14, 2000 on local radio station Ā KLEF 98.1 FM.

Heroism High in the Talkeetnas

Good evening. Hereā€™s a compelling story from yesteryear about bravery and heroism high in the Talkeetna Mountains, near Hatcher’s Pass.

On November 15, 1957, about 6:30 p.m., a B-29 bomber from Elmendorf Air Force Base with a crew of 10 was returning to base after a radar-calibrating mission farther north. Weather had deteriorated and the ceiling had dropped to below 4,000 feet as they made their way south past Talkeetna. A routine radio report from the aircraft reported no problems. The plane was scheduled to arrive at Elmendorf at 7 p.m.

Staff Sergeant Calvin Campbell, then 34, was assigned to the right scanner position, about mid-point in the aircraft behind the engines. One of his tasks was to monitor the two engines on the right side. Staff Sergeant Robert McMurray had similar duties on the left side. In the pilot seat was Major Robert Butler.

In a recent telephone interview Campbell, now 77, described what happened next

ā€œWe were descending toward Elmendorf at good speed, when we hit real hard with no warning. Everything went blackā€¦I mean real black. Then we hit again and it felt so cold. It felt like the wings tore off and when I crawled out, I saw that the fuselage was broken into two. We were on a snowy fieldā€”I didnā€™t know at the time it was a glacier. It was so quiet.

ā€œMcMurray was right below me, pinned between the fuselage and the observation post. I pulled him out of there. Navigator Lt. Claire Johnson had dragged himself out of the plane and collapsed in the snow nearby. I wrapped them both in parachutes and put Johnson in a sleeping bag that I found in the cargo hold.

ā€œI could hear Sgt. Garza, the flight engineer, yelling from farther up the slope. He was still inside the nose section. It had sheared off and gone up the hill about 500 feet.ā€

ā€œWhen I got up to Garza I soon realized he was the only other survivorā€”it was just the four of us. The pilot, Major Robert A. Butler and the five other officers had all perished. Garza weighed about 140 lbsā€¦it was hard pulling him out. I placed him on a piece of canvas and dragged him down to the others. He had a broken arm and broken leg. I went back to the cargo hold and got more sleeping bags and then got us into the wreckage out of the windā€”it felt very cold, but I had extra flight clothing to help cover us up.ā€

Air Rescue at Elmendorf began its helicopter search at daybreak the following morning, zeroing in on the B-29ā€™s last known position. By 9:30 they found the crash siteā€”on a broad glacial slope at fifty three hundred feet ā€”about a mile northeast of upper Reed Lake. Thanks to Campbellā€™s decisive actions, the injured men survived the night. They were taken to the hospital at Elmendorf.

ā€œI think we were about 17 degrees off course.ā€ Campbell says. ā€œToo far to the eastā€”put us right into those high mountains.ā€

Campbell said that except for a scratch over his eye, he was unharmed. He later would suffer complications from frostbitten feet, however, and lose the use of several toes.

Calvin K. Campbell received a special commendation from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Soldierā€™s Medal, a decoration for valor in a non-combat situation. He retired from the Air Force in 1968.

ā€œI didnā€™t feel like a hero or anything,ā€ says Campbell. ā€œI just did what I had to do. ā€œThe other guys would have done the same thing for me.ā€

Today, the broken bomber sits on the glacier as a quiet memorial to the six men who died there 43 years ago.

XC skiing Hatcher’s Pass with Leanne, Backcountry skiing Sunburst with Dan

15 11 2010

The weather in Hatcher’s was warm and sunny for our xc ski at Independence Mine. There was less snow coverage than usual this time of year-about 1-2 inches near the parking lot andĀ 6 inches or so up at Independence Mine, andĀ 8 inches at Gold Cord Mine.

Old mining buildings at Independence Mine.

View above Independence Mine.

Leanne skiing down from Gold Cord Mine.

We headed southĀ to Turnagain Pass to ski Sunburst last Saturday… did half of Anchorage.Ā  Luckily, we got there early and were ahead of most of the crew.Ā  Conditions were interesting……It had been warm and wetĀ the few days prior and froze friday night. It had also been windy at the top which crusted up the fresh powder.Ā  Mid mountain the skiing was the best-no/little wind crust and decent snow, then the torture of the bottom.Ā  The bottom was a mess-ice crust, alders not completely covered, but,Ā anchored to catch your ski tips-a chunked up concrete mess.Ā  Luckily, we made it down without any injuries.

Dan headed down.

Some of the wind crusty chunks flying.

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