Monday, December 9, 2013

The Alsek

The Alsek is possibly the BEST class 3 whitewater run in north america, the river cuts through 15,000 foot peaks in two countries.  This trip was supposed to be a family affair with my parents, brother and my girlfriend and her parents.  Unfortunately Christen's mom broke her arm and jaw a month before the trip in a horrible bike wreck and Jim broke his ankle/foot 4 days before his flight.  We all were bummed that Christen's parents and Jim wouldn't be coming but we had a solid group of 10.  All that separated us from the river was a HUGE drive.  I flew back to St. Louis 2 weeks before the trip to help my parents pack and drove 3 rafts+ gear back to durango solo=20 hours.  Christen and I were able to take off work easier than the others (yeah nursing!) and drove 24 hours straight to Calgary, where my parents were waiting.  Upon picking them up my mom declared to Christen " the drive will be easy now, the boys can do the rest", my dad and I drove for another 35 hours across Canada on slower than expected roads.  My grand total time spent in truck was 85 hours (with 65 hours straight), when we made it to Whitehorse I needed a break and a molsen.
A long way

Views along the drive north, most of the time I was either driving or sleeping

Once in whitehorse we met up with the rest of the team and bought provisions for our two week trip down the alsek, we then headed to the put-in at haines junction.  We loaded rafts and headed to haines AK to deal with customs.  Everyone else wanted as much weight in their raft as possible so Christen and I had a light load in our 14 ft 1983 avon adventure bucket boat, I figured if we really needed weight wee could just fill the boat with water.
Our putin on the Dezadeash river

Looking back at the flatwater to begin the trip

It was flat but breath taking

Our first nights camp at serpentine creek

Beautiful flowers

Confluence of the Dezadeash and Kaskawulsh 

My pops cooking some bear bait

Our first few days were great, with amazingly warm temps and little darkness.  On our 3rd day it got COLD and windy.

Camp 2 cold, rainy and windy

Christen making dinner that night

My mentor in paddling, slim. Always having fun and a smile on his face

On Day 4 we encountered our 1st whitewater in the few km above lowell lake.  There were some really fun waves to catch and some big holes to avoid but overall just fun class 3.  It felt great to be back in my boat after taking a month off to recover from an upper back injury from the kings/upper cherry hike.

Getting ice for cocktails

My lovely lady taking in the ice wonderland

Our furry friends

We did a layover at lowell lake and hiked up goatherd mountain to get an amazing views of glacier and 15,000 foot peaks.
Christen, my mom, and I on the accent

Camp looking up at goatherd

Camp looking out on lowell lake

My dad on our lunch stop


This encompasses having a great time with my dad and one of the reasons that I go on these trips

Steve Sandborne on lowell lake

Leaving the lake we paddled the biggest rapids of the trip (excluding turnback) with lava north being the highlight, but mostly just continuous class 3.

Wanted to see more of these guys

Approaching turnback and our heli portage 

Lots of unloading and re rigging

Turnback at 50k or so=way too high

These cool puffballs were everywhere

We had a great few days after the portage down to the confluence of the Tatshenshini 

Beautiful camp at walker glacier, we did a layover here as well

My dad and I on the glacier

Group shot

Bocce ball

We headed down to alsek lake the following day and the weather turned for the first time in a week and we got much colder temps, wind and rain

Fresh tracks

Alsek lake

Gutting salmon at our takeout at drybay

Our shuttle

Coast range

This was one of the most memorable trips I have ever taken, I cannot wait to come back and run turnback at more reasonable flows.  If you ever get the chance to go, do yourself a favor and go for it.