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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! on: June 29, 2009, 12:13:02 PM
Eric


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« on: June 29, 2009, 12:13:02 PM »

ha ha..
Last year- Fat tires and beaches
This year - Light bikes and Big mountains!
Established mountain biking trails and even dirt roads in Alaska are limited at best. Creativity is needed to fully come to terms with using a mountain bike as a form of travel in the great land. Not just riding.. but travel, movement through a landscape. No roads, no established trails.
here we go.

The Wrangell Mountains are the western mountains that form the gigantic backbone of peaks making up the Wrangell - St.Elias Range. From the western edge of Mt. Sanford the range is so massive and glaciated, it is a literal sea stretching hundreds of miles past Mt. Logan into Canada and forming the coast range of British Columbia. Amidst the hulking glaciated peaks however, there is one small weakness. The Nabesna to McCarthy Route, which sneaks through passes and around glaciers and canyons to create the only non-glaciated north-south route for hundreds of miles. This 150 ish mile route had been established sometime in the 20's when gold was discovered at Chisana - about half way and was used for years by hardy prospectors and horse trains. In modern times, this route has been used in the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic race.  Bikes? why not.

After 300 miles of driving from Anchorage, finally starting out at 6:00 pm with 5 days of food anxious to get moving.


A quick ride down an ATV trail brought us to Little Jack Creek.


Lets go packrafting! Little Jack was a fun creek, but the whole time we were watching clouds from Mordor circle...


After 2 hours we headed straight into the black, and the confluence with the Enormous Nabesna River. The contrast was sever, going from a mellow fresh water creek to a heavily silted glacier fed river roaring at flood stage.


We passed through the rain at our take out at the entrance to the gravel wash of Cooper creek. I was already really glad I brought the extra weight of drysuit.


Heading inland away from the river - we were stoked to finally be biking in the evening hours.


We both started to fall asleep so we stopped around 11:30 and fired up. The next morning was beautiful and we were psyched to get moving.


Heading up Cooper Creek - lots of bashing through Cobbles. We would take this drainage up and over its very top...


The hours ticked by and the canyon grew deeper and the cobbles bigger. The pushing began in earnst.


In winter this creek is wall to wall solid ice, so even in Mid June there is still allot left increasing the "gnar" factor quite a bit.


Leaving Cooper Creek behind and entering the alpine. Finally tundra..


From the pass we could ride again at last, but there was lots of unstable weather in the Notch Creek Valley.


Big mountains..


Arriving at Notch Creek, we decided to try packrafting it, but this was stupid, It was not good. Dylan ended up putting a hole in his boat and I severely bruised my left  butt cheek.


Picking up the pieces, we kept riding down Notch Creek, finding it to be pretty good for the most part for biking.


Sleep and food at last... could not ask for a nicer spot.


What's for breakfast? This is what happens when you just throw another stick of butter in the food bag for good measure. Butter coated goodness everywhere!


The morning brought sunshine and we got back to riding pretty quick after patching up Dylan's boat, Good gravel and not too many big cobbles.


Notch Creek was inviting though, so we blew up the boats and jumped in it again for a good float until it got really braided and shallow near Cross Creek.


From here we traveled inland, picking up a horse trail that short cutted over to the Chisana River. It was strange to see signs of humans again, some parts of the trail were marked with old steel traps. The trail was ridable a bit, but quickly turned to a muddy and buggy slog.



Reaching the Chisana River, the first channel was big so we had to blow up the boats and do a "lazy" crossing.


Keeping the boats inflated in case another big channel came up, big country..


Then things got interesting, as the entire east side of the river plain was still solid ice - well ice slush actually. Feet were not too happy here.


Finally we were back on solid ground and moving up the Chisana River. The settlement of Chisana is still active with about 10 people living year round with only bush plane access. A few hunting guide outfits also run out of there. We saw what looked like a target range from the river and followed that to an ATV trail and the next thing we knew were were in the back yard of a big cabin complex and greeted by John, one of the guys that works for Pioneer Outfitters. It was a bit of a shock to go from stark solitude to having people around. They invited us for dinner which we accepted (of course) Moose Stroganof and fresh watermelon !? I was feeling pretty claustrophobic and although invited to spend the night (and eat pancakes and moose steak for breakfast) we headed out, hoping to get an early start the next morning.  Riding into the Chisana town site however, our extremely full bellies took the better of us and we stayed in a public use cabin.


Leaving Chisana we got on Geohenda Creek, another creek which we would take up into the Alpine.


After a few hours of riding, we began the push again up the cobbles. We were wishing for slightly lower gearing on our bikes because we probably could have kept riding a bit.


Off the river, we picked up a caribou trail which was pretty sweet singletrack riding for a ways.




Trail builders...


all was well until I double flatted in the rain. So I walked on to the Solo Mountain Cabin.


The Solo mountain Cabin was built in the 20's for use as a shelter cabin for gold prospectors. The trails leading to and from it are long gone, but it has been maintained through the years and has significant historic value. It was a welcome reprieve from the cold rain. I got my tubes patched, a black wolf trotted past the open window... we sacked out...
Something happened though in the middle of the night, the sound of the rain on the cabin roof stopped. uhmmm must be getting nice out right?


nope!

3-4" of heavy wet snow/sleat had accumulated. Dylan and I mentally prepared for the worst and began the slog over to the White River valley.


Navigation was still pretty straight forewords -stay high and avoid the brush. This was my low point of the trip for sure, numb feet and slush packing up on the wheels kept locking up the bike.


Enter the bushwack. We got totally soaked going through this stuff.




Onward down to the Expanse of the White River Valley, the weather started to clear, and with it so did our morale. The White River is the main valley that the Snout of the Russel glacier feeds into - Enormous! The next crux would be to skirt the Glacier's edge and go through Skolai pass - something we did not want to do after coming out from the snow. But in time, the weather broke... and we entered The Throne Room.


I was inspired here by the title of Galen Rowell's book "In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods" the title was a fitting description to this place. I was simply floored.








With the awesome weather, we were psyched to pull a long night and get over Skolai pass. We stopped to fuel up before leaving all the wood behind. Little did we also know that this would really be the last biking we would do until the 10 mile road into McCarthy in 2 days...


Starting the Skolai Push, we basically skirt the right side of the glacier, just left of the big peak on the right side.


We Joked that we might get attacked by Afgan Rebels here...




Lots and lots of this:


It was an amazing night, although hard work, we simply felt lucky to be here and gawked at the view every chance we had.


16,400' Mt. Bona came into view, the highest peak in the Wrangells.


In 2003 I hauled my butt up there and snapped this photo looking down the opposite way, the pass we were working through is on the lower right.



Onward, finally over the pass and working our way around Skolai lake.


we are nothing here...


Completely thrashed we crashed out in View of the next big hump - getting up and over Chititstone pass. From the pass we would head down the valley, skirt Chititstone gorge on "The Goat Trail" then Float the Chititstone and Nizina Rivers to finish it. We woke up to unstable weather and lots of snow looming above.


Working our way up the steep slippery tundra.


Trying to avoid body-holing in the rotten snow.

Topping out Chititsone pass we gave it a big old "F-U" and continued on.


Leaving the snow behind, we got our first tastes of an actual trail and a view of the gorge coming up.


Starting out on The Goat Trail - I was thinking we were going to able to ride parts of this - I could not have been any more wrong...




Mountain Goats make goat trails - not bike trails!




The path was ever so faint. It would cross the steep eroded gully's, then vanish on the tundra benches. We spent a bit of time route finding, but pretty much 100% of the time - it meant climbing up. The blowing sleat did not help any...




We stripped everything off both our bikes and turned them into 20 lb barbells.


The gully crossings got more and more serious, we were both really on edge when we saw this one from a distance. Kinda a "don't tell mom" sort of thing.


With the worst behind us, we worked our way down tundra benches to get down to the Chititstone river. The valley we came down is to the left.


A long day was ended with a stout bushwack to cliff out. We spent about 2 hrs bashing around before linking scree slopes to get finally "off"...




Waking up to a good morning before floating out the Chititstone. Polished off the last of our food and got moving.


The river is border line class 3 for its upper stretches. So decided to walk down stream a ways. After about 45 minutes of going through more brush we quickly felt "done" and got in the boats- Rapids or no rapids..

no photos from here on - splashy whitewater and one cold Dylan was then name of the game for a few hours. We built a few fires on the way out.. I was again glad I carried a drysuit.
Once we met the Nizina River it was smooth Sailing on the big one, then 10 miles of Dirt road riding to Finish in McCarthy.

I'll end this here. Its rare that a trip can have such a profound effect. During this adventure it felt a little like going through the motions and moving on through. Reflection hit me like a brick wall on the Glenn Highway after we shuttled to my truck for the drive back home. Randomly listening to "Hard Sun" by Eddie Vedder, I just broke down, in the best way possible... feeling so rich in life and encompassed in the shear beauty of this world cranked up to 11.

Go big.


« Last Edit: July 01, 2009, 11:02:32 AM by Eric » Logged

  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #1 on: June 29, 2009, 01:04:13 PM
DiDaDunlop


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« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2009, 01:04:13 PM »

WOW
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #2 on: June 29, 2009, 04:33:54 PM
ScottM
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« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2009, 04:33:54 PM »

Holy crap you guys are pushing the limits of bike travel, yet again.

Keep up the good work.  Some fantastic shots in there!
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #3 on: June 29, 2009, 06:35:38 PM
DaveC


Location: Kalispell, MT
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« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2009, 06:35:38 PM »

JESUS




T




Christo.




How often did DK wish he had a brake?

 headbang headbang sad2

Also, is that the AMWC route, more or less?

And why doesn't that mofo have a DECK on his boat?! 
« Last Edit: June 29, 2009, 07:24:13 PM by DaveC » Logged

  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #4 on: June 29, 2009, 08:47:44 PM
Eric


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« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2009, 08:47:44 PM »

Dave,
Dylan's bike was a fixie with an ENO hub, we rode very little downhill so it was no biggie. But I was glad to have mine with a freewheel.
no-deck? he'll have to chime in for that Smiley  
Yes AMWC route, unless you're Chuck Comstock..
I'll do it again in a heartbeat sans bicycle.
Scott - how do you embed vimeo on here? I could not get it to work.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2009, 11:21:04 PM by Eric » Logged

  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #5 on: June 30, 2009, 10:52:31 PM
MikeC


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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2009, 10:52:31 PM »

Walked the goat trail?  Bothered by a little snow?  Walked the upper Chitistone?

Coupla effin pus$ies...  icon_biggrin

Amazing just to have thought it up, but to have someone else that thinks it's a good idea, to both be competent and confident enough, and *then* to actually go out and do it?

Outta this world, gents.  Top effin' notch, double A plus plus, and a few harumphs thrown in for good measure.

You *almost* had me interested--right up until the bushwhack...

Would y'alls Pugs' have made much difference in rideability of the cobbles, or was it just a non-bike route period?

MC
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #6 on: July 01, 2009, 02:07:33 PM
Carney


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« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2009, 02:07:33 PM »

Awesome - just awesome!  thumbsup
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #7 on: July 01, 2009, 03:05:07 PM
Chad B
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« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2009, 03:05:07 PM »

Speechless, I am speechless.  Great adventure and thanks for sharing it.
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #8 on: July 01, 2009, 04:40:31 PM
Moondoggy


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« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2009, 04:40:31 PM »

Awesome! Again
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #9 on: July 03, 2009, 05:14:36 AM
abu lang


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« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2009, 05:14:36 AM »

Ditto all the above. There's really not other expression for 'wow' that hasn't been said.

Can I ask: what was your gearing? looks something like 30: 18 but really can't tell.
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #10 on: July 03, 2009, 11:24:12 AM
Eric


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« Reply #10 on: July 03, 2009, 11:24:12 AM »

gearing on my 29er was 30-20, Dylan's 26" had 32-20.
Both were a bit too high.

Pugs would have been too heavy to push, carry and throw.

Thanks guys, it was fun.
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #11 on: July 03, 2009, 07:58:59 PM
timroz


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« Reply #11 on: July 03, 2009, 07:58:59 PM »

You're wasting your time with that instead of building my pogies?
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #12 on: July 04, 2009, 10:37:25 AM
duggaboy


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« Reply #12 on: July 04, 2009, 10:37:25 AM »

What an incredible trip.

What's next? Riding on glaciers or across the frozen Arctic?
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #13 on: July 10, 2009, 10:06:00 AM
Eric


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« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2009, 10:06:00 AM »

Stop thinking about winter Tim...
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #14 on: July 10, 2009, 10:26:24 AM
Slowerthensnot

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« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2009, 10:26:24 AM »

WOW!
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #15 on: July 12, 2009, 06:47:48 PM
duggaboy


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« Reply #15 on: July 12, 2009, 06:47:48 PM »

How'd you get the idea? Are you the first to do anything like this? Seems like something nobody else would wanna do!
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #16 on: July 12, 2009, 09:13:30 PM
Eric


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« Reply #16 on: July 12, 2009, 09:13:30 PM »

Immense inspiration goes to Roman Dial, Carl Tobin, Paul Adkins, Jon Underwood and a few others. They were the first to pioneer wilderness "Hell biking" in the late 80's and cummulated in the mid 90's with a complete traverse (about 800 miles) of the Alaska Range (National Geographic May 97')

This trip or some variation thereof was first done by Dial, Tobin and Underwood in 88' as evidence was found in the Solo Mountain cabin...


... following in the footsteps a bit and bringing it back to life again with a fresh set of eyes or something like that.

We discovered gravel bar river biking last year on a trip in Denali National park, so we learned a bit there and came back with fatter tires and rims on this one.


« Last Edit: July 13, 2009, 10:35:27 AM by Eric » Logged

  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #17 on: July 31, 2009, 03:44:15 PM
REV


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« Reply #17 on: July 31, 2009, 03:44:15 PM »

Simply put and understated.. that's just incredible
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  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #18 on: April 28, 2010, 02:54:28 AM
erwin.zeez


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« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2010, 02:54:28 AM »

Speechless, I am speechless.  Great adventure and thanks for sharing it.
yes indeed 100% agreed
totall speechless
i m thinking of going to such adventure tour 
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ERwin

  Topic Name: Extreme Nature Biking - Wrangell Mountains Traverse! Reply #19 on: April 28, 2010, 09:14:14 AM
DaveC


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« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2010, 09:14:14 AM »

Still the best TR ever.

 headbang
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