The Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic is, by most standards, a significant physical and mental challenge. Since I first became aware of the Wilderness Classic it has challenged me more than anything else to attain the skill set needed to successfully complete this race. My Midwestern agricultural background educated me about how to read a soil sample and how to calibrate a corn planter but I never knew what a climbing skin was and had never touched a crampon.
Two years ago Ed and I competed in our first Classic in the Wrangell Mountains. Prior to that the only real information I had came from Daily News Miner articles and from a few conversations with friends that had competed in the event. The 2008 Classic in the Wrangell Mountains was a great experience and afforded us the experience to prepare more adequately for the 2010 Classic. This year’s race started and ended at the same point that the race did four years ago but this traverse was longer and allowed the competitors more route choices. There was a checkpoint about 80 miles into the race at the Native Village of Aniktuvik Pass. This year I was fortunate to be a part of a four man team of friends. We have all skied and trained together for a handful of years and have the unique luxury of knowing that we all travel at a similar pace and really like spending a lot of time together in the backcountry. This race was much different than the route through the Wrangell’s but the challenge was just as significant. The unbelievable Glaciers and huge mountains that created an awe inspiring traverse in the Wrangell/St. Elias National Park were replaced by night skies filled with dancing northern lights while wolves howled in the naked mountain valley. We had spectacular views of the actual Gates of the Artic that Bob Marshall named during his early travels into the arctic on the Koyukuk River. In a nut shell this race was filled with challenges and fun, but most importantly it was filled with a week of enjoying the freedom of the hills and the spirit of the Classic!
Many of these images were taken by Ed Plumb or John Shook.
This is a series of pictures taken while we climbed Peregrine Pass. It proved to be the most difficult part of the race for me, but we enjoyed the short time we spent up high.
John skis down into the Valley of the Precipices. We had a blast ripping though the 3% grade and the twisting icy creek.
We saw thousands of ptarmigan throughout the race. It was pretty awesome to see the huge coveys moving across the south slopes enjoying the open tundra after the long winter.
Four happy campers just skied into Wiseman after a tough twenty hour push; we covered about fifty miles to reach the finish and grabbed a quick self portrait to put an end the 2010 Classic. 5:30 A.M.
A member of the winning team, Luc Mehl created a fun video that gives a great feel for the Classic. That video can be viewed through the link below: