Through my working relationship with CAMP/CASSIN, the company that builds the gear I choose for climbing rock and ice in the alpine, I had the opportunity to fly up to the famed "Valdez Ice Festival" to connect with the climbing community. I was given the opportunity to teach all-day "fast and light alpinism" clinics to two separate groups of passionate climbers. Too much fun! The best part about getting to do such things is the people I get to meet, and I couldn't have been more stoked! Also, Valdez has been a place I've always wanted to visit. Even though I'd climbed several seasons in the Alaska Range, I'd not yet been to this place that apparently held renowned roadside 500-foot frozen waterfalls!
When I landed in Anchorage, I hooked up with a couple of legends, Conrad Anker and Andres Marin. They both represented The North Face and were also there to teach clinics, and I couldn't have imagined two better dudes to make the five-hour drive to Valdez with. We basically laughed our way from the busy streets of Anchorage toward Prince William Sound. As we dropped down the pass to town, we saw our first glimpses of what were indeed huge ice routes that were literally spitting distance from the road. It was going to be a stellar weekend! Being that we arrived one day early to have a look, Andres, Conrad and I jumped at the chance to get out for a quick jaunt on the classic Bridalveil Falls. We continued the theme and basically laughed, hooted and hollered our way up what would end up being around 600 feet of high quality ice climbing!
The organizers of Mountain Film were there the first night of the festival to share the epic imagery and short films on tour. Each film was an inspiration to the audience, and everyone left the theater with a new sense of motivation for life because of the inspiring story telling on the big screen. There was definitely a sense of community and excitement for the rest of the weekend!
Fellow CAMP/CASSIN athlete Katie Bono was there to teach both women's ice climbing clinics and fast and light alpinism. She is an uber-badass athlete and a super solid human being. I felt really lucky to get to team up with her for an all-day clinic, and doing so made the day on the ice as good as it gets. One of the cooler people I've met, I hope to get to climb with her again somewhere around the world!! It was fun to pass on the little things we have learned over the years that help us to be more efficient on routes in the mountains.
On Saturday evening we all got to check out a slideshow presented by Conrad that spanned both some interesting Alaska climbing history all the way to his most recent and hugely successful trip with other North Face athletes to Antarctica. It was inspiring, for sure, and even allowed some really interesting discussion about critical topics like climate change and environmental responsibility. A bit of a surprise was when Andres, who was a percussion major in school, sat at the drum set and basically rocked the house with some serious beats!! Andres is clearly a talented dude!
After the clinics were done, the heart and organizer of the Valdez Ice Festival, Lee Hart, managed to get us on a chartered boat to reach out across Prince William Sound to look for the possibility for unclimbed ice! Adidas athlete Marcus Garcia and I couldn't believe our luck! We teamed up with pro photographer Seth Adams at first light and loaded up with Josh at Valdez Water Taxi. Once across the bay, we quickly saw a few gems that were calling our names! Because of the tides, we only had so much time time to work with, so we had to choose the route that inspired us most. We landed on a rock and black sand beach under what looked like three pitches of steep ice. It was a super unique environment for climbing ice with the sound behind and the snowy Alaskan peaks surrounding us! So beautiful!!
We soloed the first pitch, and then the ice reared up into the business. It was more thought-provoking than it looked from below, which was a pleasant surprise, and we had a blast working our way to the top of the route that we would end up naming The Raven. After an epic day in the mountains, it's always easy to see why climbers can pretty easily become fast friends. Trading leads with Marcus had me stoked for more adventures with him in the future!
Huge thanks to Lee Hart, Brian Teal, and the entire team who made the Valdez Ice Festival possible: Emma Longcope from the AAC, Seth Adams, Marcus Garcia, Conrad Anker, Andres Marin, Katie Bono, Josh at Valdez Water Taxi, CAMP (for sending me up there), and all the amazing climbers who showed up to make the festival memorable! You are amazing, and I couldn't be more grateful to have had the opportunity to share the beauty of the mountains with you!!
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