Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic, 130 miles, 4 days

Josh Mumm and I were shocked to finish first at the Lakina Bridge Thursday morning. I had calculated that Tyler Johnson, Todd Kasteler, and Danny Powers, the guys on the Tebay route, would be a full 24 hours ahead of us, and after not having seen Roman Dial since day one, I assumed he had found a cleaner route and would be waiting for us at the end.

We found Dave Chenault, who had flown out from the Little Bremner with concern about travelling the thick brush alone and an inflamed ankle. Dave told us that the Tebay guys had bailed to Cordova and Team Heavy (Rob Keher, Greg Mills, Matt Reardon) and John Lapkass were flying out that afternoon.

Five hours later we saw Todd Tumolo and Gerard Ganey at the sign in. They had completed the ice route (Wernicke Glacier to Tana River) and were beaming. Travel had been good, despite the 12 inches of fresh snow. Ganey said it was the best trip of his life. I needed to hear that! I thought everyone would be frustrated with my choice for the race this year.

Within the next eight hours Roman completed the Bremner route and John Sykes and Mike Loso completed the ice route. Seven finishers out of fifteen isn’t bad, and the general consensus is to keep the course for the next two years rather than bailing to something easier.

Roman said it was the hardest couse yet. There was a lot of nervous energy at the start; no one knew the best route or if they had brought the right gear. Travel was good until the Bremner brush. Josh Mumm and I travelled 50 miles the first ‘day’ and only 10 the second. At one point we were paddling upstream in the Little Bremner to avoid the brush, walking a gravel bar, crossing to the other side, paddling up eddies when possible. We had expected animal trails but they were faint at best. Much of the forest was choked with fallen spruce. It was often fastest to climb onto the logs and log-walk up slope to other fallen trees. But the consequences of a slip were painful and our shins were bleeding. Rob Keher has some nice scars on his face from a fall.

We considered turning around for a scratch-float to Cordova. The big unknown was whether the travel would get better or not. It had to get better for us to finish with our limited food and fuel. After clearing the worst of the brush around 3 am, we passed a large boulder with an overhang. I said to Josh, “Too bad we aren’t looking for a shelter rock.” He asked, “Are we not looking for a shelter rock?” It had started to rain, so we crawled under the rock and shiver/slept for a few hours watching the rain turn to snow, cooking a meal and hot drinks to keep warm. From there the terrain continued to ease up.

For more details and photos of the trek, check out the original post here.

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I grew up in McGrath, live in Anchorage, teach at Alaska Pacific University, and play outside as often as possible. Anchorage has an incredible group of recreation partners; I feel very lucky to be here. I lean on a huge community of friends for trip and gear advice. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.