There is no place in America more rugged, more wild and more breathtakingly beautiful than Alaska. It is the home of our largest mountain, Denali (20,320 ft), the largest land predators (grizzly and polar bears) and the largest tracts of wilderness in the United States. For climbers seeking adventure it has been the end-all be-all for nearly 100 years. Mountaineering and alpine climbing have been almost exclusively the focus, but as bouldering has spread in popularity, it was inevitable that the pebble wrestlers would eventually make their way to the final frontier.
I had visited Alaska previously and on one trip had discovered a valley, near Hatcher Pass, filled with outstanding granite boulders. There seemed no end to the potential, but my motivation was tempered that day by a steady rain. I vowed to return, and this summer, four years after that initial visit, I finally made it back.
I have been very determined recently to find and develop not only new problems, but whole areas. Living here in Colorado, alpine bouldering has always been close to my heart. The now world famous zones like Lincoln Lake, RMNP and Mt. Evans are in my backyard, and every summer I have made the familiar drives time and again to have amazing adventures close to home. I love climbing there, but the idea about finding one of these areas, untouched, in a place like Alaska, kept growing and building in my mind. I wanted to find a new summer bouldering destination. I wanted to do amazing first ascents on boulders no one has ever seen. I wanted open new boulders for other
climbers to enjoy in a wild and majestic setting. I wanted to have the craziest of adventures, doing what I love most, bouldering. Hoping for this and something more, and willing to take a risk, we packed our bags for Anchorage.
Over the course of the next two weeks, we found hundreds of new boulders. The rock was excellent, the scenery was unparalleled, and motivation was high. It's a good thing, because we were stopped several days by a steady rain, once by a grizzly feeding on a carcass, and we were constantly annoyed by the ever-present mosquitoes. It was every bit of adventure I could have hoped for. We put up some awesome problems: Sweet Home Alaska V9, The Outsider V9, Bebe Black Bear V8 among others. We found some incredible projects: The Seam Project, The Bar stool Project, The Muffin Man Project and The Fairangel Arete. The list goes on and on. I put most of my effort into the Fairangel Arete but failed to come away with a send. This is one of the best potential projects in Alaska and it will most likely be the hardest. I also was extremely close to adding a V11 into the start of a classic V10 called Drive By, which I repeated.
The days were long, as the Alaskan summer keeps things light until after midnight. Our shoes were almost always muddy, there existed the unending threat of bears, and attempts were stifled due to the rain.We hiked, we climbed, it rained, we sent, we failed.
The last few days it rained, and our efforts to finish off any of the projects were thwarted. We hiked into a new valley, in the rain and mud, and found even more boulders. We learned so much, about where to go, when to head back, where to hike etc. It was hard to leave Alaska with so many unclimbed boulders. But it will be there, and next summer, so will I.