Climbing Mount Alyeska
I’ve read that some bear attacks happen so fast, even the most avid outdoorsman are caught defenseless against the sudden and explosive attack. Saturday we experienced a surprise attack of the mechanical variety when, without warning, the subie broke down on the highway to Seward. One minute eff yeahs, the next minute eff bombs. A spark plug blew out of the engine, leaving us marooned on the Kenai Peninsula without cell service.
Command Z! Command Z! Photoshoppers know what’s up.
One hour later, with his superhero cape flapping in the wind, boss extraordinaire Andy Morrison arrived on scene and attempted a roadside fix. The plug was wrenched back in and our fingers were crossed that the blowout was caused by careless installation and not something more serious.
Call it divine intervention or just plain bad luck, but 20 miles down the road and POW! the plug blew out again. This time Andy was long gone, and having already redeemed all my friendship points with him, we sucked it up and walked two miles to Summit Lake Lodge, where we called a tow truck and killed time with strawberry rhubarb pie. Turns out the GEICO emergency roadside assistance plan I purchased for $15 a year covered the 50-mile tow back to Girdwood, and we returned home in the cab of a flat bed truck.
Since our plan that day was to hike the formidable Harding Icefield Trail, we decided to attempt a local climb that has loomed over us since day one. Mount Alyeska is the largest ski mountain in Alaska, and home to Alyeska Resort, Girdwood’s largest employer and main economic engine. Among Girdwood’s picturesque mountains, Mount Alyeska is the focal point, and ground zero for year-round outdoor activities in southeast Alaska. One popular summer activity is climbing the North Face Trail. The trail starts behind the resort and switchbacks a couple miles up the mountain to the upper tram terminal. Due to snow and ice, the trail doesn’t open til mid-Summer. But summit-hungry and jacked up on spark plug fury, Jess and I took off up the mountain under Chair 4 and blazed our way through the forest, alders, streams and snow to reach the top.
GAHHH! A shaved bear!!!
Two hours of huff-and-puff climbing and we reached the upper tram terminal, end of the line for passengers riding the Alyeska Aerial Tram, a living room-sized people mover that stretches 2,300′ up the mountain. Connected to the tram terminal is the AAA Four Diamond award winning mountain-top restaurant Seven Glaciers. Despite looking like a couple of bushwhackers we popped in for a drink. Like everywhere else in Alaska, the view was remarkable. After a couple hot toddys from the bar we hopped on the tram and glided back down the mountain.