Climbing Tram Rock

Start at the bronze moose behind the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood and walk 200 paces east, across the wildflowers and disc golf course, until you reach the forest.  Follow the treeline 30 paces up the mountain and turn left down an unmarked footpath.  Follow the path 100 paces through a blueberry patch and the trail ends at tram rock.

No shit.  That’s how you get there.

Sounds easy enough, but good luck finding those directions online.  Throughout the summer I’ve heard murmurs of tram rock.  So-and-so just climbed such-and-such a crack, but when asked about its exact location, the story gets a little rocky.  It’s just over there by the resort.

The elusive tram rock has been on my radar for quite some time.  As a repelling guide this summer, my objects of study have been ropes and knots, and with a garage of climbing gear just up the hill, I’ve been eager to find somewhere in town to climb.  Most of the rocks that make up the Chugach Mountains are greywacke, a rock that breaks easily and makes climbing precarious.  Tram rock is solid and offers a feast of tasty routes to choose from.

As he so often does, Andy eventually showed us the way.  Since our initial visit I’ve returned and embraced the role as head knot tier.  Aside from the obvious appeal of rock climbing — a relaxing outdoor sport that challenges one’s focus, flexibility and determination — I find the responsibility of leading a climb, and the grave exactness it requires, to be positively electric.

The climbing style we do at tram rock is called top-roping — meaning we hike to the top of the rock and set an anchor, which holds the middle of the rope, allowing both ends to reach the ground in a reserve “U” shape.  One end of the rope is tied to the climber using a double figure eight knot, the other end is managed by the belayer, who pulls slack through a friction device in order to keep the rope taut as the other person climbs.

To me, climbing is meditation.  Even though I’m attached to a rope, there’s always an element of danger, a feeling that floats around my conscious and demands full concentration on the task at hand.  The only thing that matters is the next hold — everything else just fades away.

We recently climbed with our buddy Shoman and Jess took these pics.

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