Alaska Excursions

Alaska Excursions

A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.

Iditarod 41

Photos and stories from the last great race.

Anchorage: 37°/54°/Cloudy

Fairbanks: 30°/52°/Partly sunny

Juneau: 36°/56°/Showers

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New hut on Snowbird Glacier has great views, insulation

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Live video: Brown bear and salmon

Watch live video from Katmai National Park of brown bear fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls.

Riders in the Sky

Greenery rushes by on all sides. You’re dancing in the sky to the tune of wheels whirring along the cable.

Focal Point: Skiing across Portage Lake by moonlight

It's a rite of spring for many Anchorage skiers: a trip across Portage Lake to the glacier face. It can be a crowded place on a bluebird weekend, so photographer Marc Lester set out to experience it in a different way: He skied out all alone at night.

Bird Treatment and Learning Center hold open house

Petra is a bald eagle that has been with Bird TLC since 1995. Bird Treatment and Learning Center invited the public to visit and learn about bald and golden eagles at its Save the Eagles event on Saturday, January 12, 2013.

Bird Treatment and Learning Center invited the public to visit and learn about bald and golden eagles at its Save the Eagles event on Saturday, January 12, 2013.

A Butte-Palmer tour

Vapor rises and overflow freezes in this view of the Matanuska River on Wednesday. Take a photographic tour along the Glenn and Old Glenn highways in the Valley on a clear, cold day at the Focal Point photo blog.

Aerials from Birchwood to the Alaska Range

Photos: A Day along Turnagain Arm

Two new ziplines open in Southcentral Alaska

SeaLife Center treats orphaned walrus calf

Webcams make Alaska bears more accessible

Painter brings odd Alaska dinosaur to life

Bear attracts audience during marathon swim

Baby Dall sheep finds home at Alaska Zoo

Birds of Southcentral Alaska

Birds of Spring 2012

Spring babies out and about at Palmer farm

A winter's day on Westchester Lagoon in Anchorage

Valdez digs out from world class snowfall

Alaska's attractions lure visitors even in winter

Cold weather equals safe travel for great ice fishing

Christmas 2011

New scanners debut at Anchorage airport

Alyeska Resort opens

Hilltop Ski Area opens

A summer day in Barrow

Autumn awesome for Northern Lights viewing

Fall Colors

Denali Park prepares for lottery winners

Alaska State Fair, 2011

Record salmon surge thrills Kenai netters

Salmon fishing at Bird Creek

Columbia Glacier Kayaking

Welcome to Talkeetna

Spring can be prime time for a visit to Portage

Begin the season fishing hooligan, king salmon

Outdoor Life names Kodiak 4th best for sportsmen

Preparing for McKinley climbing season

Chugach backcountry network takes stride forward

Popular Anchorage salmon derby will take a year off

Sea lions fly from Europe to Seward

Fewer Prince William Sound shrimp means pot reduction

Photos: U.S. Adaptive Alpine Championships

Photos: 2011 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Skiers hit city trails in 2011 Tour of Anchorage

Day-by-day guide to the 2011 Fur Rendezvous

Reality TV invades Alaska

Recent weather makes for ideal skating

Outdoor enthusiasts make the most of Alaska

Carving out Anchorage's New Year's Eve celebration

Ice climbing along the Turnagain Arm

New hut on Snowbird Glacier has great views, insulation

Birds of prey boost the thrill of the hunt for some

Healing Waters encourages vets to start casting

Potter Marsh's swans

Steelhead in Anchor River a sport fishing boon

There's more to fall than just colorful leaves

Hill on wheels; testing Alyeska's Silvertip Traverse

Anchorage teacher looks to climb 5 treacherous 'teeth'

Surfing the bore tide

Alaska tourism industry sees visitor increase this year

It's free -- but it ain't easy.

Some 4,820 feet above sea level, on the northern edge of Snowbird Glacier, sits the new Snowbird Hut, acquired by the Alaska Section of the American Alpine Club in 2005 and rebuilt over the last two years.

"It'll be the best hut in Alaska," proclaimed backcountry guide Joe Stock of Anchorage. "There are nice thick walls full of insulation. It's perched up on a ridge where the view is incredible."

Want to spend a night?

Just show up; it's free. Admission is the sweat equity of the roughly four-hour hike.

"Back there," said Cindi Squire of the American Alpine Club, "you can't see people. It's an accomplishment to get there, and it's such a cool location that just begs to be explored."

Adds fellow club member Cory Hinds:

"It's just far enough out there, you don't get the beer-drinking weekend crowd."

While the hut's metal roof and sides won't be completed until next summer, the hut -- which comfortably sleeps six and can squeeze in twice that many -- is open now.

The view includes the glacier and a prominent nunatak.

CLIMB AND SKI

Accessible from Archangel Valley in Hatcher Pass, the hut is a year-round destination for backcountry skiers, climbers, and hikers.

Why go?

• Exceptional backcountry, telemark and alpine skiing

• As part of the classic Alaska hut-to-hut trek called the Bomber Traverse, which includes the Mint and Bomber huts

• Rock climbing on nearby Higher Spire and Lower Spire

• Multi-pitch rock routes on granite up the Because It's There Wall and the Independence Buttress

"It's one of those places you'd like to go out there and live," said Squire, who's acquired the title of Hut Mistress from the club for her summer-long work on the hut. "It just keeps getting nicer and nicer."

ROCKY FOUNDATION

Five years ago, the Alaska Section of the American Alpine Club bought the 30-year-old hut.

Long a haven for hikers, climbers and backcountry skiers in an area renown for unpredictable weather, one side of the original structure was collapsing from heavy snowfall.

"The deck is unfinished and rickety," noted the club's website, "and the entire structure shifts and groans when the occupants walk about inside."

Granite boulders weigh down the nine gabions measuring 1 cubic yard apiece that serve as the foundation for the vertical supports.

"Each one of those is 3,700 pounds," Squire said. "All we did for three days during the last work party was chuck rocks in wire mesh boxes."

All together, the gabions hold a dump truck full of material weighing more than 16 tons. Last Frontier Air Ventures in Sutton helicoptered building materials to the site.

"I've been in on every work party," Squire said. "It's amazing what we've got done in the first four or five months.

Avid hiker Michael Thompson, 58, of Rim Architects of Anchorage volunteered his time designing the new structure.

"The existing hut was a prefab unit that . . . didn't make the greatest efficiency of the use of space," he said.

"We were able to incorporate views all the way around the panorama of the new site as well as looking up the glacier. The site is beautiful; it's Alaskana at its best."

In addition to the finishing work next summer, $14,000 of the $40,000 budget remains to be raised. Wednesday's fund-raiser at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub, an 8 p.m. showing of "Beauty and the Beast" featuring bouldering stars Angie Payne and Jason Kehl, will help.

A nicer hut could make the trip even more appealing.

"You're looking out on this fantastic glacier right below you," Hinds said. "And the new hut has even got a better view."


Reach reporter Mike Campbell at mcampbell@adn.com.

Snowbird Hut benefit Wednesday at Bear Tooth Top Lower 48 rock climbers Angie Payne and Jason Kehl will show "Beauty and the Beast," images and describe some of their bouldering exploits worldwide at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub in a benefit for the building fund of the Snowbird Hut. Admission: $10.

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