A wide range of trips throughout Southcentral Alaska.
Fairbanks: 41°/65°/Mostly cloudy
Juneau: 41°/68°/Partly cloudy
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 invited the public to visit and learn about bald and golden eagles at its Save the Eagles event on Saturday, January 12, 2013.
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.
A small plane is just one of the many ways to experience the beauty Alaska offers. These are recent photos from a flight along the Susitna River towards the Alaska Range.
The short drive along Turnagain Arm reveals a unique arena for many outdoor activities. The sunsets aren't bad either.
Five helicopters buzzed the air around Mount McKinley on Tuesday, a sign of spring in Talkeetna as sure as blooming daffodils.
All were bound for the big hill. National Park Service staffers were at work putting in camps on North America's tallest peak, the centerpiece of a million-dollar operation that offers support for climbers during the three-month climbing season.
"We had perfect flying weather," said Coley Gentzel, lead mountaineering ranger for the park service, who spent about three hours on the mountain at 7,200 feet, where sunshine made the 15-degree temperature feel warmer than it was.
Already, two teams of mountaineers were working their way up the 20,320-foot peak. Before the season ends in July, hundreds more will join them.
Last year, 55 percent of the 1,223 McKinley climbers reached the summit, and park officials anticipate similar numbers this season. Four perished. Each climber pays a $200 user fee.
Some 7,000 pounds of food and gear were ferried to the camp at 14,200 feet, which was much windier with gusts up to 45 mph. Another 5,000 pounds headed to base camp at 7,200 feet on the east fork of Kahiltna Glacier, the starting point for most McKinley climbs. Plus, 800 gallons of aviation fuel were dropped off.
Three Chinooks and two Black Hawks from the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Wainwright hauled the gear, either inside the choppers or on slings beneath them. Eight park service rangers helped military personnel with unloading.
On Sunday, the first volunteers working base camp will be flown in. Four days later, two mountain rangers and a patrol volunteer will leave for the upper mountain camp.
Lisa Roderick of Talkeetna is set to begin her 12th season managing the base camp at 7,200 feet for the air taxis that shuttle climbers in and out. Her's is the longest stint of anyone in that job.
And all that time on McKinley gives Roderick a perspective on global warming that few share. She's sure the mountain world is warming.
"The glaciers are really starting to deteriorate faster each season," she said. "When you don't get proper snowpack over the glaciers, crevasses start appearing. There are big, giant holes to deal with, and the airplanes don't like that. We actually have to move to a different air strip about a half-mile away.
"Come on up if you don't agree on global warming. Glaciers are melting at an alarming rate each season. Storms aren't packing the same punch, and we don't get those temperatures we used to. Now there are times it's even raining up there, and that totally wrecks everything."
Once set up at 7,200 feet, Roderick immediately gets busy. She prepares the snowy runway for safe landings, offers weather observations to pilots and coordinates pickups when climbers are done.
First, though, she sets up her electronics, including a radio phone powered by solar panels. On it she delivers twice-daily reports to the Fairbanks office of the National Weather Service. The camp at 14,200 feet also provides updates.
The park service operation on Kahiltna Glacier coordinates search and rescue operations, maintains communications with Talkeetna, provides climbers route information and does some clean up.
If 1,200 climbers attempt McKinley, the fees will bring in $240,000 -- about a quarter of the park service's costs for Denali mountaineering operations.
And the growing surge of climbers will bring a shot of spring business to Talkeetna merchants.
"May is definitely defined by bright-colored Euro sportswear, raccoon-eye sun tans and the smell of sweat mixed with sunscreen," noted Marne Gundersickle of The Fairview Inn in Talkeetna. "Climbers are excited to be up here, buzzing with energy -- and they have a different sense of belonging or entitlement than the average tourist.
"Climbers generally want an authentic experience in the community in which they are based out of. It is part of the climb."
And occasionally that yields an interesting mix of far-flung climbers and Talkeetna locals.
"Sometimes," notes Gundersickle, "it's like oil and water when a local is just trying to drink a beer and a climber is drunkenly singing his national anthem at the top of his lungs on the stool next to him. But for the most part there are no problems."
Reach reporter Mike Campbell at email@example.com or 257-4329.
Caught spring fever?
With clear skies, temperatures hitting 50 degrees and snow mostly gone in the lowlands, it's hard to avoid. But lakes are frozen, trails are muddy or snow-covered and fishing really hasn't begun. What do you do to make April feel more like summer than winter? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for a story with ideas in the next couple days.