Rendezvous Peak, 1/10/2004
Feeling thusual weekend call of the wild, Dick and I reasoned that we should give it a go up Rendezvous Peak from the South Fork trailhead. It wasn't a monumental challenge or anything, but the weather was somewhat foul and our timeframe was somewhat limited by other social responsibilities.
We walked along the trail until we reached the place where the Rendezvous ridge trail deviates from the South Fork trail. Heading abruptly upwards into a gulley, we noted the formation of a few cornices lining the upper parts of the gulley, so we broke our own trail up a kinder-looking windblown ridge. Before long, we reached a point along the southeast ridge between Rendezvous and Triangle. The ridge afforded us a great view of both Ship Valley and the giant peaks of South Fork Valley. Once we attained the ridge, the wind kicked up to a pretty furious pace. The temperature, which was pretty chilly when we were out of the wind, was much dramatized by the howling wind.
Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not complaining about the wind or the cold. I think a mixture of both can make a hike much more fun provided that neither becomes too tremendously extreme. I believe that windchill is something that people bitch about to make themselves sound more impressive to others. There was certainly no windchill inside my kick-ass winter shell coat once I donned it. As the Irish on the often horrifically stormy Dingle Penninsula put it "There isn't such a thing as bad weather, only innappropriate clothing." Too true.
Along the ridgeline the wind had shaped the snow into some very unique cornices, many of which reminded me of a Wylie Coyote cartoon or a Dr. Suess illustration. Somewhere along the ridge, the clouds broke and the sun came out. With the sun came an increase in the wind, and it began to carry shards of hardened snow and ice crystals in stinging, blinding, skin-burning waves. I put on a really nifty face mask I had bought at a military surplus store, and protected my peepers with a pair of very debonair goggles.
After passing over a few smaller points along the ridge, we finally broke over a rise to see the Arctic Valley weather station overwhelmed by a constant storm of spindrift, illuminated in the sun to look like some sort of eery fire and smoke. A few hundred feet later, we were standing on the summit taking in views of Anchorage, Eagle River, Ship Valley, South Fork Valley, and Arctic Valley.
On the way down, along the desolate, windswept ridge, we spotted movement among some small rocks ahead. We quickly identified it as a shrew, and resolved to capture it and transport it to the lower, more hospitable woods of South Fork Valley. It was very easy to catch, as it was probably very cold and hungry, and had nowhere to effectively hide among the small, frozen pebbles along the ridge. After safely stowing our refugee, we butt-sledded and glissaded down most of the remaining distance between us and the car, stopping only to release our little furry survivor in the woods before reaching the parking lot.
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