Story Behind the Shot: Skiing Alaska’s Brooks Range

AKMTN20090618-460-RR

A few years ago, Anchorage-based ski and alpine guide Joe Stock and I (Matt) flew into the heart of the Brooks Range on a truly hair-brained mission. We were there to climb and ski Mount Chamberlin, at 9,020 ft the highest peak in that range and possibly the Arctic. After a sporty landing on a rough gravel bar on the edge of the Hulahula River, we unloaded our gear on the dry ground. One couldn’t help notice the absolute absence of snow. Considering it was late June, it really wasn’t all that unusual. This was our first ski adventure in these mountains and we really had no idea what to expect. It took a monumental effort to haul our gear, skis and boots on our packs, over the steep tussocks and boulders to a high camp at the base of Chamberlin. We arrived just in time to shut down by weather and had to make a heart breaking two-day resupply trip back down to our base camp. Finally after a week of confinement in a way too small tent, the weather began to break. Joe was off the leash! Soon he was little more than a tiny figure moving quickly up the craggy ridge. I turned it on the best I could, but keeping up with this guy is damn near impossible. I was also stopping every few steps to grab a quick photograph. The storm had left a fresh blanket of snow and ice that was visually interesting on the rocky ridge. Climbing upward with the camera and a telephoto in my chest pouch, I saw how Joe was moving in and out of the clouds. I made a couple quick pictures and not wanting to get separated in the increasing clouds, hollered for him to wait up. Soon after, we kicked with crampons up onto Chamberlin’s icy summit and skied a conservative line in tough conditions back to our camp.

Cheers!

Matt & Agnes Hage