The Bomber

talkeetna mountains, bomber traverse

Yup, it’s Alaska! Slogging to the Mint Glacier Hut.

Straining against the endless glacial white, my eyes played tricks on me. How hard was it to miss a whole B-29 crash? Day 2 of the Bomber Traverse in the Talkeetna Mountains outside Anchorage, and we were 4 miles up the glacier looking for the namesake of the route. So far the weather had been tame, but a foggy snow drizzle was making our search more challenging.

Bomber Traverse, Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska

With great respect for the 6 casualties. 1957 B-29 Bomber crash site.

We found the crash, pulled up our carpets, and slid for the hut. The snow was thankfully forgiving in the flat light, and we were excited for the first real turns of the trip.

It wasn’t actually supposed to work this way. Not really at all. Looking at the forecast and Snotel data in the Seattle airport our original plans just didn’t make sense. The Eklutna Traverse had almost zero snow for the first 2000′ vertical on the route. With some awesome support from AMH, Joe Stock, and my friends Drew and Lindzey, we re-packed with 5 days of food and a loose plan for the Bomber Traverse in the Talkeetna mountains. If the snow was as good as we heard tell, we’d stay in the range as long as we could. If it wasn’t, we’d get a good workout carrying heavy packs.

The Mint Glacier Hut.

The Mint Glacier Hut.

The trip starts and ends at the Gold Mint Trailhead on Hatcher Pass just north of Anchorage. It cuts a circle through the Talkeetna mountains, stopping at 2 huts maintained by the Mountaineering Club of Alaska and 1 hut that belongs to the AAC. Total distance is about 20 miles, and total elevation gain is approximately 5,000 ft total.  There is boundless good skiing terrain around each of the 3 huts, and the scenery is stunning.

Bomber Traverse, ski mountaineering, alaska, talkeetna mountains

Sunset at the Bomber Hut.

We had amazing weather and navigating the route was straightforward. Warm conditions and ample food meant there was little “suffering” in the way that most Alaskan adventure warrant.

gear drying, ski mountaineering, bomber traverse, talkeetna mountains

Hut life.

Bomber Traverse, Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska, ski mountaineering

Its not mountaineering until you put your skis on your back…

Unfortunately, the snow was boot hard in the morning with a fast midafternoon transition to full-on slush. Warm temps meant sweaty feet and blisters. Sunscreen consumption was far higher than rationed. While the glaciers are clearly melting, there are few cravasses meaning that the ropes and harnesses we brought amounted to training weight as well. While I certainly cannot complain about any of it, our “ski trip” amounted to mostly touring, sweating and eating.

Endless daylight works up an appetite.

Hut life.

Did I mention blue skies?

Did I mention blue skies?

We started on Sunday, but by Monday night we were already scheming other plans. The soft afternoon snow meant that exiting the range needed to happen earlier in the day than later. Despite the finest amenities of the trip at the Snowbird hut (really, you gotta stay there) we pushed past with just a few photos and a shaky plan for the next move.

Nicest latrine in the world?

Nicest latrine in the world?

archangel creek, talkeetna mountains, bomber traverse

Looking back down Archangel Creek.

There’s gotta be more snow somewhere in Alaska and thankfully I’ve got more than a few great friends in the great “not so white” north…

Credit where due: again huge thanks to Joe Stock, and his excellent website for plenty of information and inspiration. Truly the patriarch of modern Alaska skiing. Check out the site, buy the book, hire the man if you need to. He is the source.


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