DILLINGHAM -- The "Doesn't Matter to Me Nine" recently set off on (and most finished) a 30-day, 265-plus-mile traverse from the base of Mount Iliamna to Anchorage. The trip was one Luc Mehl could envision on more than just a map.
"Three active volcanoes -- Iliamna (10,016 ft.), Redoubt (10,197 ft.), and Spurr (11,070 ft.) -- can be seen from Anchorage, so I've been thinking about an Iliamna-Redoubt-Spurr-IRS traverse," he wrote in his trip notes at www.thingstolucat.com . "I wanted to start on tax day to be consistent with the IRS theme, but we pulled it back a week due to the low snowpack."
With big-mountain skis, ice climbing gear, packrafts and indefatigable lust for outsized expeditions (and suffering), the nine flew to the base of Iliamna and summited the next day. Down from there, they crossed Tuxedni Glacier, heading toward Redoubt.
The group weathered a storm inside a massive glacial tunnel. Redoubt rebuffed them; avalanche danger brought the group to a rare need for a solid consensus to move past without hazarding an ascent. Onward, they carved virgin powder in deep glacier bowls, "Thermarested" across rivers and climbed toward Mount Spurr's active vents. After reaching Spurr's summit, the veteran mountaineers carefully picked their way down Capps Glacier on the back side.
Along the journey, some departed at pre-planned exit points. Incoming planes left supplies while collecting outgoing travelers.
Packrafting down the Beluga River toward Cook Inlet, the remaining travelers ran all but one class IV rapid deemed best avoided. Also avoided was advice to run an incoming Cook Inlet tide in packrafts to Fire Island; instead the group bushwhacked a cold, wet and muddy haul across the Susitna Flats. For that effort they were rewarded a leisurely 3-mile packraft at sunset from Port MacKenzie right into downtown Anchorage.
Wearied and worn, they went straight to Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse for well-deserved grub.
"We were filthy, literally dripping with mud," Mehl wrote. "The waitress brought an extra stack of napkins and said, 'I don't know if you guys want these; seems like maybe you aren't too worried about being clean.' "
Read more and see Luc's impressive photos at www.thingstolucat.com.
This story first appeared in The Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is republished here with permission.