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bivchad

Getting around in Alaska Range?

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Does anyone here have any insight on the best way to travel between peaks/camps in the Alaska Range? I am looking at some Karhu XCD's mounted with climbing boot compatible bindings. I would assume that skis are better than snowshoes. Any other ideas - what have you used??

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I have always used skis mounted with Silverttea 400's. Tooling around the Alaska Range on skis is pretty cool.

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You'll want skis with silvretta 500s (they best releasable mountaineering bindings). You can use 300s or 400s - but they don't release as well - and I once really tweaked my knee with 300s.

 

As for skis - I dislike those scaled skis. In my opinion they can't decide whether they want to be downhill skis or touring skis... and as a consequence they suck at both. About the only thing they excel at is skiing up moderate hills without skins. If you ski down anything even remotely downhill non-scaled skis will leave them in the dust. You can ski them up steeper hills without skins - but most people end up doing the herring bone and people with skins tend to be faster.

 

However... I'm a ski snob and think lightweight skis without a rocker tip suck so I'm not a good judge.

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I just spent 12 days on Karhu Guides w/ Silvretta 500s.

Personally, I think the Guides are creating a new class of waxless skis that skis downhill considerably better than any (most?) other waxless skis before. They were designed with turning in mind as well as touring. Yes, they will not shred like a bigger ski mounted with Dynafits (which I also have). And they get pushed around on re-frozen mank and breakable, but that snow just plain sucks on about any gear.

After a few adjustments (I'm skiing mine really cranked down) I was actually really pleased with the downhill performance of the skis, with an AK Range daypack on (and wearing AT boots). The savings in weight for touring is considerable and if your approach is basically flat you do not have to mess with skins.

They toured quite well with plastic boots on too. I think the pivot point being further back on the 500s vs the older models makes a considerable difference, esp when it comes to blister avoidance :grin:

 

There are definitely tradeoffs though in going with a lighter ski. It will not ski as well as a "real" waxable ski, especially with a binding like the silvretta. It simply doesn't have the torsional rigidity of a "normal" ski which is the tradeoff of having a ski that weighs half as much as your partners (insert downhill ski here).

 

I think another possible option might be using a bit of kickwax on regular skis, or like wfinley, just don't wax your skis and you can get a bit of kick :laf: But then you might be screwing with klister and such and that stuff sucks. But a tad bit of red or other warmer wax might go a really long way. I think there are some new wax "tapes" that work with warm snow conditions and are much easier to use than klister. Might be worth looking into.

 

I'd personally like to find the perfect setup to deal with long, flat tours because I'm not convinced that AT or plastic boots are the ticket. If you really knew that your route was indeed for the most part flat and you were going to cover lots of miles, comfy leather xc boots with your climbin' boots in the sled would probably be very nice. You could cruise in comfort and save your feet from damage. But :mistat: who has to do anything approaching a downhill section in this kind of gear.

 

I personally give the Guides a thumbs up but realize they have limitations.

 

Lots of variation here. It would be nice to hear what has worked/has not for others.

 

One other thing.... just say no to snowshoes.

 

Edited by yeoman

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Wow, great answers - thanks! Karhu Guides are at the top of the list so far. Any opinions on ski length?? Would going a little shorter than my alpine skis help with downhill maneuverability or do I want the "skating" ability of going a little longer??

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I've got the 188s. But I'm a skier come climber and like my skis longer. I have to believe that a 188 is going to ski better than a 168. Most people who have an emphasis on the climbing aspect seem to prefer the shorter ski(168). I don't think weight is really much of a factor when it comes to length, the Guides are just plain light. But you will be packing more skin, blah, blah..

 

I wouldn't really take skating into account either. Unless you need down day exercise options like this guy...

 

IMGP2901_BS.jpg

 

In terms of length, I think it's more about the down and I prefer a longer ski that is going to ski more like a "real" ski and a little stubby. You can look at the manu's specs and see where you fit on their chart.

 

btw.. I'm about 5'9", 175 lbs. which puts me into the 188 class.

 

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I'm old school, but I've skied hundreds of miles in the Range, skiing in and out from the highway to the West Fork of the Ruth. I used three pin bindings on metal-edged waxable mountaineering skis, with skins for climbing and for steep descents with heavy loads. There were no plastic ski touring boots back in the day, so we used leather double three-pin boots.

 

jk

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Yeah you wonder, are oil wells better or worse than killing animal for our clothing and footwear?

Who knows, but I am interested to hear from anyone who has spent multiple weeks skiing and climbing ice/rock day routes either from a basecamp or as part of a long cross range tour with some moderate descents. Footwear?

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Jay didn't exactly do that in the last few years, but check out his trip reports, some of the best on the website. Hell, I am still in college, and at best considered a subpar climber, but damn that is some inspiration for the next few years, or decade or so/

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Unless you are going to either ski the gnar or travel great distances most people take whatever they have laying around and slap a pair of bindings that accommodate their climbing boots and call it good. No point in geeking out on approach skis... shit mine almost were destroyed in an avy this year (I took BD cults w/ silvretta 500s FWIW)

 

One guy was cruising up and down the Ruth with a split board this year... not ideal transportation but then again he wasnt there for the touring :laf:

 

And Jay Kerr's TRs rock

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Who knows, but I am interested to hear from anyone who has spent multiple weeks skiing and climbing ice/rock day routes either from a basecamp or as part of a long cross range tour with some moderate descents. Footwear?

 

No one pair of boots are going to climb and ski equally well. If they're good for climbing they suck for skiing and vice-versa. I do a fair amount of basecamp trips and I like to both ski and climb so on my trips I usually carry two sets of boots -- heavy AT boots and light climbing boots. The hard part is getting a pair of skis that do both equally well... but if the pilot likes you sometimes you can sneak on an extra pair of skis for the ski days.

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Jay, as a completely sucky newbie climber I promise to match one of your amazing, or at least semi awesome trip reports for one of my shoddy trip reports. One condition, I get at least a couple of weeks after you post yours to coordinate something worthwhile, or kinda worthwhile.

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I think you need to go for a ski/boot combination that is the best compromise between all the uses you're going to put them through. In my case back in the day, I needed a setup that would give me the support I needed for fast, long distance travel with a heavy pack (and sometime a loaded sled behind). The gear I described above (three pin bindings on metal-edged waxable mountaineering skis, with skins for climbing and for steep descents with heavy loads, and leather double three-pin boots.) was the best compromise for me. A 100 mile ski-approach is not much fun in climbing boots and downhill skis with silvrettas.

 

Once we got to a base camp we did a lot of 1-3 day ski tours with lighter loads, and having relatively lightweight gear and waxable skis made the skiing much more enjoyable, yet the gear was still adequate for doing moderate ski-descents. We did descents of Mt. Dickey, Denali's South Buttress when crossing Ruth Gap, and lots of others.

 

We often supplemented our ski gear with sherpa style snowshoes. We did a lot of ascents that required climbing over a big ridge to get to the base, and rather than carry skis across, we packed the snowshoes. Anything to avoid pos-tholing up a glacier

 

If I were going to fly into the range, and my skiing was going to be short range (from camp to the base of the route) or I was more into ski descents, my gear choices would be different. ALso, I am way out of touch with the current state of backcountry ski gear. I have moved on to off-shore blue water sailing these days, as my knees and back have had enough of heavy loads in the mountains.

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