Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Raftpacking Evolution?

As I was researching various ways to engage in ultralight carry modes for packrafting (perusing one of Roman's musings on the matter), I read a seemingly unrelated passage further down about using a dry suit as a dry bag in the context of keeping certain gear items inside the suit as you're wearing it, as opposed to carrying a separate dry bag along strapped to the raft.

Then it dawned on me....

What if you were to use your dry suit as an actual dry bag to carry all of your gear as a method of raftpacking for serious whitewater and steep creek day boating, and forego any pack being tied down so as to improve your paddling response?

I can't be the first person to have thought of this, but since I haven't heard it suggested elsewhere, or seen video footage of fellow packrafters utilizing what I've conceptualized, I guess I'll assume I am for the time being.

Anyhow...with a couple hours of gear arrangements, thinking, then more gear arrangements, here's what I came up with.


As you can see, the concept centers on the same ideas Roman had by using the PFD as a carrying system, but expands on it to provide more capabilities.  With this system, everything you will need for steep creek or big whitewater day trips is inside the dry suit, in the pockets of the PFD, or strapped to the outside.

CONCEPT 1: DRY SUIT GAINS MULTI-PURPOSE USE AS CARRY BAG ON APPROACH.
Collapsing your dry suit & compressing it to an appropriate carrying dimension is easily accomplished by first inverting the arms and legs to create a rectangular shape.  If your suit has a relief zipper, that's about how far inward the legs should go.  One of the arms will be tricky, since the entry zipper is involved, but the other can be completely taken inside the suit.  The newly-converted dry suit is now filled with the following:

- Packraft (rolled up the smallest way possible)
- Extra clothing (fleece jacket, wind shirt, neoprene gloves, socks, etc.)
- First Aid kit
- Helmet
- Throw rope
- Thigh Straps (don't have 'em yet, but they'd be in there if I did)
- Inflation bag
- Floor pad (optional)
- CamelBak (the neck gasket provides a very convenient hydration port)

Outside the dry suit, you can strap the paddle, or simply carry it all in one piece.  I would not recommend trying to cram a broken-down 4-piece paddle into the dry suit, as this can cause abrasions on the inside.  Inside/on your PFD, keep your knife, repair kit, whistle, sunscreen, and food.

CONCEPT 2: PFD IS STRAPPED TO COMPRESSED DRY SUIT FOR USE AS HARNESS.
This area may need further tinkering, but as of now the suit is compressed horizontally by two short nylon compression straps, then compressed vertically with one longer strap which holds the PFD in place.  The key design goal is to keep the weight of the suit-bag forward on the shoulders as opposed to falling back.  The current weight of the whole system as pictured (~15 lbs. without food & water) is right at the cusp, in my opinion, of needing an additional straps to keep the PFD in the right place to properly distribute the load.  With just one vertical strap, there will be a tendency to sag one way or another.

CONCEPT 3: SYSTEM OFFERS FAST/LIGHT APPROACH & DESIRED FRONT LOAD (NONE) FOR SERIOUS DAY BOATING.
Since we are obviously frozen up, and I have no outside travel plans for the winter, this system won't get a serious test until after breakup.  That should be plenty of time to get the right sized straps and figure out the best load arrangement.  As of now, this is designed purely with serious day boating in mind, which means Class III or higher and a dry suit, helmet and other safety gear are necessary.  If successful, this set-up can deploy a paddler downstream without need for any load tied to the bow, which can improve boat response in fast, technical whitewater.  

Then there's the obvious advantage of traveling fast & light, a consistent goal of most packrafters out there.  While this system may work and prove comfortable for a 3-5 mile approach with a float all the way back to the start, I can't see it being relied upon for any further distance or time frame.  

That being said...I have another idea rolling through the cranial dome in regards to this compressed dry suit.  We shall see if anything manifests.

Backside view of the PFD-suit-bag carry system, showing desired dimensions for the partially inverted/compressed dry suit.  A much shorter strap will be needed.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Keeping your tools sharp

It was opening day for me today.  After contemplating and checking out various climbs, and ceasing all the dilly-dallying that is always the final step for embarking on all ascent-oriented goals...yes, I finally got onto the ice for first time this winter season.

The destination?  Beer climbs, and it apparently took a big hit from this past weekend's Pineapple Express that lambasted southcentral Alaska, but one narrow vein of waterfall ice to the far left was in decent shape, and offered good fun for the four of us.

I had met the other three in our party just this morning, which is indicative of how few people actually ice climb in the Anchorage area...well, at least out of those who are unemployed and have nothing better to do on a Wednesday.  Even so, I think most ice climbers talk about climbing ice more so than actually doing it....even when they surprise themselves through the realization that they are actually doing what it is they say they do.  By that, I mean most of the time is spent slogging up to the climb, then shooting the shit at the belay station with the other person who's standing around looking bored, but just happens to be saddled with the somewhat important job of holding a life in their hands, with very little actual climbing going on, except for the poor chap clinging to the chandelier up above by only 4 points of contact on an always suspect medium.  As a climber, would you want your non-climbing belayer to be transfixed in paying attention to your every move as you place the screws, or have them gabbing on and on about this and that and who knows what else?  

The answer of course lies somewhere along the subjective WI grading scale.  The only reason a legitimately safe form of belayed soloing on ice has yet to be designed, is because too few climbers realize the incentive behind not wanting to rely on a fellow human to anticipate YOUR mistakes, while you wonder if your mistakes are any more plausible than THEIR mistakes.  It's best to limit the number of possible mistakes at any given point in time to one human mind, and otherwise trust in the greater laws of nature, especially physics.

A pair of Grivel ice tool picks, freshly sharpened after today's climbing.  You may notice the slightly downward angled edge along the tip of the bottom pick, as well as the shorter length resulting from another point-dulling event from last season.  If you've got the good sense to dull your pick points from actual climbing, make sure you alternate the mash-ups, at least for the style of it all.

The day ended well, aside from a smashed pick tip, which required a bit of sharpening after I returned home.  I was initially amused when I heard the dull clang that accompanies any precise moment when sharp metal meets hard rock at a substantial speed, and more so when I saw the point all curled up.  Another reason why ice climbers most of the time aren't what they say they are, is because they're afraid of breaking their embarrassingly expensive climbing tools.

It is important to keep all of your tools sharp as you go out to climb that crazy ice....especially the most important tool of all: your mind.

More on this later, maybe.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mind food

The following is the most-recent articulate statement from Doug Buchanan, a true Alaskan anarchist if there ever was one.  If you've never read any of his previous work, you will no doubt close this page after the first paragraph or two.  He is an acquired read, but worth the time if you are interested in deeply-seeded problems, and how to solve them.

---

Reactions to the news.... 20 October 2011

The common daily "news" primarily emphasizes the social contradictions or problems of the world. That is what the human mind commonly wants to hear, by design, because the mind is a contradiction identification and resolution device. It likes to try to solve problems. Do not worry about tomorrow. The world will still be on the brink of disaster, on schedule. The primary problems and disasters in the news change upon any one becoming boring, but each will be revisited soon enough. There are a finite number of disaster and woe concepts among the controlling concepts.

Many people worry or are anguished to some degree in regard to the ongoing disasters, wrongs and varied other maladies of society.

But wait. Why be anguished about a certainty? Does your mind enjoy being anguished, angered or worried? No. Your mind would rather be laughing, by design. It would rather resolve the contradictions, much to its satisfaction, or laugh at the folks who remain confused by the problems, without their even partially figuring out how to solve the problems.

But your mind will not let you laugh at the wars and counterproductive government bureaucracy that are costing you much tax money, and are increasingly angering "the other guy" whom you know will inherently "retaliate", etceteras. "To hold the other guy down, you must stay down with him", and fear when he or his people escape you.

However, your mind was designed to laugh at the damaging contradictions you recognize, that the other guy does not recognize, if you recognize the flawless resolution of the contradiction that the other guy hopelessly refuses to learn to recognize. That description is the description of a joke or comedy. The dumb guy "just doesn't get it".

If you learn intellectual technology, and thus FULLY UNDERSTAND every part of a contradiction, from the most detailed part to the full synthesis of all the parts, and therefore the flawless resolution, you will laugh at all the daily news of all the major and minor contradictions humans can create, and learn to discreetly not laugh out loud among those people who are still confused and irritated by how humans can be so ignorant, malicious, greedy, dishonest, power-craving and other descriptions of the origin of damaging contradictions.
The parents of the government crony rich, the government licensed banksters and lawyers, the government war mongers, and the other sources of major social contradictions, and the people confused by the lack of manifested solutions to problems, teach their children to be as ignorant as the parents, to sustain the age-old pattern of social problems based on perpetuating the ignorance of each ignorant person's part in creating the problems.

Ignorance is eliminated by learning knowledge. Knowledge is learned by asking and answering questions. Government does not ask and answer questions to resolve contradictions. Government creates contradictions, the only possible result of using power above reasoning, then it tells people what to do, under threat of jail or seizure or assets, vastly compounding the contradictions and their damages. In contrast, YOU can learn knowledge.

If you learn intellectual technology the wars, political fighting, damaging conspiracies, terrorism, torture, denials of human rights, evils of this and that, and those other guys who just will not do as they are told, are all amusing comedies for which your mind will hold the entire script, know the easily manifested solutions, and know each next event.

What? You want Obama to win the election, or his opponent to win, and want them to solve the nation's problems? Too easy. You want Obama or his opponent to become the most respected and admired leader in human history? Still too easy. Maybe two days after he learns intellectual technology. One, if he first uses a couple days at his desk to organize the list of problems.

Perhaps you want to regain your favorite human right, from those contemptible government sorts who make their money putting people in prison for damaging nobody. Even easier. It is a single issue. Or perhaps you are that contemptible government sort who wants those ungrateful citizens to do as they are told. Still too easy. The process is just knowledge. Any human mind in any body can learn it. It is just a boring process, after you learn the knowledge.

If one were to be told the controlling concept of the controlling concepts of the series such concepts which must each be FULLY UNDERSTOOD to recognize why all the human-caused contradictions in the news exist, it would be the concept of "power" in the human mind. It is just a concept. It can be learned to the extent that you can cause power in any other mind to do as you say. And it is just boring basic science process.

The human mind's ability to function on institutional power, instead of individual reasoning (impartial neural process), and the mind's absolute inability to understand, on its own, what power is, how it is perceived from institutional stimuli, and how it functions in the human mind, after the mind perceives that it holds power, is the source of 100 percent of all human-caused contradictions.

You need only understand that one concept, to then easily learn the other controlling concepts, including the detailed source and promptly manifestable solutions to all social problems.

Now think. If a power-damaged human mind could recognize what power is, and how it functions in the human mind, it would stop using the laughably limited concept of institutional power, and start using its unlimited individual reasoning process, the process that obviously solves all problems, by design of reasoning.

What do you want? It is yours if you use the reasoning process. If you use "power", it will cost you vastly more than it is worth, and then it will be taken away from you.

It is useful to therefore state that if a power-damaged human mind could recognize the concept of "shame", wars would immediately end. Who, among the readers of these words, holds a mind that CANNOT recognize the "shame", by that word, of conducting a war that kills even one innocent civilian? The answer is, 100 percent of military personnel and the politicians of any nation conducting any war, among the spectrum of other institutionally power-damaged minds.

Who would hire and pay taxes to pay the salaries of such primitive minds which are so intellectually incapable that they cannot even recognize the common concept of "shame" that keeps reasoning people from doing damaging and thus shameful things?
Read that question again, slowly.

Who votes for the American DemocanRepublicrat War and Police Regime Congressmen, and cannot understand the results of THEIR action? Why is a joke amusing to the extent of causing laughter? The subject of the joke cannot understand the contradiction identified in the joke by the people telling and hearing the joke. Who cannot recognize the contradiction of voting for DemocanRepublicrats then complaining about the government? Are not the people who are sufficiently intelligent to understand the contradiction laughing at the daily news that anguishes ignorant fools?

Now think. If a military person of any rank, could recognize the concept of "shame", and therefore recognized that all shameful actions must be eliminated from military process, to thus remove all damaging contradictions, said person could use the reasoning process (asking and answering all questions of each contradiction), to devise a war that would be won upon announcement of the process, without any damage to anyone. It is laughably easy. Would not such a person promptly become the world leader by request of the world's people? That process has been openly offered to US military leaders and agencies for the last decade, as well as Israeli, Russian and other military leaders in the world. Imagine the amusement of attempting to communicate with a rock. A rock better understands the concept of shame, than does a power-damaged human mind. The rock will attempt no words that compound its expression of ignorance.

Yes, the vast financial wealth of the power-damaged minds of the US Military Industrial Complex chaps (and their offspring) who own the power-damaged minds of the military generals and US Congress, is dependent upon a constant supply of power-damaged minds of military generals and all ranks down to private, and holds that supply because they are each institutionally produced power-damaged minds which VERIFIABLY CANNOT understand the concept of "shame" or what the perception of power does inside the human brain.

It is not an Afghan military that the US military is fighting in Afghanistan, or "terrorists". Just like in Vietnam, they are poor farmers inherently defending their land against invaders. And the US military folks, thus "Americans", are slaughtering the Afghan farmers in their individual homes with their families. And the power-based US news media is lying to Americans, for the US government, approximately 100 percent of the time, sometimes more, for a reason fully explained elsewhere. Does the news media have "power"?

If any of the Military Industrial Complex company executives learned intellectual technology, and as a military / Congressional insider, conveyed the knowledge to the military generals or Congressmen, that company would quickly derive the great majority of the military contracts and budget, becoming the most-sought military systems and supply company in the world. Its personnel would earn and be paid higher salaries, and sought by other companies. There is nothing magic or mysterious about the knowledge. It is just plain basic boring hard science process that grade school kids can learn. Enjoy the amusement of the writer of these words. You could duct-tape any Military Industrial Complex company executive or employee to a computer with these words on the screen, and the sticky part of the duct tape would dry out before his power-damaged mind could understand the substance of these words.

The institutional process which offers that endless supply of power-damaged minds for the inherently doomed wealth of the Military Industrial Complex is what you need to learn, to understand what power is, and how it functions in YOUR mind and that of each other human mind, by design. Your mind was born as a biological reasoning device. It had no understanding of institutional power until it was taught, the same way every mind was taught what it perceives.

Among the many processes of such teaching, including those which would most intrigue and amuse you, including those which preclude the peace-advocating institution of Buddhists from learning how to achieve peace, a more obvious process is that of those "damn liberal anti-war" Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) journalists, and their ilk, incessantly "pounding into the heads of your children", and you, that the great American military leaders and war politicians were great American military leaders and war politicians, instead of teaching you the verifiable truth, that they were intellectually absent, stupid, malicious, power-damaged minds which could not recognize the concept of "shame", or any process of reasoning, even if those pitiable power-damaged minds were handed a dictionary and an English teacher for their questions of the meanings of words and arrangements of words.

War is the zenith process for "theft", by definition, besides killing and destruction. You were correctly taught that "theft" (also killing and destruction) is bad (an unsustainable, damaging contradiction). But you were also institutionally taught that "war" is variously glorious, necessary, patriotic, steeped in great tradition, a badge of courage, the source of "leaders", (good) and a gaggle of such institutionally adorned lies and rhetorical garbage. That is obviously a contradiction. A majority of YOU believe the laughably illogical, unsustainable, damaging lies, or wars would have ended with democracy. A majority of YOU hold minds that CANNOT resolve the contradiction of war being both theft and glorious, by manifest proof of a democracy sustaining, currently seven (7) shooting wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Philippines).
The war issue is only an example of one of the more dramatic and damaging human-caused contradictions. When Americans eventually discover that the power-damaged minds of the US federal government Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have summarily written the self-serving, internal wealth producing laws that verifiably kill vastly more Americans than any killing-crazed military could even hope to kill, countless family names will be changed to disassociate the family members from the repugnant power-damaged minds of every FDA employee of this era. The worst of the wonton murders of the military, void of the understanding of shame, are saints compared to FDA personnel, verifiable against any questions, with a simple series of questions. Upon analysis of force-imposed damaging contradictions, the power-based agencies of the power-based US government make the damages of all prior government regimes idle amusement by comparison. The fall of the American empire will replace the Roman Empire as the world's primary example of such.

The first thing that "power" does in the human mind, is to re-route the neural processes to eliminate any recognition of "shame". Are young boys taught that they have power over girls? Are government personnel taught that they hold the power of their agencies? What does military training do to every fool who joins the military? In the internet age, when the sons and daughters of the FDA personnel learn what their parents did to them and the American society, if said sons and daughters have by chance avoided or escaped adopting the perception of "power" over all you other people, you will get to share their laughter at their own recognition of their absolute contempt for their parents, and their emerging from such ignorance.
Now think. The process to efficiently resolve all the human-caused, damaging contradictions, and promptly manifest any reasoning based goal, has been offered with the offer to verify it against any questions any humans could ask. So what would cause every human mind to not inquire for such valuable, VERIFIABLE knowledge, while knowledge itself cannot offer greater credibility than every question of it offering a verifiably accurate answer?

Again, what did you males learn about the openly accepted (by males) superiority of males over females, AND HOW DID THAT PERCEPTION INHERENTLY ALTER YOUR MIND'S OTHER PERCEPTIONS?

AND what did you females learn about the openly accepted (by females) superiority of female minds over those obviously idiot males, AND HOW DID THAT PERCEPTION INHERENTLY ALTER YOUR MIND'S OTHER PERCEPTIONS?

What process does your mind use to resolve contradictions, that does not use your mind's prior learned process?

While an impartial scientist can learn and present the proof that any action or event inherently alters other actions or events, a power-damaged mind cannot understand that concept in relation to the concept of power.

Even with the offer to convey the knowledge to any female organization leaders, the simple process to suddenly reverse the male dominant social structure of every country, to a female dominant structure, in which the females make the controlling decisions for social governance, which many female organization leaders have been offered, not one of them can understand the offer, even if they read these words. Their minds are damaged by the perceptions induced by being among the female GROUP, therefore holding "power", instead of being what they actually are, individual minds isolated in a cranium with no possible intellectual advantage over males, by being females, and with only ONE possible advantage available to them as humans, that being KNOWLEDGE.

Until you learn the KNOWLEDGE of the functional design of the human mind, you are a victim of that design. After you learn that knowledge, you are among the very few at any one time during history, who "get the joke", and laugh at everything the humans do. They are the best comedy on the rock.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

46er run-down

Before I moved to Alaska, I was one of those New Yorkers.  I've decided not to even bother distinguishing the city from the rest of the state anymore.  Folks who don't recognize the additional 30 million acres from what's commonly projected through the tubes these days are akin to those who think Alaska is just off the coast of California, in a box...and smaller than Texas.

Down there in the northern chunk of the state, there's this nice group of hills called the Adirondacks, where plenty of adventures can be had, but the big draw is the hiking to the top of all the summits of the 4,000+ ft. mountains.  An ample amount of the "mountains" certainly qualify as such, especially Marcy, Gothics, Haystack, the McIntyre Range, and a few others, but some are nothing more than measly bumps on a ridge with little or no view, since the treeline down there isn't until about 4,800 ft.  But, if you do manage to find yourself at the top of all these peaks, you can get your name put on a website with an associated member number, if you care to go through the process of writing (not typing) down each of your experiences and mailing them to the organization's historian.  Some of my 46er stories, mainly the winter ones, were fairly amusing, certainly contributing to my current mind-set and desire for adventure.  

Unlike cannabis, peak-bagging actually is a gateway drug.  After a while the non-technical stuff doesn't jive anymore, so you get into rock climbing...then ice.  After you spend a winter slogging around on snowshoes and see no few skiers skinning up and making turns down the same route you're on, you realize there's more fun to be had and get into the whole backcountry skiing scene.  Pretty soon you're starting to meld it all into one multi-sport adventure, reveling in the rock, ice, and snow, at whatever degree nearest to vertical you find exhilerating.  But disappointment hits when the ice rottens, the snow melts, and the seasons change, forcing your skis and ice tools back into the closet and your mind into a funk...of course until you realize all that melted snow is now water gushing down creeks and rivers.  Because you like moving fast and light on your own two feet, the packraft becomes ideal for your summer whitewater and pan-wilderness pursuits.

Before you know it, you've spent more money than you care to estimate, and you partake in a lifestyle conveyed to those who weren't there only by means of pictures, video, and the written or spoken word.  You strive to assume your rightful place in the universe: a sometimes-influential being with the level of consciousness needed to understand humans are a part of nature, not in dominion of it.  You're along for the ride like everyone else, and you're searching for as much fun as can be had in accordance with nature and nature's God, before all the lights go out and you earn your ticket to the Great Gig in the Sky.  

Hilarious...because all that stemmed from a simple walk to the top of two of those 4,000-footers in the Adirondacks on September 29, 2007.  It can happen to anyone, and you don't have to move to Alaska to realize it (although doing so is a much more efficient process).

So here's the tribute video I put together two years ago commemorating those 46 hills.  Entirely still shots with timely animations, quotations, and music which seemed to best express the overall adventure.  Enjoy the show.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The whole Crescent Creek ordeal


"Marvin Gardens" (PR 3+/4-) on Crescent Creek, Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.
It's easy to forget sometimes that Alaska is rather large.  Due to this stark fact, there are many wrinkles, creases and folds in the bailiwick that have yet to be fully explored. You can chalk that up to one of two reasons: the stark boredom of the place at hand, or just getting overlooked among other adventurous pursuits in the same area. Crescent Creek represented the latter.

As one of the Charley River's major tributaries, Crescent Creek lies in the southwest corner of the preserve, with its headwaters converging from the east and southeast to flow north and eventually back east to empty into the Charley.  Such a route lends easy naming to this drainage, especially when looking at the map (1:63,360 USGS, Eagle D-6).



While the Crescent valley sees fairly consistent hunting activity in the fall, there hadn't been any reported float trips over the years, likely indicating the creek had never been floated before, much less packrafted.  As rafters on the Charley pass by Crescent's mouth and look a few hundred yards upstream, it certainly appears to be a worthwhile float if you could access it.  Roman knew this, and informed me of the first descent possibility back in April. With a week off at the end of July, I decided to go for it.


Gear selection was pretty minimal, and all-told my pack weight was in the 40-50 lb range, including all the rafting gear, as well as an unnecessary bear barrel, on account of the odor-proof sacks out there these days.  I shelled out for the Epic pack from ULA, specifically for it's light weight and its integral packrafting features.    Having fussed with the trash compactor bags on a light day trip earlier in the summer, and being thoroughly unimpressed, I opted for the security and durability of a dry bag.  This being my first trip with it, I was interested to see how it (and I) would fare.

Those who adhere a bit less to the 'fair means' strategy than others can access Crescent Creek via a Super Cub landing on the bush strip at Moraine Creek, about a mile from the ideal put-in location.  Otherwise, enjoy the 17-mile hike over a pass west of  Gelvin's air strip, 75 miles up the Charley, where slightly larger airplanes (i.e. Cessna 170) can land.  If the water levels aren't too low, A great addition to this route would be to fly in to Three Fingers and float the uppermost stretches of the Charley before taking out at Gelvin's.

The area around Gelvin's is probably one of the more foot-traveled areas in the preserve, being a near perfect spot to hunt caribou, and the site of a B-24 crash in December 1943 that resulted in one of the better Alaska survival stories I've yet heard. Army Air Corps Lt. Leon Crane spent 86 days along the Charley River in the dead of winter, eventually making his way to the mouth and getting help from local resident Al Ames. Accounting for backtracking, Crane trudged about 120 miles without snowshoes, and broke through the river ice and soaked himself in sub-zero temperatures not once, but twice. If it weren't for a stocked cabin near Hosford Creek, or a few others along the Charley at that time, Crane likely wouldn't have made it out alive.

The trek from Gelvin's was pretty straight forward: head up the valley due west of the cabin to the pass over to Crescent's headwaters.  However, my initial intent was to first ascend the nearest ridge to see the remains of the B-24 crash, then head gradually down the ridge and up valley. A combination of bad weather and the fact that the crash site was just out of the way nixed that plan, so I stuck along the edge of the unnamed creek that drains Cirque Lakes about 1,000 feet above to the south. At times, this creek looked just gnarly enough to packraft without having to worry about the floor getting worn off, but precise maneuvering would've been key. Narrow and fun, but not my objective.

The pass (far right behind tent) is what I would traverse over to the next day. Hard to 
pass up such a great camping spot.
About 8 miles up this valley is an inordinately superb bench where camping is ideal; a stream fresh out of the ground, prime Dall sheep habitat, and vistas of some the highest peaks Yukon-Charley has to offer at over 6,000 feet.  This is where the most technical section of the trek begins, as ascending the 5,000 ft. pass requires navigating through about a mile of continuous talus at a fairly steep angle.
From the pass, looking east towards the Charley River...
...and west towards Crescent Creek.
Any solo jaunt through the mountains certainly has its benefits.  Those who've done it before know what I'm talking about. Those who haven't tend to look at you a bit quizzically, wondering if something's wrong with you (family included). Conceptually, it's no different than any other challenge within nature. There's just added complexities, which is what I find so intriguing. You rely wholly on your physical capabilities, skills, knowledge, and supplies on your back.  In order to do it successfully, in my mind, you have to mitigate all unnecessary risks while still accepting the possibility you might not make it back alive. Suicidal? Far from it. I feel safer alone out in the woods miles from anyone than I do crossing the intersection of Northern Lights Blvd. and Boniface Pkwy. in Anchorage, and statistically I probably am.

The sole remaining piece of aufeis on Crescent Creek.
Having done a few solo trips over the years of varying complexity, this one definitely moves ahead by increasing the remoteness, and implementing the packrafting...on a creek nobody had any knowledge of in terms of features, hazards, and conditions at various flow rates or water levels. In short, I had no room for screw-ups. The quick descent along the infancy of Crescent Creek, moving along by way of some fantastic caribou trails, brought me to what I thought was the ideal spot to inflate the raft. That's when things got a bit too fun in a real hurry. 


You might notice in the picture on the left that there's a pair of hiking boots tied to my pack.  Lacking adequate light weight shoes that drain well, I opted for the next best thing, and wore Chacos with neoprene socks while packrafting, which also contributed to my heavy "ultralight" pack.  Since the boots wouldn't fit in the dry bag, my only choice was to tie them on in such a way that gravity would be the main way of keeping them in place.  In essence, I tied the laces of one boot around the pack's hip belt, and hung it on the far side, eliminating any dangling problems...so long as the load remained secure.  


Less than 10 minutes into the float, where the creek was about 25 feet wide and quite boulder-laden, I found out the hard way that my load wasn't quite secure enough.

The cam strap was wrapped well, but I didn't think to wrap it through the attachment points on the dry bag itself, which would have properly secured the bag and removed the possibility of it shifting from one side of the bow to the other.  I made the fix after going over a 18-inch drop, witnessing the 30+ pound dry bag list to the right side, which I was leaning on after going over the drop, promptly flipping the raft and me (sans dry suit) into the (n)ice cold water.  Not quite the zenith of embarrassment, but it was a good ways up the curve.  So I went with the flow for a bit until I found an eddy, got to the creek edge (mostly willow with very little working room), and re-strapped the load.  The water was only about waist deep at this point.

Not long after I got back in the boat and made it through the narrow boulder garden, things got flat and then the creek disappeared, with a slight roar in the distance.  Getting out to scout, I encountered the first and only dramatic drop (about 8 ft. over a 50 ft. stretch I'd guess) along Crescent, but it was complicated with a diagonal sweeper fallen from the right side.  This drop immediately funneled into a 3-4 ft. wave train as another feeder stream entered Crescent from the south.  I pinpointed the experience of successfully maneuvering around the sweeper and positioning myself to where I shot right down the last of the drop and seamlessly into the wave train as representing my first "hit" of steep creek boating.  All previous floats were mellow in comparison, but that drop converted me into a real packrafter, if I wasn't one already.  Objectively, it wasn't that demanding.  I'd rate it PR 3+, maybe 4- at higher water...but it was enough to get me hooked.

The next 10 miles offered more of what I'd been used to in previous floats, with a larger volume.  The going was fairly swift, with just a couple sweepers to contend with, until the creek braided once again for a 3-mile stretch.  Choosing the right route through here can be fairly tricky, but the current is slow enough to where getting on the tubes is a manageable proposition.  After the braids reconvene, the main current stays at a class I+/II- clip for a few more miles, passing through the tundra-taiga transition zone, and offering good views of the nearby hills...and the upcoming canyon.

I camped on a gravel bar a couple miles after the braids, drying out and warming up with a fire to end the day after moving consistently for 13 hours.  At times it can be hard to stop.  Reveling in the long days of late July, I didn't even pack a headlamp for this trip...but I reckon back to the required aptitude of a solo adventurer, which indicates the need to stop, refuel, and rest, especially after getting wet.  

As I paddled onward, Crescent began to swell, and with that came larger boulders, larger wave trains, and generally more fun....that's until a small rip ended it quickly.  No, not the raft tube; that would've been amusing.  Instead what happened was, after weaving my way through "Marvin Gardens", a complex rock garden sustained for about 200 yards (pictured above), the raft swamped without a whole lot of water crashing over the deck and seeping in.  I eddied out to dump, and discovered what has to be one of the most common damages on Alpacka rafts: a hole worn through the floor right at the point of the seat's air valve.  Even worse, the bashing this spot took also weakened the seal on the valve itself, causing a leak in the seat.  After 10 minutes of sitting on it, the air would be totally gone.  I tolerated this for as long as I could, and Jerry rigged the floor with a piece of duct tape to keep the water out.  With no seat and worthless duct tape, I finally pulled out of the water, got out the patch-n-go kit, repaired the hole, and took the back rest off to sit on, replacing the butt seat.  Luckily the patch held up, and surprisingly, sitting on the back rest is not as uncomfortable as I thought.  It offers more leg room, but is prone to shifting as you adjust yourself inside the raft.

The tail end of "C.C. Rider" (PR 4).  The real fun stuff is behind the bush (right).
It was wise to have made these fixes when I did, as the last 5 miles of Crescent Creek offer features very similar to the Charley River.  The creek widens to virtually the same width, while maintaining class II-III whitewater with small rock gardens thrown in here and there, all at the bottom of a high canyon.  Perhaps the best run of rapids on all of the 26 boated miles of Crescent Creek is the final stretch just before its confluence with the Charley.


A series of large boulders which occupy a 100-200 yard stretch create what I've dubbed "C.C. Rider," a garden that generates more deceptive rollers and the resulting holes than any previous section of the creek, especially on the left side.


Don't get caught with your pants down with the confluence in sight, as there are a few places one can get "bander-snatched" pretty fast.  If any section of Crescent gets a rating of PR 4, it is certainly this one.

After "C.C. Rider" Crescent dissipates to riffles as it meets the darker waters of the Charley River, where on river left precisely at the confluence there is a wonderful camp site in the trees just off the beach, complete with a well-built fire ring.  Needless to say, I took advantage of it, even though it was only 4:30pm when I wrapped up what apparently is the first decent of Crescent Creek, at least in a packraft.

Overall, the whitewater rating averages a modest class II, however with packrafting considerations in mind Crescent Creek averages PR 3, which means its a lot of fun and can be enjoyed by any confident paddler.  

Fortunately for me, the adventure was not over, as I still had 63 miles to float down the Charley, and another 10 down the fat, flat, and silty Yukon to Slaven's Roadhouse, where I worked a good chunk this summer as an interpretive ranger for Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.  It's nice when you can arrange your scheduled days off so that you have what ends up being a real vacation.  Not quite as nice when the vacation is also the commute back to work.  Luckily I finished early (five days instead of the planned seven) so I had time to relax.  To one degree or another, it rained every day of the trip, and just as I paddled off the Charley on to the Yukon, I was greeted with a whitewall hailstorm heading upriver, lightning and everything.  I could literally hear the hail racing towards me, which is the only time when my helmet actually came into needed use as I hunkered down in the willows while the storm raged.  No photos from that experience, on account of being to busy hoping to not get killed the last way I thought possible on this adventure.  Falling, drowning, hypothermia, and bears would've been the likely culprits, among others...but struck by lightning...in Alaska...in August.  That certainly would've been the zenith of embarrassment.