Archive for April 2007


A long, long while ago I bought a Canon AE-1. It was build like a brick and survived trips to the Arctic, Himalaya and Andes. A year or two back it died and simply wasn’t worth fixing so it took residence on a shelf while I waited for the price of Digital SLRs to drop to something reasonable.

I recently replaced my 35mm Olympus Stylus Epic with a Canon A630. This is a bit bulkier than I’d like but at least it runs on AAs which for me is a lot more convenient. I’ve gotten some good pictures out of it so far but this winter’s weather has prevented a lot of mileage.

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Getting to the Wrangle-Elias Range

Several people have asked me about options for getting to the southern end of the Kluane Park and the peaks around Mount Kennedy, Vancouver and Augusta.

You could drive from Seattle. I’ve always thought it would be a pretty interesting trip. Last time we took the ferry back from Haines to Skagway and that was really cool . It’s about 1600 miles from Seattle to Haines (you can’t drive to Yakutat). So I guess it depends if you want to trade time for money. I’ve left Seattle on the morning flight and been on the glacier the same evening! – flying Alaskan Airlines to Yakutat and then to the glacier from there. Even with Paul Swanstrom flying up from Haines you could still arrive in Yakutat and get him to fly you in that afternoon or the next morning, weather permitting. Pilots tend to prefer flying early when the snow is harder as takeoff is easier.

As for air services the only ones I’ve ever considered are:

Andy Newton out of White Horse (is this “Icefields Discovery”?). I’ve never used him but lots of people do. The minus about flying from White Horse is that it’s on the east side of the range and it seems like it’s easier to get stuck there waiting for weather.

Paul Swanstrom out of Haines. I’ve used him once and my buddy Paul has used him a couple of times. He’s very solid and pretty conservative about what’s possible – a good trait in a pilot in my opinion. Haines is about the same distance as White Horse but on the west side. I’d have him meet me in Yakutat – we didn’t do this last time because we didn’t ask the right questions. If you were a party of four doing two trips this would be a lot cheaper as you’d only pay for the Haines-Yakutat leg once with a light plane. To me the only minus of this approach is you get to hang out in Yakutat not Haines (Haines is much nicer).

Flying into Haines is expensive. The puddle jumper flights aren’t cheap and they really make you pay for baggage so that killed us because at that point we had all our food. I would try and avoid additional air taxi flights for this reason alone. Haines has a couple of OK supermarkets but you’d have less choice and the prices are higher than Seattle. You could fly to Haines and buy all your food their just about but direct from Seattle to Yakutat is simpler.

Paul Claus from Ultima Thule. This is a much better option for the University, Bona end of the range. It involves a lot more agro to get to the airstrip and he’s at the wrong end of the range for Kennedy so it’s a longer flight. I considered using him for a trip to the University-Bona area – which is very close to his lodge. He also flies a much bigger plane I think – so it might work out for you economically with a bigger party. His lodge is a really up market affair and not on the road – I seem to remember we would have had to fly in there. Dave Burdick has flown with him, you can read his report on their trip.

If I were doing it again I’d either fly directly to Yakutat and have Paul Swanstrom meet me there and fly in the same day or the following morning weather permitting – spend money save time. Or drive to Haines or White Horse and fly from there – interesting drive save cash.

Note: You pay twice for the aircraft landing in the Kluane Park – once in and once out.

A Year of CrossFit

So I started CrossFit about a year ago and I thought it might be interesting to review progress after a year. Essentially I go 2-3 times each week except for breaks for climbing, travel, injury and illness.

CrossFit is hard. Doing it on your own is harder. I’ve got to meet and train with a really exceptional group of people and spent some truely great moments with them. Scott and Heather for getting me through “Murph” and William for pushing me the last 30 seconds of “Fight Gone Bad”, the Turkey Day workout to name just a few.

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Global Warming and Bad Writing

So last weekend I spent a damp morning in Leavenworth planning this summer’s Peru extravaganza and drinking far too much coffee. Given that planning a trip to Peru doesn’t exactly take a whole heck of a lot of time that left me with a few hours to kill while things dried out. Someone at work had leant me Michael Crichton‘s “State of Fear”…

The books is pretty much run of the mill Jurassic Park fare with an interesting twist in that it includes real environmental data. A bit like Oliver Stone’s JFK included real footage of the assasination, although Crichton makes a much clearer separation of the two. I have to say it kept me entertained but also pissed me off.

You can read more about why the scientific arguments presented in the book are incorrect here and here. While I have a scientific background (Physics) I’m not going to better the information presented there. I would like to make a couple of more general points.

  • Mr Crichton claims of being unbiased seem a little hollow given that his books have a fairly consistent theme;

“Crichton’s works are consistently cautionary in that his plots invariably portray scientific advancements going awry, often with worst-case scenarios.”

  • His argument is that science can be bought – which I partially agree with. Thus the entire scientific community is getting on the band wagon and writing grant proposals to follow the money. This simply doesn’t jive with his other theory that the environmental community is using scare tactics because it’s financially outgunned by corporate concerns. If this were true surely scientists would all be writing grant proposals for big oil companies.
  • Crichton also points out that not all scientists agree on global warming. This is true. Not all scientists agree on Einstein’s theory’s either – it’s actually quite rare for any community to agree 100%, especially on a complex issue like global warming. Computer models are difficult to create and interpret and drug trial like experiments simply aren’t possible with a patient the size of planet Earth.

So I’ll get off my soapbox now. Suffice to say global warming is a serious issue that anyone into the outdoors and winter sports in particular should be concerned about. The less superficial might also like to contemplate the effect of a couple of feet rise in sea level might have on somewhere like Bangladesh.

Mr Crichton should stick to what he’s best at, writing mildly entertaining stories.