Byron Bouldering ?

I awoke from a dreamless sleep, lying on my stomach, conscious of a body that refused to move, and knowing that I should not be awake. Snooze button.

Fast forward two hours. Once again ripped from the void of sleep, I forced an unwilling body into the living world. The previous day of bouldering in Archangel Valley had been a glorious, incredible feat of endurance and enjoyment that left me drained and yearning for beer, meat, and sleep. Now, I was suffering, but I wouldn’t have traded the former day for any other, and the new day was far too beautiful to waste in bed. The sun was high and the sky was blue. With enough caffeine I was finally able to get on the road, heading south to Byron Glacier.

Pulling into the newly paved parking lot at the trailhead to the glacier felt like a familiar routine. I pedaled casually up the gravel trail, passing tourists bedecked in hiking pants, boots, and heavy sweaters that portrayed a fondness for Seward.  My Chacos and shorts laughed. Clearly I knew something that they did not.

And then I hit snow.

Snapped 4″x8″ beam bridge

I could see the look of mild amusement and superiority on their faces as I ditched the bike,  jamming the tires into a drift so it would stand up and then cautiously taking a few step onto the snow.

Clearly there was still a ton of snow ahead, but I wanted to see boulders. I kept going to the first moraine, the crust holding firm beneath my sandels as I stayed away from the mushy trench created by the tourists.

From the top of the moraine I could see the crown of a boulder that I wanted to climb the season before; The Arkenstone. The 45 degree face was easy to recognize although the massive rock was barely sticking out from it’s snow bowl.

I groveled at its toes. The face itself looked as impossibly blank as it always had, but the arete looked more tantalizing than ever with a perfect cushion of snow beneath it. Normally the arete would top out 15′ above a rocky slope of small boulders and stunted alders. I groped it for holds, then I turned around.

The Erotics Boulder

Staring across the snow field from the Arkenstone, I could see the Erotics Boulder with its 30 degree face, clearly visible in all its glory, and the landing melted clear down to the rock beneath it. The idea was to climb the face with a snow platform  and eliminate threat of a bad landing, but we had already missed that opportunity. Standing beneath the face with an 8 foot wall of snow behind me made the boulder seem even more intimidating and impressive than it had before. I could not believe that I climbed it last year, alone. Yet, there it was, ready and waiting.

Byron Peak

Looking down the rest of the valley I could see only one other boulder in the first section that was climbable. Everything thing else was engulfed completely in 15′ of snow (or more). Behind an avalanche slide full of rocks the second group of massive boulders was peaking out; an ominous and tempting prize. The snow field cracked, rocks slid down the valley walls, the mountain dominated the back drop; with the sun beating on the back of my naked legs, it was time to go home and wait for more snow to melt.

The night was filled with dreams.