By Martin Bril
I met Tim through one of my wife’s long time friends. At the time, I had no idea that we would end up climbing mountains together. I was planning to catch a few silver salmons during the Fall run down in Seward, AK and as I knew he was an accomplished angler, invited him to join me for the day. We had a good time and we got along from the start. After talking outdoors for a while, I brought up the idea of him joining me up in the mountains and he seemed very enthusiastic about it. A couple weeks later, we were making plans and, while scoping out a map, tossed a few ideas around for a day climb until Lark Mountain was decided upon. The day of our trip started with a fairly cold morning. The thermometer showed only a few degrees above zero on the Fahrenheit scale. Hand warmers were kept handy and extra wool socks packed up. As planned we came across an old mine trail that made our first mile approach fairly uneventful, giving us some time to catch up and get to know each other a little better. From there it was up to us to take on the path of least resistance amid heavy sections of alder brushes alternating with open subalpine forest.
Tim turned out to also be an avid hunter and was able to educate me in identifying the local fauna through snow tracks, bits of fur and other clues left behind. We were in no hurry and by mid-afternoon saw the last hemlock saplings giving way to alpine tundra.
We dropped our packs and started making our way up the ridge. I got to show Tim a few basic ways to use the ice axe in steeper areas with solid snow after getting into some fun scrambling.
At 4600 ft, we arrived at a false peak. The snow was getting thicker and thicker to the point that we were unable to make up the ridgeline, creating the danger of unintentionally stepping onto cornices. After a few minutes of terrain observation, we made our peace with not reaching the summit, leaving our considerations to a future attempt.
We sat down for a while, enjoying the sweeping views of the surrounding massifs and lakes basked in sunset.
We then proceeded to the reverse route, getting to our backpacks just in time for Tim’s headlamp to give up. What I thought would make the remaining of our trip very difficult didn’t make him flinch. This was not his first time in the dark without a lamp and so we proceeded as if nothing happened. As it was getting late, we decided to take on an unfortunate shortcut, which ended up dumping us in an old avalanche area covered in massive fallen cottonwood trees and devil’s club. We decided to brush off the frustration by making conversation, which made the descent much easier. After three long hours, we at last reached the awaited railroad tracks that would lead us straight to the car on a quiet final mile, tired but happy.