Trip to Sledge Island -- and Ascent!

April 3, 2009

This is something I've wanted to do for 43 years; ie, go out to Sledge Island. On April 3, a few of us were at the local Polar Cafe having breakfast, and we got the idea of playing hookey from jobs and obligations and just go!

In short order we had assembled six hardy souls. Ken Hughes, Nick Klescewski, Beatrice Buckholz, Arnie Ashenfelter, Keith Andrews and myself, Ramon.

Here is a view of Sledge Island. We are looking south from the shore of the Seward Peninsula, some 25 miles west of Nome. In other words, the mainland shore is a bit behind us.

Weather was clear, calm and -15F

Right after the above picture was snapped (Canon SD-1000 camera), I turned around and took a picture of the machines and three of the gang.

Notice Beatrice's pink helmet.

Here my machine came up to an ice heave. This was a mild one, but the only one that I photographed, as I was otherwise busy. This one laid on the bottom of the ocean, and was heaved up. The dirt on the underside shows that it was bottomed out at one time. Of course, it could have drifted in from miles away, but I think it was grounded nearby.

Arriving at the island, we went to the sandspit on the north side. It is about two acres, and this Coast Guard lighthouse is there.
Solar powered. And the light assembly has a turntable with 5 bulbs in it, so as each bulb burns out, it automatically rotates to the next spare.

Notice the grasses and other sandy soil vegetation. There is driftwood and plenty of rocks too!

Here comes Arnie Ashenfelter in his Triple Yamaha. Notice the rough ice behind him.

We had a lot of that rough ice to contend with, but the part that was the worse was right there just before we got to the island.

Here is most of the gang, still awaiting the coming of Arnie Ashenfelter.

The machine in the foreground is Beatrice's 550Fan MXZ.

Still at the same spot by the lighthouse, I faced west and took this picture sighting along the North shore of Sledge.

The post, probably just some driftwood there by serendipity, was used as a urinating post by the local fox population. So, there are foxes out there on Sledge, but we did not see any.

The draw that you can see is the only way up. The rest of the island is a nearly vertical, scree-covered nightmare.

Here is from the bottom of the draw looking up. If you look along the machine trail, you will see where the trail leaves the sea ice and starts the climb.

It is pretty steep, specially at the top. And the parts just above the rockfall is very soft snow and presents the hazard of sliding sideways and "losing" it. However, it was not a particularly difficult climb.

My turn is next!

Here are three of us assembled at the top. Keith took the picture. Only us four made it up, Nick and Beatrice did not climb.

From left to right is Ken Hughes, Ramon Gandia (me), and Arnie Ashenfelter.

The edge of the precipice is right behind us, a 600 foot drop. The flat ice you see between our heads is at sea level, and was the route we took back.

The angle of the picture makes it look as if Arni and I are holding hands. Not true, he's too ugly!

Keith then walked to the edge of the precipice and took this picture of us.

Picture Copyright © 2009 Keith Andrews

Looking North towards the mainland from the very edge of oblivion.

Picture Copyright © 2009 Keith Andrews

Same spot, with Keith taking this picture towards the East.
The drop is more easily discerned here.

Picture Copyright © 2009 Keith Andrews

After only a short walk, Keith was able to take this picture looking south along the east face of the island. It is all covered with rocks.

Picture Copyright © 2009 Keith Andrews

Copyright © 2009, Ramon Gandia. All rights reserved.