Featured Ritt Kellog Expedition: Three Weasels on Ski-zels

As a tribute to Colorado College alumnus Ritt Kellogg ’90, a skilled outdoorsman who tragically died in an avalanche, the Kellogg family established the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund in 1993. Each year, this fund provides students the means to carry out incredible backcountry trips in the U.S. and Canada for over 12 days or more. Through a rigorous application process, students may propose virtually any trip they can dream up — from rock climbing in the Cirque of the Unclimbables in northeastern Canada, to sea kayaking off the coast of Alaska. This semester, the Active Life section will feature a group of fund recipients and their journey every week.

In late May, Nick Crews ’18, Grace Ford ’19, and Nick Merritt ’19 headed to the Northern Chugach Range of Alaska to climb and ski. The group spent 12 days in the backcountry, hoping to summit Mount Fafnir, Mount Valhalla, Mount Thor, Mount Haley, and Mount Gilbert-Lewis, and exploring the possibility of skiing above 15,000 feet. They were flown in and out in a small plane to the remote area where they base-camped on a glacier in a tent and snow cave.

Photo Courtesy of Nick Crews

Active Life: What was the inspiration behind your trip?

Grace Ford: We had initially planned on doing a traverse through the Chugach Range, but by the time we could have gotten there after graduation, the conditions would have been too late season at lower elevations. In the end, I think we just opened Caltopo for the Chugach Range to try to find a location where there were lots of mountains nearby that would be feasible. Also, doing a trip like this seemed like a good next step to take with the skills we had when coming into the trip, something to test what we already knew and build skills for bigger trips in the future.

Nick Merritt: Radical lines and the opportunity to spend time in an amazing place.

AL: What was the most challenging aspect of the trip?

GF: We had weather for the first five days that made it impossible to climb anything we had planned on. It was probably most challenging because the weather wasn’t awful—it wasn’t full-on blizzarding most of the time—but there were white-out conditions (it looked like we were inside of a ping pong ball). We also faced later season glacier conditions in some areas than we were expecting, a lot of crevasses that we thought would be filled in weren’t.

NM: Pooping in a plastic bag.

AL: Do have any personal highlights?

Nick Crews: [My personal highlight was] when we got to the top of one of our objectives, Mount Haley, after the weather had finally cleared from a few days of storming. A temperature inversion—when it is warmer higher up than down low—caused all the clouds to be pushed down below us into a solid layer that extended as far as the eye could see. Other mountains poked out of the ocean of clouds like islands, so it looked like literal heaven.

GF: When we summited Mount Fafnir, we could see all the way out into Prince Williams Sound and being able to see the ocean that was 60+ miles away was absolutely gorgeous. We also weren’t sure we were be able to summit Fafnir—there were a lot more objective hazards than we expected—so being able to get to the top felt pretty darn good.

AL: Did you see any wildlife?

NM: One sad, dead bird that probably never meant to end up on the glacier.

GF: We didn’t see another living thing for 11 days … that was pretty crazy!

AL: What was the best camp meal you had?

NM: Sour Patch Kids and Werther’s caramels in my sleeping bag.

GF: It was [Nick Merritt’s] birthday while we were on the trip, and we made some pretty awesome brownies!

AL: Do you have any advice for someone interested in applying for a Ritt Kellogg Expedition?

NM: If you have a cool idea, make it happen. Also, bring a few wet wipes.

Sarah Laico

Sarah Laico

Sarah is a junior from Warwick, New York. After being Head Writer of her high school paper, she has enjoyed continuing her passion for journalism working at the Catalyst. An outdoors enthusiast, Sarah loves to rockclimb, hike, ski, and trail run, and she also is a backpacking, rafting, and climbing leader for the Outdoor Education Center. When she is not editing for the Active Life section at the Catalyst or monitoring at CC's Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym, Sarah can be found playing drums and eating cereal.

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