I don’t know if I would say I take pride in it, but I always do my best to be prepared for any challenges a remote hunt might present. I usually do pretty well, but my goat hunt this year gave me a big reality check. Just five days after returning from my sheep hunt, as I was packing my goat gear in my truck to head down to the Chugach Range, my uncle Tracy called and asked if I was taking crampons. I didn’t have any, so he said to come pick up an old pair of his, that he’s ended up needing them for every goat hunt he’s ever been on. I was sure glad I did. Due to weather, the pilots who were flying my buddy Steve and me into the mountains weren’t able to take us into the drainage we’d hoped to be dropped off in, and instead had to land us on a glacier!
As the planes lifted off and left us there, we immediately knew we were in for more than we’d bargained. We had one set of crampons and one ice axe (also an afterthought), but no safety rope or other ice gear to speak of. Because the mountains and rock shoot straight up out of the glacier, we had to camp on a patch of last winter’s snow on top of the ice. It was the only place our tent stakes would do any good, so it would have to suffice. Right after we got our makeshift camp set up, the wind and rain picked up big time, so we spent the rest of that day anxiously huddled in the tent. We had seen a big billy on a mountain less than a mile away, and spotted another directly above our camp, so our hopes were high.
By the next morning the clouds had broken, and although the wind was still howling, we set out up the glacier to get a better look at the first billy we had seen the night before. This turned out to be a fiasco, as we found walking on the glacier very dangerous in the good spots, and we were completely dead-ended by crevasses. So we made our way back down the glacier and past camp to check out another drainage that looked more accessible. Steve and I climbed up a few hundred feet to a knob that would give us a good view of the valley, and just as we reached the top, I spotted a billy just 700 yards away, bedded in a grassy area surrounded by cliffs and patches of snow.
The wind was good, and after a quick but hairy stalk, a few solid shots on the tough critter, and a 50-foot slide down a steep shale slope, I was standing over my second and best mountain goat. As much as I would have liked to just soak it up, there was little time. I got to work cleaning him, and after a short and steep pack down, we were back on the glacier, and crawling into our tent just as darkness and the rain began to fall.