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Utah to Alaska

Utah to Alaska

Two southern gentlemen saddle up for a self-supported pedal from Utah to Alaska Cody Hughes and Clay James are two Utah transplants that are embarking on an outlandish expedition to ride their bicycles from Salt Lake City to Denali National Park with the ultimate goal of traversing the mountain north to south. The two are departing on March 20th from their doorstep at the base of the Wasatch Mountains. They have allocated 2 months to pedal to Denali. The route involves 3400+ miles of open road to reach the tallest mountain in North America. The guys will need to cover at least 50 miles per day to allow for a month of climbing and skiing on Denali. They will be going self-supported, each towing cargo trailers with all of their expedition and ski gear. Cody was born and raised in Ashland City, Tennessee. He fell in love with golf at a young age and quickly developed a dedication to the sport. He attended the University of Utah on a golf scholarship and soon found a distraction in the mountains towering above the school's campus. Coming from Tennessee and having never seen the Rocky Mountains, he could not resist the urge to run for the hills. Cody was able to channel golfs required devotion to perfection and use that energy to efficiently travel and effortlessly draw lines in untracked powder. Nowadays, Cody’s life is devoted to spending every day outside sharing his passion for the mountains and snow with others. He is an avalanche educator, backcountry split board guide, and river guide. In the winter he juggles 4 jobs working for the Utah Avalanche Center, Utah Mountain Adventures, Inspired Summit Adventures, and Park City Powder Cats. In the summer, he guides trips down the Grand Canyon for Tour West. In the shoulder seasons, he can be found snowboarding volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest, traveling to other countries to experience far away mountain ranges and cultures, or running up hills in the Wasatch. Cody has prior experience in the bike touring realm, a few years back he pedaled 3000 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah to central Florida. He brought his dog Sierra along for the ride and raised ten thousand dollars for the Gary Sinise Foundation that honors veterans, first responders, and their families. The journey sparked a fire for human-powered adventures and left him jonesing for the next opportunity to push off into the unknown. He was inspired by people’s willingness to provide support along the way. There were countless instances where strangers went out of their way to feed him or provide a place to stay. The journey made a lasting impression by providing the highest of highs and lowest of lows daily. Clay grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. As a kid, he spent summers playing in the forests, lakes, and rivers of the Ozark mountains. In his teenage years, he developed an appreciation for exploring the Natural State. Throughout high school, he spent the majority of weekends camping, rock climbing, mountain biking, and trail running. Rock climbing quickly captured his attention and directed him towards attending the University of Colorado. On the front range of the Rockies, Clay found endless adventures in the hills above campus. A passion for moving quickly to squeeze in climbing and trail running between classes built the foundation for fast and light travels into the alpine. He graduated with a degree in Environmental Engineering and immediately moved to Salt Lake City to experience a new mountain range and better his craft of backcountry ski travel. Clay has been working for DPS Skis for two years. He started in ski production and quickly saw that his skill set could be utilized to improve factory efficiency and ski quality. He currently works as the Lean Manufacturing Coordinator and oversees the entire ski assembly and finishing process. On any given day, he is working with the production team to diagnose issues and collectively find solutions. When not working the 9-5, Clay is out in the mountains. Many of his weekdays in the winter call for 4:30 am wake up calls and sunrise powder skiing before work. This winter, he has also fallen into the dark arts of night skiing. The Wasatch is the most population dense ski touring range in the West, but on any given night you can have the entire place to yourself. All you need is a 1000+ lumen headlamp, clear skies, and cold powder. Secret’s out! In the summertime, Clay nurtures his first love, alpine granite crack climbing. Smash-n-grab missions to various alpine walls throughout the west put him behind the steering wheel and dangling from big rock faces nearly every weekend. Clay and Cody bonded over their passion for efficient mountain travel and have a shared willingness to think big and go after their wildest dreams. The two started ski touring together last winter and have spent countless days moving around the mountains together. This winter in the Wasatch has been a blessing of exponential proportions and the guys have scored day after day of perfect powder. Highlights for the season include party shredding 6 deep down the South Face of Lone Peak in sunny blower powder, a full moon on Superior skiing rippin’ graupel, hop turning stable 50 degree powder in the Spindrift Couloir on Storm Mountain, powder laps sans headlamp under the blood moon, dreamy mornings safely skiing cold deep snow in Stairs Gulch and a few unreal days in the Lisa Falls drainage. A special thanks go out to all of the friends that shared the stoke and helped build the psyche for the journey ahead. The fellas are both reluctant to strap the skis to the trailer for a couple of months in exchange for Arctic biking, but life is ever evolving and new experiences await wherever you decide to direct your passion. Unfortunately, Clay will not be able to bring his coveted Tour1 185 Lotus 124 along for the journey. There will be many moments of surfy nostalgia to keep the legs spinning. The guys have been roommates for the last couple years and spend almost every evening in the winter discussing snowpack, current weather conditions, and scheming where the best turning conditions can be found. For them, the planning and preparation that goes into a day in the mountains is an integral part of the experience. In recent months, the conversation has shifted towards the logistics of biking to Alaska and climbing Denali. It is fun to dive into conversations about strategy and packing. The array of things that need to be ironed out range from huge decisions about the bike route and the gear needed for glacier travel to seemingly meaningless things such as how many pairs of socks to bring. The travel route involves biking west from Salt Lake City past the Great Salt Lake to Nevada. From the Nevada border, the bearings turn north and the pedaling goes through southwest Idaho, Eastern Oregon, and Eastern Washington. Once in British Columbia, the route leads to Prince George, biking between the Rockies and the Coast Range. From there, a bit more west and north brings the bikes on to the Cassiar Highway. The Cassiar will be biked in its entirety to the intersection with the Al-Can. West on the Al-Can Highway through the Yukon eventually leads to Talkeetna. A couple hundred more miles eventually spits the guys out at the trailhead on the north side of Denali. From the Wonder Lake trailhead, it’s 18,200 feet of vertical gain to the summit. The guys plan to climb the Muldrow Glacier Route and descend via the West Buttress. The Muldrow is the route by which Denali was first climbed in 1913 and is seldom climbed these days in comparison to the popular West Buttress. The route involves fording the Mckinley River, crossing the tundra, and miles upon miles of glacier travel. Highlights include McGonagall Pass, The Great Icefall, Karsten’s Ridge, and The Harper Glacier. This will be the first trip to Denali for both guys. Traveling on skis is the safest option on these glaciers because of the size of the crevasses and the deteriorating snow bridges that exist in early June. Clay will be traveling with a pair of Alchemist 185 Cassiar 94’s and Cody will be on a Jones Hovercraft split board. If the weather cooperates and time allows, the guys plan to do some skiing on the south side of Denali after going up and over. Also, if everything is tracking well, they hope to packraft back to Talkeetna to complete a human-powered ascent and descent of the mountain. Follow their daily progress by clicking here.