Monday, March 30, 2015

Kanuti Picture Project

Updated 3.30.2015 - At 1.64 million acres Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge is about the size of Delaware; it provides crucial habitat for bird, mammal, and fish species. Kanuti has no designated trails, campsites, or public use cabins within its boundaries. Its huge and untouched; places like this are why we live here.

If there is enough light to work and enough water to measure, we work in Kanuti nearly every month. Like the Prince William Sound Picture Project, this post is made up of unique and memorable moments that stand out.

Two-mile wide Sithylemenkat Lake is the only confirmed structure in Alaska that was formed by a meteor. Alaska's vigorous crustal movements and extreme climatic conditions have obliterated any others.

Rock glaciers can be made up of angular rock debris where empty space is filled with ice, or they can be ice glaciers buried in debris. Like traditional glaciers, they move downhill by deformation of the ice within. Flow lobes are visible in this one.

Almost back home on the flight to Anchorage: Mount Marcus Baker in the distance, then Pioneer Peak, and the Palmer Hay Flats in the foreground. Marcus Baker is the tallest peak in the Chugach Mountains. On a good snow year one can ski over 6,000 uninterrupted vertical feet off the summit of Pioneer. The predominant flow that brings copious amounts of maritime snow to Marcus Baker leaves the Palmer Hay Flats and the west side of the Chugach dry.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tincan Proper - 3.8.2015

One of the key components of weather forecasting are trends. When consecutive model runs consistently report a storm is coming, confidence in the storm increases. When one run forecasts sun and the next run forecasts snow, confidence decreases.

Twenty Mile to the North, so much fun doing so many things up there.

As March arrived the models started to forecast a storm for the night of the 6th. Each model run confirmed the storm, and even started to increase its size. There was a catch, too much snow and the stability balance would tip. When I went to bed at midnight on the 6th it still wasn't snowing at Hatcher, and the radar showed the moisture way down the Cook Inlet. Were the model trends wrong?
We warmed up in Common Bowl, Matt deemed it a success.

I woke up at 2 AM to check the Independence Mine webcam. Drifts were already forming: windslabs would be a problem. At 6 AM, Independence mine had 8 inches of new snow and the radar and webcams confirmed that heavy orographic precipitation was still in full affect at Hatcher.

Beginning to feel better about the snowpack, we jumped over to Hippy Bowl.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Castle Mountain

"Are those the Northern Lights?"

"I think so."

It was 6:30 AM, -6 degrees, and Meg and I were running hill sprints to start out the day.

"Your legs are going to be barking!"

The day's goal.

A couple hours later I found myself pacing around my house. Where to ski? How much would it make my legs bark? I really didn't want to deal with my sled which is exactly why I wasn't making a decision.

Approaching the couloir entrance.

The impetus to move was a message from Tarah confirming the existence of the Chickaloon zone. I called Alex: "I'm running late, how about Chickaloon? Also, I still need to load up my sled, so its gonna be even later." Alex was running late too, so no problem.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Japanuary 2015

Skiers have a dream of floating through empty trees while huge snowflakes fall around us. It’s seemingly silent as the new snow drowns all sounds. Stopping to look up, individual flakes materialize and drift down from an infinite mass above.
The beginning.

That dream was my image of Japan. With the sun barely 7 degrees above the horizon at noon, I wasn’t going to spend all of January in Alaska.
The first lift ride.

The planning began back in July with an email to Miles Clark. The response: I’m in Indo surfing, getting over dengue fever, call me.
Free refills on day one.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lime Creek - 1.1.2015

When I bought my sled years ago, the first thing that I did was to pour over topo maps dreaming of sled skiing potential. Over the years we've explored the likes of Steamboat, Wolf Creek, and Crested Butte. Despite the iconic zones of North Shore, East Vail, Euphoria, and Black Lakes Ridge, we've neglected Vail Pass.

Almost ready to leave the trailhead.

Back in Colorado, and finally with plenty of light, the old crew reassembled. Ethan just back from Nepal, Jordan busy with the race team, and myself back from Alaska; basically all out of the loop.

Dropping into our first run.

Given our lack of knowledge about the snowpack, we wanted to avoid the deep instabilities lurking on north aspects. With easy sled access and a stable aspect, I settled on Lime Creek, halfway between Redcliff and I-70.

Photo: Jordan Scheremeta