Monday, June 1, 2020

Bear Crack - 3.9.2020

The first time we tried the Bear Crack we were racing increasing winds. As we closed in on the top, the winds ramped up, and a natural washed over us. Seconds later a bigger one took Nyssa's ski pole for a 500 ft ride. It wasn't the day to be in an incised terrain trap, and we bailed.

On a calmer day a week later, Jordan and I went back for redemption.

As we left the little parking lot next to the lake, large fluffy flakes were drifting down around us, and skinning into the birch forest felt like going through the wardrobe to Narnia.

At the campground we turned left and waded thru devils club and alders towards the base of the line. Below treeline couloirs are rare in these parts, and seeing full grown cottonwoods inside the lower line was confusing. 30 minutes from the parking lot, we were out of the shrubs, prickly things, and trees.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Goats Head Soup - 3.11.2020

Backcountry skiing is the game of patience. We spend years staring at lines and waiting for them to come in. There are so many factors: stability, weather, work schedules, partners, motivation, and thin snowpacks to name a few.

For the couloir above Goats Head Soup, its takes something we haven't had in awhile along Turnagain Arm - consistent snow to sea level. But, every time we round the bend at Windy Corner, we crane our necks, try not to swerve into oncoming traffic, and hope for a fleeting glimpse of snow snaking down the 4,000 foot line to the ocean.

In early March, when Andy and Connor figured out that it was in, Tony and I weren't going to miss our chance.

We left work early with bad cases of powder fever, parked at the Windy Corner lot, skinned the Turnagain Arm Trail to the gully, then popped out of the alder tube into the lower chute.

Andy and Lance were ahead of us, and we followed their tracks as they took the subtle left-hand turn into the upper couloir.

Booting upwards, the brown and orange rock walls grew around us. 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Alpenglow - 3.15.2020

We knew Sunday would be a memorable adventure when it started with a pair of skins forgotten at the Powder Hut. Tulio is a hero, and after a brief donut delay at Tesoro were back on the road. 

After a missed couple drive-bys on the Hope Road, we pulled off at the the Third Canyon takeout and parked on what was available of the shoulder. There had been discussion about waders, rubber boots, or packrafts, but no one actually wanted to carry any of that and we packed optimism instead. 

A few minutes of downhill skinning brought us to the fortunately frozen river, and the beginning of the uphill. I had expected and even hoped for a bit of bushwhacking, so was disappointed to find little underbrush and devils club in the woods. Dang, too easy.

Following the tracks of a wayward snowshoer thru the crusty snow in the woods, progress was fast and we soon emerged out of the old growth and onto Alpenglow's long west shoulder.

Photo: Dmitry Surnin

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Skookum Glacier - 3.18.2017

Updated 4.30.2020 to include another great day.
Early last week, model run after model run showed a small Wednesday night storm headed for the North Gulf Coast. The question was: would it make it inland? In town on Wednesday night there were a few thin clouds - maybe the storm hadn't made it across the Prince William Sound? Then the rumors of a refresh started trickling in from CPG and the Skookum.

By, the time we were halfway up the Skookum on Saturday our sleds were leaving trenches - the sleeper storm was real. We picked a long and fat north-facing couloir to start with. Across the way we were dreaming about a sinuous chute off the southeast face of Byron:

Photo: Alex Geilich

Dropping in, we slashed the huge cones of slough sitting in the line.

Photo: Alex Geilich


Friday, April 24, 2020

Bench Peak - 4.9.2020

For some reason no one could ski Bench peak on Thursday, so the day started as they do when I have no accountability: I didn't get out of bed. I eventually stopped hitting snooze and was running out the door sometime after 9:00.

Turnagain is usually a mid winter ski destination with the commute in the dark. It was a treat to do the drive in the glory of daylight. The raw beauty of the rainbow of grays of Turnagain Arm ice never gets old, and driving thru the glacier carved U of the pass in full sun was special.

There were a couple inches of new snow when I pulled into Johnson Pass. And, skinning away from the car, the trail was criss-crossed by tracks of snowshoe hares on their way to breakfast. The non-motorized route was bumpy and indirect, so I left it in favor of the quasi grooming of the snowmobile tracks. The first few miles thru the valley bottom went quickly and I soon left the Johnson Pass trail and headed for Center Creek.

Progress slowed as I was forced off the creek by road blocks of open water in the gorge. Skinning up and down thru the grabby suncrust and pine cones of the woods was comical and inefficient, but the crust was firm and there was no partner to suggest more practical routes, so I kept making pretty good time. Entering the space between the Pastoral and Bench Peak massifs the valley opened up. Behind, Silvertip and Twin Peaks rose above Johnson Pass.