Monday, March 26, 2018

Souvenir Peak - 3.17.2018

Guarded by its twin vertical summits, the west bowl of Souvenir has been an obsession this season. With a foot of fresh and a break between storm systems, we set out last Saturday from Gold Mint to check it out. Rounding the corner of the valley, the Mint peaks came into view:

At the corner, we left the Mint Valley and skinned into the hanging valley below Souvenir. Thanks to Josh for the artwork. Meow meow!

Photo: Josh Gray

The valley floor is filled by mounded moraines from a glacier long gone, while the walls are carved by that same glacier.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Delia Creek - 3.4.2018

Despite years of drooling over its faces, bowls, and couloirs guarded by tilted conglomerate walls, I've never skied Arcose Ridge before. With a fat snowpack at Hatcher I was out of excuses about alders, so on a beautiful Sunday we parked in the Gold Mint parking lot to check out Delia Creek.

Ahead of us, the west face of Souvenir and its twin summits were still in the morning shade. I'd really like to ski that one.

Working to stay away from major terrain traps, we contoured east thru the hanging valley, and then onto the ridge above Delia Creek. Behind our skinner is Goodhope Creek and the Snowbird Mine Valley. Goodhope is stacked with couloirs, bowls, and pillows, but is a bit tricky to hit right due to its solar aspect.

It was hard to leave the warmth of the spring sun and drop into the cold shade of Delia Creek. Well, it wasn't that hard.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Moonlight Basin - 1.27.2018

Saturday started with the chilling whompf of our extended column test failing and propagating 85 cm down on buried surface hoar. We were standing on a 40 degree slope on Crudbusters with 2,000 feet
of avalanche terrain above us. And, it was -10 degrees. The margin for error was too small for us to risk awakening this sleeping dragon. It was time to call an audible and head for the maritime snowpack of milepost 24.

Skinning out of the second parking lot of the day, the views weren't bad:

Photo: Rachel Heath

In our snowpit half-way up, we were happy to find two meters of dense, consolidated snow and stable test results. I love maritime snowpacks. Just below the pass between Little Odessey and the Goodwills, the snow became wind affected. So, we transitioned from uphill to downhill. I dropped first into the creamy snow:

Andrew brought up the rear, bringing along his seal of approval.
Photo: Rachel Heath

Rice Mountain - 1.28.2018

Driving through Thompson Pass on Sunday morning, new natural avalanches were everywhere. If all these slides weren't enough, the slide across our intended skintrack up the Worthington Glacier definitely nixed that plan.

Brainstorming in the parking lot outside the Tsaina Lodge, Ryan from the Valdez Avy Center pulled up. He recommended checking out the trees around Tiekel Creek. Beta from the local forecaster - what good luck! At the parking lot below Rice Mountain, Taylor was already there. So were Courtney and Tobey. Seemed like the place to be. We chased Taylor up the skin track as twin sundogs floated in front of Mt Tiekel.

Photo: Rachel Heath

Parhelions (AKA sundogs) flank the sun in a 22 degree halo. The angle is a function of the refraction of atmospheric ice crystals acting like prisms to bend sunlight in the atmosphere. Larger ice crystals wobble more as they fall, producing larger sundogs.

At treeline we stopped to dig a pit. Just like the previous day, the unsettling whompf of failure and propagation on deeply buried surface hoar had the hair on the back of our necks standing straight up. With ongoing wind loading in the alpine and complex and unfamiliar terrain, we decided to stick to the trees below.

Dropping into the well spaced forest of birch and spruce filled with soft snow, the trees seemed like a good choice. Andrew was stoked about it too. Or maybe he was just stoked about sundog science?

Photo: Rachel Heath

Ready for more dreamy tree skiing, we headed back up the skinner.

Photo: Rachel Heath

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Archangel Valley Linkup - 1.20.2018

On Monday, I followed Zack down a steep, rocky, and blind couloir on the Pinnacle that I was sure didn't go. When it did, I realized that all five north facing valleys of Archangel could be linked together into one tour by a series of couloirs.

It wasn't hard to convince Brady, Alex, and Neil to forgo good snow and sun at Turnagain to try it. By sunrise we were high above Dogsled Pass and wrapping towards the entrance to Fairangel Valley. Across the way, the Mint peaks were lit up in the morning light.

In the cold morning air, Brady dropped first:

Buttressed by big granite walls, the aesthetic couloirs of Fairangel Valley hold a special place in my heart. Maybe someday conditions will line up to ski the Fair Five in one day.

Photo: Brady Deal