Thursday, March 14, 2019

Goldpan - 12.13.2018

Alaska is the land of feast or famine. November brought days of rain, rain, rain to the Kenai Mountains. Fortunately, days of rain at the road mean feet of snow in the alpine, and in early December we finally got the weather window we'd been waiting for.

It was dark and cold as we broke trail out of the Sunburst lot, along Taylor Creek, and up Basketball. Climbing higher, we watched the sun kiss Turnagain's crown jewel:

Not entirely sure about stability and snow, we started with a long, protected spine towards Bertha Creek. Jono offered to go first; we could barely see him through the trail of cold smoke he left behind. It was going to be a good day.

Playing leapfrog down the long spine, I looked up to see a partially submerged Bucky. He'd later say this was the deepest day he's ever skied in the alpine.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Weekly Anchorage Ski Outlook

Thurs – Fristormy, warm (high confidence).
The storm that is already impacting our region will continue into Friday. Another storm will arrive immediately on its heels. These storms are very similar. Areas closer to the western Prince William Sound (Whittier & Seward) will see the most precip with each storm bringing FEET of snow to the Turnagain/Girdwood alpine. The rain/snow line will rise over the storm to at/above the Turnagain Pass road level. The Chugach Front Range will see high winds from these storms; Hatcher will likely also see wind.

Weekend: stormy, warm (high confidence).
The Friday storm will continue into Saturday before being following by ANOTHER powerful storm. Again, areas closer to the western PWS will see the most. The rain/snow line will be high. The Chugach Front Range will see high winds, as will Hatcher to a lesser extent.

Early Next Week: stormy, warm, possible breaks in storminess (moderate confidence).
More western Prince William Sound storms look to be in the lineup. There is less certainty about the exact timing of the storms, and there may be a breaks, but expect more of the same: areas closer to the western PWS favored for precip, high rain/snow lines, and high winds in the Chugach Front Range. Continued storminess is likely for the long term.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Raina - 5.5.2018

Updated 3.7.2019 to include another great day in Ram Valley.

For weeks the weather has been stuck on repeat as the conveyor belt of southwest flow plows storm after storm into our mountains. Last weekend it finally looked like we'd get a break in the weather. The catch was finding a zone that hadn't been overloaded by the recent snowfall, wasn't still snowing, and had options protected from the wind. We decided that spot was Falling Water where we could skin higher and higher until reaching the balance between dust on crust and fat storm slab. On Saturday morning, entering the upper amphitheater, we'd struck the jackpot. 

Still cautious about wind loading up high, we started with the tightest and most protected couloir that disappeared out of sight above us:

At the top of the apron, we loaded our skis on our backs and booted into the protected walls. The spring powder was cold, deep, and consistent. Kate wondered what witchcraft we'd used to conjure up such magical snow. I prefer to think of it as Jedi mind tricks.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Mount Pleasant - 3.12.2016

Updated 3.6.2019 to include another great day in Peters Creek.

I picked Ethan up at the airport on Friday night at 10, by 7 the next morning we were headed for Eagle River. Getting the Eagle River giants is hard: snowpack information is limited, days are big, consequences are high, and you are dealing with a dryer, cooler and hence, less stable snowpack than many of our go-to areas.

But, we'd been working our way into the zones over the last month, and with the help of the Anchorage Avalanche Center, Alex and I were optimistic about deep stability. Plus, there was a nice refresh of snow from the previous week.

Snacktime on the glacier. 

Nearing the head of the valley we left the lobes of intertwined rock and ice and started up the long south gully of Pleasant. Here's Alex forgetting that other people might like to do switchbacks instead of going straight up. However, straight is more efficient.

Peeking - 5.6.2018

Updated 3.6.2019 to include another great day in Peters Creek.

Sunday morning found us in Andrew's dark living room sipping coffee and negotiating ski plans for the day. I wanted to return to the dry powder we'd found in Falling Water the day before; Alex wanted something bigger and badder in the Front Range, and Andrew wanted a "moderate" day. A couple hours and one false start at the Basher Trailhead later, and we were changing from running shoes to ski boots at the entrance to Falling Water. Hidden by a curtain of falling snow is Eagle Peak - what a classy line:

We'd seen Seth's truck at the trailhead and ran to catch them. They too were headed for the X Couloir, so we joined forces and zipped up the booter together. Behind Seth and Kate are the Raina couloirs that we had skied on the previous day.

None of us were entirely sure how wind loaded the entrance would be, but protected under the rock buttress it seemed to have escaped the wind. Kate and Ben dropped first between the incised walls, quickly disappearing around the dogleg.