Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Kern to Nagoon - 4.1.2021

With a fat snowpack near sea level and longer days to explore, this spring often found us harvesting berries in Kern Creek. After picking Highbush, Lingon, and Kinnikinnik berries, Nyssa, Dane, Erik, and I went back for thirds.

We followed the familiar trail thru the dripping old growth forest, then chased Dane and Erik as they broke trail up Lowbush.

The top of Lowbush is well corniced and we tiptoed to peer over the edge and find the sneak onto the south face. Baked by the warmth of the spring sun, we scratched across the refrozen crust to wrap into the funnel of the west chute.

With 18" inches of new snow sitting in the steep entrance, we ski cut the line repeatedly before trusting it enough to drop. The snow stayed in place and we were rewarded with glorious slashing turns on the steep sidewalls.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Ptarmigan - 4.3.2014

Updated below to include an afternoon corn harvest above Rabbit Lakes in spring 2021.

The dishes are piling up in the sink, the house is a mess, and I'm getting behind on my sleep. The conditions and weather have been incredible, and its hard to take a break. As such, I'm about a month and a half behind on blog posts.

By April the days were finally long enough to get out and ski after work. Reading Billy Finley's tasty blog post about bike accessed skiing encouraged us to check out Ptarmigan's S Couloir.

With a post-work nap in the books, I meet the usual suspects at the Glen Alps trailhead. We don't have fat bikes, so we employed a combination of walking, skinning, skating, pushing, and kick and glide for the approach

Per usual, the adventure was filled with familiar faces: we ran into LP, Owen, and Tarah, who we skied Falling water with, on the approach.
Then, as we started to climb the apron of the north face, our friend Andy skied down to us. Alaska is a small town.

Looking back towards Alex and Anchorage as we enter the couloir.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Frontier Peak - 4.23.2021

It was spring and our dreams were turning to ski mountaineering. But, recent wild temp swings left us uncertain about high north faces. We needed to get up 6,000 feet on a shady face. Would the snow be soft? Stable? The crux was a destination closer to the trailhead so that we wouldn't be committed into make a questionable choice.

Rising more than a vertical mile straight from the car, we settled on Frontier Peak's aesthetic north couloir with a linkup to the big west gulley of Mat Peak. Caravanning from Anchorage, we parked a shuttle at the Mat Peak trailhead, triple checked our keys, then continued to the end of Maud Road. By 9:30, skis were on our packs, local pallet burning ordinances had been reviewed, and we were swatting sleepy mosquitos while walking down the ATV trail in our running shoes.

Our beta for the route was water cooler talk from Nelson of a climbers trail with rope rigging leading to a quick summit of the peak. Peering off the double track into the devil's club there was flagging everywhere - hardly encouraging for identifying a trail. Just after the second creek I wandered off to check out a baiting station only to hear Nyssa yelling that she'd found the ropeway. Indeed, just as Nelson had described, there was the rope snaking up the bluff and towards the southwest ridge.

Like most local social trails, burning calves took us straight up without the convenience of switchbacks. Covered in the leaves of last fall and the droppings of the wayward moose, the dry path was in amazingly good shape.

A brief bushwhack brought us above the alder line where we stopped to snack, wring sweat out of our dripping layers, and look down at the Knik Valley. Below us were the winding sloughs of Jim Creek where we've skated over schools of black fish hiding under the glassy ice. Across the valley, Pioneer Peak with its vertical mile of relief mirrored our route; its hard to beat the bang for the buck of it's north face.

With the warm sun cooking the south face it felt like summer as our southwest ridge joined with the southern one. 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Whittier Glacier - 4.5.2013

Updated on 5.2.2021 to journal a day of spring skiing above the ocean - very different conditions than the last time we visited!
After an amazing line on TT43 the previous day, we were all excited to get back out, and decided to check out some of the amazing terrain we had seen around Whittier. A sled bump up the glacier brought us to the bottom of the zone.

Photo: Matt Cameron

Not a bad place to wait for the rest of the crew.

Photo: Matt Cameron

With this face in mind we headed towards the ridge:

Monday, April 19, 2021

Tincan - 2.8.2014

Note: Updated on 4.19.2021 to include another great day at Tincan Mountain Resort.

The last month here has not been winter as we know it. The forecast has been filled with terms like "atmospheric river", "tropical infusion", and "veritable firehose". Unfortunately this cascade of precipitation fell largely as rain, not snow. Then it got warm. There's been a lot more basketball, running, skating, and hiking than my winter dreams normally consist of.

This weekend we thought we'd go up to the Snowbird Hut for a little adventure, but then Friday the forecast started to look promising for the Kenai. Saturday morning brought 40 cm of snow to Turnagain, calm, and bluebird. How could we resist?

Pulling into the usually swamped parking lot at Tin Can, there appeared to be only a hand full of groups that were not part of the usual avy classes. Awesome. Anchorage had forgotten that it's winter.

Approaching treeline:

At treeline we watched several slides release from remote triggers several hundred meters away.

More signs of instability: