Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Girls Mountain - Feb 2015

Valdez is always a memorable experience. It was first Alaska ski experience: RVs, avalanches, and flaming snowmobiles. This trip was equally exciting. It started with a Wednesday moonlight run along the Turnagain Arm trail. There were supposed to be headlamps, but one was left on Kilimanjaro and another was dead, which slowed the arrival at the Brown Bear.

 By 4:30 the next morning I was up, then Max and I drove north to meet Josh in Eagle River.

What are we forgetting?

I'm sure his neighbors loved waking to the sounds of 2 stroke engines and his baying hound. Along the way, both of our sleds came very close to falling off the trailer. In fact, mine did come part way off. Somehow we made it to Thompson Pass.

At the pass we found an alarming raincrust that came very close to destroying our sleds.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Goodhope Creek - 3.14.2015

Skiing in Alaska is hard. There's a reason that film companies come here, get shut down for a month, then barely squeeze out a few good days. Meanwhile, they trigger big, scary, and dangerous avalanches.

Dreamy zones around the Pinnacle and Fairangel Valleys.

No helicopter, a full time job, and low interest in Russian Roulette via avalanche makes it even more of a challenge.

Leaving the sleds behind.

And it makes it even more fun.

Still assessing stability, we picked a short line to start.

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.