Thursday, December 3, 2020

Anchorage Ski Outlook - 12.3.2020

Thurs – Fri: clearing, temps dropping, calm (high confidence).
Clearer/colder and happening sooner as you move from the Prince William Sound towards Hatcher Pass.

Weekend: clear & cold ­čá× stormy & warm (high confidence).
Temps bottom out Saturday then rise with the arriving storm. The most precipitation will be closest to the Prince William Sound and dry out as you move inland to Hatcher. Turnagain/Anchorage Front Range/Hatcher will all see some wind. Precip type should stay all snow thru Sunday.

Early Next Week: warm, stormy near coast (moderate confidence).
Stormiest with the most precipitation closest to the Prince William Sound and drying out as you move inland to Hatcher. Snow possible for Hatcher, but low confidence. Rain line rising Monday, possibly to Turnagain Pass Road level. Heaviest precip and warmest temps likely on Monday/Tuesday.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Peak 5100 - 3.22.2020

Some of the best days of backcountry skiing are the those spent easily linking valleys and peaks - climbing one valley wall then effortlessly skiing deeper. One March day in the Mint Valley was just that as we connected lap after lap around Delia Creek and Peak 5100.

In the cold of the clear early morning we skinned out of the dark parking lot and into the hanging valley north of Delia Creek. We followed our skintrack from a few days before which was barely visible under a thick blanket of new snow. 

Photo: Brandon Schmidt

We wrapped upwards around the back of the valley and into the sun. At the top we soaked up the warm spring light and views of the big peaks rising from the Little Su, then transitioned to descend back into the shade.

Photo: Brandon Schmidt

When Brandon and his skis slid over the dark edge we knew it was going to be a good day. There was no sign of a surface slab as the faceted pow sloughed lighted away from his turns. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Bird Ridge Overlook - 4.4.2020

Its hard to remember exactly why we decided to head for the steep, complex, and sheltered north face of Bird Ridge Overlook on an early April day last spring. I think we were targeting the sweet spot between the winds sweeping the Anchorage Front Range and the hard snow conditions at Turnagain, but it was likely also the appeal of something new.

Leaving the ice of the drippy parking lot it finally felt like spring had arrived. Our climbing skins were fast over the wet snow, but we all struggled to control our body temps as sweaty swamps formed in our clothes. Some items were easy to squeegee (like my eyebrows), or wring out (like Dmitry's buff), but layers buried in deeper, darker, swampier places were destined for a soggy day.

The the air cooled below freezing as we climbed, our skins went from slippery to sticky, and we repeatedly stopped to scrape the bonus training weight. None of us were interested in slowing down just cause mother nature had added 10 pounds to each of our skis, and our hip flexors paid the price.

1.5 miles before Indian Pass Dmitry signed for us to take the turn towards the gap between Bidarka Peak and BRO. I'd never really thought about using this pass before - it provides a great shortcut for skiers looking to access The Beak, BRO, or other area peaks.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Windy Creek - September 2020

For years we've post-holed through the swamps of Clearwater Creek to hunt caribou in a quiet pass where the undisturbed animals graze and migrate through. With my fibula still a cobweb of healing bone, this year's caribou hunt would be different. I bought a Burley bike trailer, packed my bike in my car, then drove north for the non-motorized hunt along Windy Creek's gravel road.

When I turned west from Cantwell onto the Denali Highway, the tundra and surrounding mountains were lit by soft pink evening light. The technicolor of fall reminded me of a beautiful packrafting trip here years ago. As the road transitioned to gravel, two blonde grizzlies romped across the road in front of me. I pulled over the Subaru to try my fawn call: the bruins were intrigued and looked back curiously, but knew they were in a predator hunting zone so lumbered into the brush.

It was dark by the time I got to the Clearwater Mountains. I'd never been up Windy Creek before, and didn't know the pullover, so I drove back and forth in the rain before parking for the night at the right gravel pit. The rain had stopped by the morning; og and clouds were beginning to lift as I pedaled up the puddled road into Windy. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Copper River - September 2020

After a great fly-in trip on the Chickaloon, we went back to Anchorage to refuel, check emails, repack, then hit the road for Chitina. The drive was a mix of fall colors, snowy peaks, and Planet Money. At the river the winds were blowing sand into our eyes as we loaded our boats and tucked the car behind a sad bunch of trees.

There were seals (and a few dipnetters) in Wood Canyon as we zipped thru. The water in the canyon was flat, but the eddy lines were strong, and it was impressive to see the river piling into the rock walls and spinning off 50 foot whirlpools. 

Even with the headwind and low flows we made an easy six miles in the first hour. As we exited the canyon, the winds died down, the country opened up around us, and we leaned back to look around.

The mountains rose above as we floated down the river. I've never seen 8,000 feet of relief from a river before.