Monday, December 29, 2014

Basketball Run - 12.13.2014

Saturday is a tricky day for weekend warriors. After spending the week out of touch, you have to sit down  and synthesize what you missed, and figure out how conditions will evolve. Ideally you think of a zone that has a few contingency plans built in: lighting, stability, and access come into play.

Starting the day with a new twist on the self destructive Plum bindings, this time a disappearing toe pin for Malcolm.

The 13th was such a day. Because we'd likely be dealing with flat light, we'd want rocks for contrast. Zones throughout Southcentral can fit the bill: Fairangel Valley at Hatcher, Ram Valley in the Front Range, or Falls Creek on Turnagain Arm. All those zones have snowpack problems at the moment.

Reaching Taylor Pass, dark and windy behind Pastoral. Coincidentally, that sub peak has a spectacular south face.

Turnagain has some good chutes, but they can be crossloaded. We needed to improve our stability odds by picking an area with options, and decided to skin towards Taylor Pass. Perhaps the South face of Pastoral, maybe the Granddaddy Couloir, or the Basketball Run?

Traversing under Basketball towards the start of the bootpack.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


This was not my most productive week at work. After misunderstanding the weather last Sunday, I spent the day under my car and cleaning the house, only to find out that it had been sunny at Turnagain. Determined not to repeat that, I spent the week twitching in my chair, compulsively checking the weather, or staring blankly out the window.

With the forecast for Wednesday looking better and better, Robert and I bailed on work and headed South. The beginning of the day was a comical spiral through alders as neither of us have skied Sunburst when there isn't enough snow to crush the brush.

45 minutes later we had our skins on and were through the stratus. TT43, still hidden in the clouds, is across the way.

The clouds that had dominated the weather at the start of the week began to lift as we climbed towards our first run.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Nancy Lakes

People put a lot of time into thinking about why they like skiing. To some its a religion, to others a way of life. I try to avoid deep thoughts, but with no sign of snow on either the horizon, I'm trying harder to avoid cabin fever.

The plan was to connect 16 lakes spread over 35 km into a loop of hiking and skating.

As the dry weather has persisted, we've started to hear about skating the Nancy Lakes canoe portage. People do it wearing nordic ice skates and skate ski boots, quickly clicking in and out of their skates for the short walks between the lakes.

This sounded great, and it would be Friday - no one would be interested in renting skates for such a fringe sport. On Thursday night I got a sad call from Malcolm that, indeed, this fringe sport had followers, and AMH was rented out.

No need to de-skate for moss.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Snowbird Hut - March 2014

People talk about what it takes to survive winter in Alaska. Its seems like a ridiculous statement, it's so awesome here, but at some level its true. To grossly simplify, there's really only two reasons to be here: you're family is here or you want to experience Alaska. To maximize the experience and minimize cabin fever you need to be flexible.

February had some great days: Tincan, Seattle Ridge, and Falls Creek.

Skinning out Archangel Valley with Snowbird Valley front and center.

Then it rained. Hatcher, Turnagain, the Front Range, Cordova, probably Valdez too. Most people had given up on skiing, and we knew we needed to get above the rain line.

As we turned into the Snowbird Valley I couldn't stop looking at this complex, big, and gorgeous face above Reed Lakes.

The Snowbird Valley has promising terrain too. These lines would be an easy day, especially with a sled bump. Sadly, they were guarded by a bulletproof raincrust.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pioneer Peak Hike

Several interesting things have happened lately: I no longer have giardia; my camera will be spending a quiet and lonely winter sitting by a river in the Arctic; I've discovered how awesome duck hunting is; and we hiked Pioneer Peak.

I clearly remember Pioneer from my first ski trip to Alaska. As you drive towards Anchorage from the North, Pioneer's 6,200 vertical foot face screams at you. Since then I've dreamed about skiing it. When Whit and Kelly mentioned hiking it, I figured it would be a good recon mission.

Pioneer's huge west face, topping on the cake on the drive back from a great day at Hatcher Pass.

We got off to the usual early start. Erin woke me up with a phone call 15 minutes after I was supposed to be at her house, then we drove back across town to pick up a pair of shoes. Not everyone hikes in their slippers.

Pioneer's two summits coming into view: