Sunday, April 9, 2017

Arctic to Indian - 2.5.2017

Almost everyone around town has done Arctic to Indian. Shoot, most people have done it multiple times, even multiple times each year. However, I unreasonably prioritize backcountry skiing above everything, so I miss out on a lot of other fun things. But, after starting out the weekend by skiing Byron and Wolverine, I was willing to try something else.

The descent down to Ship Creek was one of the most exhilarating things I've done in awhile. It also made me wonder why cross country skiers don't wear helmets. And hockey pads. And how anyone could consider cross country skiing safer than downhill skiing.

We reached Ship Creek and began to follow it upstream just as the sun was starting to touch Temptation Peak. It might be covered in beautiful couloirs and spires, but I still haven't been tempted to brave the bushwhacking and slogging to get there.

First light along the creek was absolutely magical: clouds of mist with each breath, huge crystals of hoar frost formed from the creek's unlimited supply of moisture, and the sun sparkling in the trees. Temps around -5 F were also very similar to those of the previous morning on the way up Byron.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Skookum Glacier - 3.18.2017

Early last week, model run after model run showed a small Wednesday night storm headed for the North Gulf Coast. The question was: would it make it inland? In town on Wednesday night there were a few thin clouds - maybe the storm hadn't made it across the Prince William Sound? Then the rumors of a refresh started trickling in from CPG and the Skookum.

By, the time we were halfway up the Skookum on Saturday our sleds were leaving trenches - the sleeper storm was real. We picked a long and fat north-facing couloir to start with. Across the way we were dreaming about a sinuous chute off the southeast face of Byron:

Photo: Alex Geilich

Dropping in, we slashed the huge cones of slough sitting in the line.

Photo: Alex Geilich


Monday, March 13, 2017

Byron Peak - 2.4.2017

Portage is sick: as storms collide with the huge mountains jutting out of the ocean they lift and dump ridiculous amounts of snow. Then, the snow pours back off the peaks as glaciers. The problem with the proximity to the ocean is the wind it often brings.

So, after finding stable, deep, and perfect powder on Wolverine, we knew it was time to focus on the Portage zone.

At the parking lot it was 3 degrees, but by the time we could look back down on the lake we were above the inversion. Once on the glacier we roped up and Alex took the lead as we snaked to the climbers left of the lower icefall. People often approach Bryon by ascending the east ridge from the lake, we decided against this due to obvious wind loading.

Past the severe cracking and associated slow travel, we were able to move faster. Even by early February its crazy how much snow has accumulated around Portage, we crossed snow bridges that were 10 feet thick!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pyramid - 2.26.2017

When Pyramid's west face ripped out two weeks ago we knew it was a good chance to ski it. Then it snowed 6 feet in Seward and visibility was bad in Turnagain. Seward was prioritized, but we didn't forget about Pyramid

This weekend the sun was out at Turnagain and we were looking for areas that had cleaned out since the buried surface hoar event. Pyramid was the obvious. From the Wolverine parking lot we followed the power-line and an existing skin track to Seattle Ridge.

The views from this end of Turnagain Pass are unreal and different than what you get from the non-motorized side. Spine Cell is pictured below, some day we will ski it! The peak behind it has a pretty rad face too, I think Jeff skied it in the past.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Bertha Creek - January 2016

When I went south for Christmas it started snowing at Turnagain, and it hadn't stopped when I got back from Japan almost a month later. The constant snowfall meant there were no weak layers in the snowpack. It also meant the alpine were relatively off limits in the zero contrast January light. We needed somewhere with a source of contrast other than sun, a zone with rocks.

All by ourselves, breaking trail up a huge valley, it felt good to be home.

Picking one of ten incised chutes above us we skinned up before switching to booting to finish it off.

We watched from a hanging loft as Andalyn dropped first and retraced our steps.