Monday, October 29, 2018

Montana Peak - 4.7.2018

Saturday morning on Buffalo Mine Road started memorably with a standoff against an angry moose. We wanted access to Moose Creek, the gatekeeper wanted to resume sleeping in the middle of the road; and a charge and trampling seemed imminent. Could we reverse faster than it could charge? Was jettisoning the sled over the bank into alder hell worth it? Who was more stubborn?  Eventually the moose relented, curled up to sleep on the shoulder, and...

Photo: Seth Kiester

...we were rewarded with more trail finding through the alders.

Photo: Seth Kiester

Eventually the brush cleared, the snowpack deepened, and we chased wolverine tracks up the valley as ptarmigan exploded out of the bushes around us. The cirques, bowls, and couloirs of the Moose Creek were filled with the tracks of heli skiers hiding from the winds that had crushed the Chugach for weeks. At the head of the valley we parked the sleds and skinned towards the southeast face of Montana Peak.

Photo: Seth Kiester

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Gordon Lyon - 5.7.2018

Skiing the Anchorage Front Range often means yesterday's powder morphed into a combination of windboard, crust, mank, and tundra. Every once and awhile you get lucky and beat the sun and winds to the goods. We got lucky one night after work last May. After a warm up lap on the ski hill we headed for the sheltered north facing goods of Gordon Lyon. Rising in the distance above Ship Creek are Birds Eye, The Wing, The Beak, and Bird Ridge Overlook with its big north coolies.

Above Rondy Ridge we drooled at the gems of South Fork Eagle River like Hanging Valley, Cantana, and Calliope. Eagle Peak and Organ are visible on the skyline, goddamn I'd like to ski Organ!

Topping out on the Gordon Lyon ridge, the Hatcher Pass Zone looked fat. Years ago my friend Owen
 pointed out how much he loves valleys where the deep gorge cut by a river is superimposed on the U-shape bulldozed by a glacier long gone. The Little Susitna Valley on the far left is a great example of this.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Eagle River to Eklutna - September 2018

We spent a marathon Monday in the kitchen processing three caribou and chatting about ideas for the following weekend. Tony suggested Ram Valley to Eklutna; what a perfect backyard idea connecting so many favorite places! Saturday morning found us hiking up the familiar trail to Falling Water valley.

In the unusually hot September sun we treadmilled up the scree pass between Peking and Peak 5320. Behind Alyse is one of Raina's long coolies that link up well with so many other lines in the area.

At the pass, it was ginger chicken wraps for lunch with a view of Foraker for dessert.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Falls Creek - 4.29.2018

Around 2 PM on Saturday the texts starting coming in from Jeff: he and Jeebs were storm skiing untracked pow in Falls Creek. I was sitting in gloomy, windy, and rainy Anchorage mourning getting shut down on the Alaska Range by storm after storm. The forecast was calling for more of the same Saturday night into Sunday, and I wasn't going to miss out on more stormy couloirs. The next day, hiking out of the rainy parking lot in our running shoes, it was hard to imagine winter was up there somewhere.

But, by the time Andrew, Alex, and I had climbed past a sleepy black bear, traded our running shoes for ski boots, and skinned into the alpine, winter was back in full force.

Making a right turn, throwing our skis on our packs, and starting the booter up the first coolie of the day, we began to realize just how good it was going to be. From the top I looked back down at Andrew as the falling snow swirled out of sight below.

Alex ski cut the slope before dropping first. After a foot of rapid loading overnight, we weren't sure how the new snow had bonded, but nothing moved.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Aniakchak Traverse - July 2018

Saturday morning started with the buzz of our little plane as we flew over the lakes, rivers, and volcanoes of the Alaska Peninsula. We were on the way to Port Heiden to traverse to Chignik Lagoon. I wondered about the odometer on the dashboard. 25,000 hours. How far is that? 250,000 miles? Or 10 times around the earth. Or, 2000 times as long as our traverse.

We stopped briefly in Ugashik to drop off two elders on the way. It was a quiet day at the post office there:

The old plane bounced back into the sky and over wandering caribou, ponds ornamented with pairs of swans, and ground broken by the ice polygons of permafrost. 45 minutes later, Port Heiden's gravel airstrip came into focus thru the coastal mist. Hopping out, Grant's Village Agent Billie was waiting for us. At the Post Office we said "hi" to Meg, Dan, and Gavin then crawled back into Billie's van for the taxi service to the end of the road. At the river we started hiking towards the caldera.