Friday, April 26, 2013

Scott Glacier Ski - 4.20.2013

With spring really setting in around Cordova, we headed up the Scott Glacier last Saturday in search of colder temperatures.

Like all good adventures, particularly those involving snowmobiles, the day started slowly. First, Leo's snowmobile wouldn't start. Then, of course, my snowmobile overheated repeatedly during the winding nine mile approach through alders and hard spring snow.

We just have to get through these alders, and we'll almost be there...

Just to make sure it was memorable, my sled's oil cap rattled off at some point. Stopping to let the sled cool down, I discovered that my leg was covered in engine oil. I don't know how my sled didn't catch fire, but thankfully it didn't - that would have been too much of an adventure. Eventually we reached the terminus of the glacier and followed Sean up a series of medial moraines to avoid the hungry crevasses.

The Scott is the largest glacier I have been in the heart of - coming over every rise brought a tickle of excitement to my stomach and left me breathless. After continuing up the Scott for miles, we stopped at an overlook for lunch. Looking back towards the start of the day somewhere down in the Copper River Delta:

The Sherman Glacier. Although this is a crappy picture, it is so amazing to me. You can so clearly see the fluid motion of the ice, especially near the terminus where it thins and fans out - exactly as I've seen so many times in laboratory models.

Not a bad spot for lunch:

For our first run we picked a steep chute followed by a wide, mellow ramp. Leo showing us just how slow we are:

Getting steeper...just above this point we measured the slope of the apron at 45 degrees.

Now we just have to get around these two bergschrunds...then time for some steep bootpacking...

With Leo in the lead, the bootpack up went surprisingly quickly. Note to self, Leo is twice my age and twice my fitness, time to get a bit tougher.

Some ski porn from the top of the line:

A bit more...

And maybe just a little more...

From our airy perch on top of the peak, I have to admit I got a bit dizzy, and tried to avoid falling off the large faces in every direction. The sustained 60 degree pitch above two bergschrunds didn't make me feel particularly at ease either. Apparently Rob and Leo were on the same page about the line and convinced me to go first. Hmmm, this does look rather steep....

Skiing the steep and confined line in front of a raging slough was right at on the edge of my abilities. And, flying over the bergschrunds certainly added to the experience. Rob gets ready to drop in:

Making that first turn look pretty:

Lower down:

Approaching the apron:

Yes...that was quite steep...

With 30 years of experience skiing in Alaska, Leo brought up the rear. Maybe in 29 years I'll be able to keep up with him.

Looking back up:

With one line in the books, we headed farther up to check out more zones. What was a lynx doing up here?

For our second line we picked this ramp overhung by blue seracs and protected by large cliffs.

Heading up, the snow started as wind affect and stayed there all the way to the top. But the views made up for it!

Rob finding some good snow:

After the second line, we were 20 miles from the trailhead and it was already 5 PM. Although tempting to go for a third line, no one wanted to be stuck up on the glacier in the dark. An hour of alder smashing and stream crossings later, we were back at the highway. I can't wait to go back here, as Rob put it: "All I see are lines."

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