Monday, April 19, 2021

Tincan Skiing - 2.8.2014

Note: Updated on 4.19.2021 to include another great day at Tincan Mountain Resort.

The last month here has not been winter as we know it. The forecast has been filled with terms like "atmospheric river", "tropical infusion", and "veritable firehose". Unfortunately this cascade of precipitation fell largely as rain, not snow. Then it got warm. There's been a lot more basketball, running, skating, and hiking than my winter dreams normally consist of.

This weekend we thought we'd go up to the Snowbird Hut for a little adventure, but then Friday the forecast started to look promising for the Kenai. Saturday morning brought 40 cm of snow to Turnagain, calm, and bluebird. How could we resist?

Pulling into the usually swamped parking lot at Tin Can, there appeared to be only a hand full of groups that were not part of the usual avy classes. Awesome. Anchorage had forgotten that it's winter.

Approaching treeline:

At treeline we watched several slides release from remote triggers several hundred meters away.

More signs of instability:

We figured we'd let the other groups play guinea pig and while we started with a lap of blower in the trees.

After sharing several absolutely incredible ginger snaps at the bottom we headed back up. Reaching treeline, no more avalanche activity had occurred up high despite a bit of skier traffic. We weren't going to pass it up. The boys waiting at the top:

Yep, that's good:

Alex likes to go fast. So when things go wrong, such as, perhaps, a lurking raincrust...

...its very exciting to watch.

Malcolm threading the needle between a couple small slabs:

At the bottom of our second lap the secret was starting to get out about the snow. It was time to go higher -  lets go there!

Photo: Robert McNown

Nothing like a fun ridge hike!

Photo: Robert McNown

O yeah that's good.

Photo: Robert McNown

So good, in fact, better get back up there and do it one more time:

With the sun creeping towards the horizon, the shadows getting longer, and a beautiful translucent cloudscape hanging in the valley below it was time for one more skin to the top before a long run back to the car. 5 PM, fresh tracks, and still not down yet:

On Christmas 2020, Nyssa, Brandon, and I returned for new take on the old Can. The day started off with the game of stability versus weather versus conditions versus expectations. With a considerable avalanche forecast and weather uncertainty we first headed for the far end of the pass for a look at Pete's South. From the Johnson Pass parking lot we squinted through the early gray light of midwinter to see that the wet weather had not been as kind to the dry side of Turnagain - the alders were only partially laid down.

We called an audible and turned north for old faithful. Even with our late start the parking lot was nearly deserted - an anomaly this year - and we were breaking trail before reaching treeline.
Photo Brandon Schmidt

There was a wind skin at the bottom of Common Bowl and it was decided to let other Anchoragites guinea pig the grabability of the alpine while we tested the goods descending towards Center Ridge.
Photo Brandon Schmidt

The alder smashage was perfect with just enough left standing to leave well spaced "glade" skiing. Excited for more, Nyssa and Brandon led the charge to put in the skinner back towards Common Bowl. 
Photo Brandon Schmidt

With improving light it was time to work a little higher before dropping towards the creek again.
Photo Brandon Schmidt

After two laps our confidence in stability was starting to improve and we went higher.
Photo Brandon Schmidt

This time we dropped into Hippy Bowl then feasted on the dregs to the valley floor. Nyssa:

Stopping on a fin to regroup, we spied a delicious alder spine tumbling from the summit of Hippy Bowl. We knew where we'd be going next.

An hour later we'd clambered up the knife-edge ridge past Hippy Bowl, pushed off the flat summit, and were ripping towards our spine.
Photo Brandon Schmidt

It was everything we'd hoped for. Staying on top of the rib, our slough drained away on either side.
Photo Brandon Schmidt

Steep, protruding out of the face, and exhilarating, it was the run of the year for me. Down at the creek, all of us were stoked and it wasn't even dark yet, so we had no choice but to head up for one more lap of alder dodging in the fading light. 
Photo Brandon Schmidt

After a blister inducing slog up Kern, down Berg, up Berry Pass, down Nagoon, and out Winner Creek the day before, Nyssa requested that we go powder skiing. So, in early April of 2021 we headed for the old faithful of Tincan. As usual we found familiar faces in the parking lot, chatting with Pat as we made our way to the drop-in to Todd's Run.

The bowl itself had some tracks, but the chutes were mostly untouched; we found one to our liking and tipped in. 

Photo Josh Gray

It was power skiing - just as we'd hoped for. 

Photo Josh Gray

We stopped at the bottom for a quick picnic in the sun, then ran back up for more. This time we climbed a little higher to another untouched shot. I like these lines; with nice double fall line its easy to ski directionally, lay your hips into the snow, and manage the slough. Ideally while cackling gleefully.

Josh and I had never skied Todd's before and discussed the interesting human emotions of avoidance here. It doesn't have the deep terrain trap of the creek at Sunburst, nor is it as continuous as the Superbowl basin, but the past fatality here sure makes the hair on the back of the neck stand up.

After a couple great laps of soul skiing, and ready for something bigger, longer, and steeper, we broke trail for the north face of Proper. Gaining the summit, Carpathian's insane west face rose above the sea of peaks.

We looked south to where we could see heliski tracks dropping from the shoulder of Bench Peak. Josh and I have both skied Bench over the years. Josh's hip flexors are still hold a grudge with him about it, and I have a funny memory of watching Alex's new sled turn into a mushroom cloud of green smoke back there. Its really cool how Alaskans can earn these summits under their own power while other folks drop thousands of dollars for a less meaningful version.

Looking into the shady north face I was excited. M4 is one of the longest lines at Turnagain, its steep too, so of course its one of my favorites here. I dropped into the complex face scattered with rock fins, while Josh and Nyssa skied the gut to the left. Below us we could see our slough billowing out of the choke like a three story tall dragon of snow. Nyssa:

I rejoined Nyssa's tracks as the face funneled towards a series of chokes.

Then pulled off as Josh went zipping by. 

At the lower chokes we tiptoed out of the constricting tube and onto the adjacent steep alder glades. Around here most line mellow out near the bottom, it was a treat for all of us to stay in the steep and challenging terrain all the way to the valley floor.  

We skied out the pitch until we were at Ingram Creek where we stopped to lean back and look at big alpine slopes dropping to the valley floor from above. There was the classic wall of spines dropping from the Eddies Ridge, while to the south were a series of interesting lines dropping off the backside of the Library - lines none of us have skied yet. 

Stoked on checking lines off the list only to add more, we slapped our skins on and climbed the wrapping ascent for a last lap thru the Tincan trees back to the car.

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