Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cold Smoke - Three Days in the Talkeetnas

On March 5th a jet of moisture pushed north into Southcentral Alaska. Snowfall would be the heaviest at the end of the jet, but, the devil would be in the details. As I sat at my desk avoiding work and checking the SNOTEL, it looked like many zones had ended up high and dry.

Except for Hatcher. Hatcher was reporting 15 inches of new snow, but only 0.6 inches of SWE. Had the Talkeetnas really received almost a foot and a half of cold smoke? Or was it wrong? As the day went on reports started trickling in...

At midnight on Friday morning I picked Lindsay up at the airport; it wasn't hard to convince her to drive north for dawn patrol. As we skinned into Eldorado, the sun greeted us with soft pink light.


Looks like a good place to start.


Foraker, Hunter, and Denali waking in the morning light:



As we climbed higher the skin-track got deeper, it was going to be good. Robert on his way to trench town on the first turn of the day:


15 inches of blower alpine powder and not even a slough. Incredible.


Milking the apron:


Robert and I might be ski bums at heart, but it was quickly approaching time for us to get back to our desks. But, not of course, without squeezing in one more lap.


Just room for one more:


Time for work, Robert looking for the car.


On Saturday morning we couldn't wait to get back. This time the day started in the aptly named Bear Valley, where we found different, but equally beautiful evidence of life.


A bird without wings - floating through her run...


...and flying through the apron.


From Bear Valley we skinned towards the tempting and complex face of Government Peak. Lindsay and Toni finishing off the ascent.


First to the top is first to the bottom. Ian:


Lindsay:


Toni:


With the shadows getting longer, we decided to call it a day. Again, already itching for the next day.


Sunday found us at Hatcher Pass. This time we headed north from the parking lot, planning on working our way towards towards less traveled zones. Three days after the storm and still blower - Robert warming up on Ray Wallace.


Skiing through the big kid playground.


After Ray Wallace we climbed north into Archangel Valley...


...and found ourselves alone in an untouched zone.

Photo: Robert McKnown

Rachel dropping in:


Robert working his way through the zone:


Lindsay dropped from a windloaded saddle, finding the deepest turns of the run:


After such a good lap, we headed around the corner to an area we knew harbored another set of protected chutes.


Team energizer pounding out the bootpack to the top of the line.


When you put in the bootpack you get to go first.


The day was all too quickly coming to an end - Orion not wanting it to end:


Window shopping on the way back to the road. Can't wait for next time!