Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fairangel Valley Ski - 4.27.2014

By late April the high pressure that had been hanging over Southcentral for a month briefly broke down, but the warmth didn't. This left us with a predicament, how to get above the rain line? We needed something high and north facing, so we picked the highest Archangel of them all: Fairangel Valley. Perched at the top of Archangel Valley, it hides five perfect couliors: the Fair Five.

We planned to skin past the Pinnacle to Dogsled Pass, then drop into Fairangel. Looking back at the Lost Couloir:

Hard to say if that's a rain crust or just a sun crust, better keep going.

Closing in on Dogsled Pass, vaguely soft snow starting to appear.

The view down valley towards the steep and exposed northwest face of the Pinnacle - the kind of line that makes you dizzy to look at.

A slippery climb up the last patch of frozen tundra brought us to the top of Fairangel; and the usual exceptional views of the Alaska Range.

Suspecting a large cornice on top of a large cliff, I began investigating with a few "gentle" taps from my ski pole. Promptly snapping in half, I watched it slowly arc out of sight below. Yep, large drop. Well, it wouldn't be an adventure without something breaking, but ideally a few things...

As indicated by the large cliff, we were not quite at the entrance to the first couloir. The upside being that we got to straddle an exciting knife edge ridge, while trying not to dislodge the teetering cornice. Haley demonstrating proper straddling technique while Malcolm investigates the infamous Sparkle7 post:

After debating the meaning of Sparkle7, we trundled a cornice down the windloaded entrance. Finding no signs of instability, Malcolm dropped, skiing a spine down the center of the couloir. Here, shortly before stopping to put his tech binding back into ski mode:

Back in ski mode, all seemingly fine with his binding.

Into the apron, looks like we made it above the rain!

I followed Malcolm, too stoked to remember the remains of my pole. Fortunately, Haley only needs her poles for going up, thanks for the loaner Haley! Haley bringing up the rear:

With a great first lap in the books, we went back up for more, picking a skinnier line to the skiers right.

Malcolm, most likely running, nearing the top:

Again, it was hard to drag ourselves away from the sun. Well...not that hard.

Great snow and an exciting slough; Haley ripping it up:

Malcolm came down last, his skiing seemed a bit off.

Turns out he had sheared off one of the pins on his heal piece. Apparently, the binding release on the first run was structural. A bit of brainstorming and a "DIN compatible" solution was born:

So, we headed back up! We'll be coming back for this one when everyone has two bindings:

With Malcolm now sporting an old school tele binding, we picked a wider shot to wrap up the day.

Enjoying the late afternoon light from Fairangel Peak; Arcose Ridge in the foreground, the Chugach behind. Not sure what the dominant peak is, maybe one of the A-Peaks - add it to the Wish List.

Speaking of the Wist List; looking into the Pinnacle Valley.

Which, for future reference, can be easily accessed from Falling Angel:

The first turn on the new prototype tele binding.

Unphased, reminds me of when he climbed Carpathian without an ice axe.


From there we skied towards Archangel, in itself an adventure: after a prolonged discussion of whether we were over one/many cliffs, we traversed around the cliffs. Spastic traverse tracks visible in there:

Window shopping on the way out, the Pinnacle Valley:

Aptly named:

Before long we were skating down Archangel Road towards the Goldmint parking lot.

Shortly thereafter Malcolm and I were at the parking lot, assuming Haley was right behind us. An hour later we began to wonder where she was; turns out she missed us and headed back towards Independence Mine. Apparently we could all work on our communication, or maybe she just didn't get enough exercise waiting for us all day. But, is it really an adventure without a few problems?

Three lines, three technical difficulties - the ingredients for a great day!

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