Palmer Creek is one of those zones that is on everyone's hit list. Early season, mid-season sled access, summer skiing - it has it all. There are challenges though. Early season you're fighting alders. Mid-season the 20 mile sled approach shuts most people down. Late season the approach requires a bike; except for Alex who runs faster than I bike. Then there's the fact that driving from Anchorage to Hope means your passing countless other epic zones.
But, after skiing a line lower in the valley the previous weekend I was excited to get back. We drove down to Hope the night before, planning to catch some tunes and hit the hay early. No one goes to bed early on a summer Friday night in Hope.
Despite an unplanned late evening we were soon on our bikes inhaling the heavy smoke from the Kenai fire.
An hour on the bikes, a short bushwhack, and one stream crossing later and we were on snow. Almost too easy. Perhaps not quite as warm as Neil was making it look, I was wearing a jacket at this point.
Some cute little old man turns lower down the valley:
Once we gained the ridge our intended face came into view. We actually looked at this line in October after an early season storm plastered upper Palmer Creek. Visions of getting washing-machined by a wind slab sliding on raincrust quickly nixed that plan.
We followed the wide cornice to the top. Looking good:
Palmer Creek Headwall looking good too. Not very filled in with our low snow year, I'd love to come back in early spring with a few sleds, tents, and a grill and get after it.
I dropped first, stopping to watch Neil rip an exposed ridge:
Some people can only be described as 'powerful' when they ski. Neil is one of those people, I can imagine how hard he'd charge if he'd grown up in the West.
Lower down, playing on the fun double fall line chute wall.
Milking turns below the couloir. Still wearing my jacket, not Neil though!
On the way up we'd spied a tempting pond skim lower down. Neil and Derek investigated and gave their approval or something like that, but we decided it was definitely too deep to stand. Being engineers and scientists with quickly came up with a foolproof solution.
Or was it a foolish solution?
It floats! Note loose ski on bottom of pond:
Next puzzle, how to retrieve the ski? Neil selflessly offered to dive down and get it.
Of course, the ski settled in the deepest part of the pond. O, about 15 feet down.
Yes, that is an iceberg. Remember high school physical science? If there is ice in the water, how cold is the water? 32 degrees...
Nevermind that idea.
What we really needed was a grappling hook. So, the alpine grappling hook was born:
20 minutes later, success!
And, one last stream crossing: