The usual approach to skiing on big glaciers is to wait until spring when a winter of heavy snowfall has blanketed the crevasses, moulins, and bergschrunds. Or, you can go in the fall when the holes and cracks are still visible.
Pulling into the dark Crow Creek parking lot we found light snow falling on Zack and Khalial as they waited for us. As we hiked up the trail with our skis on our backs the stars twinkled above. Hopefully it was clearing, daybreak seemed to confirm this.
Turning away from the Crow Pass trail, we followed a faint path towards the saddle between Barnes and Jewel mountains. It didn't take long to get back into the soup.
At the saddle we popped out of the fog and into softly lit world of early winter. Walking through the strange basin formed by the old lateral moraine of the Milk Glacier we crossed the fresh tracks of mountain goats that must have just dissolved away into the fog.
A short walk down the moraine brought us to the toe of the Milk where we roped up, put on our skis, and followed a medial moraine onto the glacier. A strong cold wind blowing down the glacier bit into our faces and made me wonder if I really was ready for winter.
The fog crept up from behind as we skinned. Eventually, climbing above it, the seracs, crevasses, spines, and mountains came into focus - it felt like Alaska.
Nearing the pass, we picked our way through the snow bridges that lead to the Raven. Below us was another glacier covered in fog. Uncertain of the descent route a waiting game began.
With each gap in the clouds, we moved left, right, down, and around .
The descent down the Raven was a mental challenge: questionable light and the constant search for crevasses. On the other end of the rope, I could see Zack swimming in and out of the mist.
Reaching the north paleo lobe of the Jewel Glacier we turned south and headed back up. Visibility left something to be desired. Finally above the clouds, it felt so good to be out of the flat and limited light.
At the ridge above the Jewel, we watched the clouds evaporate and swirl over the edge; below was our route up the Milk.
Done going up, we ripped our skins, clicked into our skis, and descended towards the murky Crow Creek valley. Back at the car, the evening light over Berry Pass had us dreaming of the next adventure.