Friday, February 5, 2016

Big Chief - 1.29.2016

Last week brought storm after storm and foot after foot of snow to Turnagain. As the week progressed the forecast for the weekend improved. We would have soft snow, stability, and weather. Perfect.

The crew with the stacked 20 Mile zone in the background. Someday.

Everyone was excited to take advantage of the conditions, and an adventure to Big Chief was settled on. As usual the gameplan was flexibility, our line down would be based on stability.

Reaching Seattle Ridge, the steep and imposing north face came into view.

Done with the first climb, we ripped our skins, took in the fascinating motorhead scene, then party skied into the drainage. Climbing again, we picked out future bad ideas on the Seattle Creek Headwall. So much to ski back here.

Set well back from Turnagain Pass proper, the ascent up the ridge towards the summit was a trip down memory lane. It was also a trip down the planning lane.

Tincan, Proper, Eddies, Byron, Carpathian, and the Library.

Following the mellow ridge the skin ascent was fast and efficient. Beautiful weather too, hard to believe its January!

More memories coming into view: the Center Ridge Wall, Sunburst, Basketball, Pastoral, Magnum, Cornbiscuit, Granddaddy, etc:


At the top, the breeze that had been pleasant 15 minutes before became bone chilling. Still January in Alaska, after all. Shivering, we crammed fuel down our throats, discussed future unreasonable missions, and put our skis on.

The view north across the Kenai Mountains and into the Chugach.

After a quick look for wind loading and obvious instabilities, Zach eased onto the north face. Here he is three turns in and still building speed:


Andalyn working the gut:


I brought up the rear, loving every second of the huge double fall line wall next to everyone's tracks.


Now we just had a couple thousand feet more of climbing before our last run down towards Granite Creek. Fun ptarmigan tracks along the way:


At the top, the evening light turned the mountains around us a beautiful gold.


As the sun set we picked out more zones for next time.


And then dropped into 3,000 vertical feet back towards the car. Alex:


But, there was one last test:

Photo: Zack Fields