Monday, March 13, 2017

Byron Peak - 2.4.2017

Portage is sick: as storms collide with the huge mountains jutting out of the ocean they lift and dump ridiculous amounts of snow. Then, the snow pours back off the peaks as glaciers. The problem with the proximity to the ocean is the wind it often brings.

So, after finding stable, deep, and perfect powder on Wolverine, we knew it was time to focus on the Portage zone.

At the parking lot it was 3 degrees, but by the time we could look back down on the lake we were above the inversion. Once on the glacier we roped up and Alex took the lead as we snaked to the climbers left of the lower icefall. People often approach Bryon by ascending the east ridge from the lake, we decided against this due to obvious wind loading.

Past the severe cracking and associated slow travel, we were able to move faster. Even by early February its crazy how much snow has accumulated around Portage, we crossed snow bridges that were 10 feet thick!

We switched to booting to climb the steep headwall between the east ridge and the summit block. Above the headwall, we put our skis back on.

From here the views to the north, east, and southeast were incredible. Looking east towards the Whittier Glacier. Some people refer to these three peaks as the "Three Wise Men", I've had mixed results skiing them.

To the north we could see into the heart of 20 Mile. What a stacked zone!

Now on the upper plateau we skirted another icefall and moved towards the summit block.

After a short boot we were on the west summit. To some its worth noting that the west peak is a few feet lower than the east peak. But, we're not climbers, and the west peak has better skiing. To the southeast we had a great view of Carpathian's north face. An exit couloir threads through down the face through a jumble of seracs and cliffs.

Below us were Shakespeare Shoulder, Baird, Portage Glacier, and the Prince William Sound stretching away into the distance.

Dropping into the steep north face was a bit intimidating: even on stable days there's always the concern of a wind pocket in the back of your mind. But, it was perfect settled pow. By the time I was at the bottom of the face Nathan Ord had caught up with me.


Nathan Jenson:

After dealing with a binding failure, we wrapped around the corner into another awesome pitch of skiing.

More Nathan Ord:

Below the second pitch we were able to cross a smooth spot on the glacier and rejoin our up-route. Alex:

Then, in the last light of the day there was one more great pitch of skiing. Nathan Jenson:

Byron is some of the best bang for the buck adventure skiing I've ever done. But, it has potentially huge objective hazard: cornices, avalanches, crevasses, and serac fall. Pick a day where the conditions are on your side, and remember that lines like this can take a few tries.

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