Monday, March 22, 2021

Souvenir Peak - 3.17.2018

Note: Updated to include a frigid March day in Lone Tree Gulch.

Guarded by its twin vertical summits, the west bowl of Souvenir has been an obsession this season. With a foot of fresh and a break between storm systems, we set out last Saturday from Gold Mint to check it out. Rounding the corner of the valley, the Mint peaks came into view:


At the corner, we left the Mint Valley and skinned into the hanging valley below Souvenir. Thanks to Josh for the artwork. Meow meow!

Photo: Josh Gray

The valley floor is filled by mounded moraines from a glacier long gone, while the walls are carved by that same glacier.


A natural avalanche had come down the bowl during the storm, leaving a firm, fast, and stable bed surface to skin up, and pow on the sides.


A brief wallow brought us over the lip and onto the col between the two summits. To the east, Brian was standing on the false summit.


We wrapped around the east side of the summit block and were quickly on top. Two feet to Josh's left is 500 feet of overhung rock. When I looked over that edge my belly button went to my throat and I quickly retreated.


One of the highlights of Souvenir was the awesome views deep into Moose Creek's bowls, ribs, and chutes. With a fat snowpack in the Talkeetnas, this seems like a good year to check it out.


From the summit we looked southeast at the false summit and Arcose Peak.


Then I finished my Corona Extra and we dropped around the backside and into the west bowl. Alex:


In the deep snow, I tried not to endo or wheelie on the new skinny skis that I'm still getting used to. Based on reviews from Alex and Jeff, it seems like I might not get used to them. Josh hit a nice air and came cruising down to us.


We milked the rolling terrain towards the Arcose Peak drainage. Josh:


Josh and Gavin had been eyeing a line up on Arcose Peak, so we headed there next. After a cold winter filled with days of weak light and biting wind, the March sun felt amazing.


Done with window shopping the face of coolies, we selected one and wrapped around another steep wall to gain the ridge. In the cool shade, I was quickly reminded that its still winter in AK.


Now on top of the line, we got a new perspective on a lot of old memories. The Rabbit Ears, Pinnacle, and Fairangel couloirs all link together into a nice tour, Sidney Creek is a pretty awesome destination by itself too.


We threaded around the mushroomed cornice at the top of the line and skied into the sunny rock walls of the chute. Josh:


Just behind the sunny ridge in the background is Goodhope Creek. Alex says there are some nice chutes falling from it into the Mint Valley. I imagine they will be part of Brady's Indy Mine - Archangel - Reed Lakes - Mint linkup.

Photo: Josh Gray

The snow in the couloir was largely bed surface after the pocket that had ripped out near the top, but the apron was the real treat. There are several more lines tucked into the huge wall behind Gavin:


All too soon the skiing was over and it was time to put on our skins and head up again. On the way we caught up with Cathy, Eric, and Az who had followed our skinner up Souvenir. We chatted with them before dropping into a fat line of spines and pillows above the Lonesome Mine. Alex:


The run was fun, the snow nice, and the sun still above the horizon, so Alex and I decided to do another lap above Delia Creek on the way to the car. A few creek crossing and lots trailbreaking (by Alex) later it was time to ski down to the car.


Update:
On a surprisingly cold day in mid March of 2021 Nyssa, Erin and I returned to Lone Tree Gulch. A frosty katabatic wind was blowing down the valley, and despite my windproof undies I spent the approach with my hand down my pants trying to stay warm. 

We'd hoped to link up Souvenir and the big chute on Arcose Peak, but upon reaching the upper basin found a knee wrenching and cracking slab from outflow winds that had strayed from the Matanuska Valley.


Between the cold, horrible ski conditions, and avalanche concerns it was an easy decision to change plans and head for the long sunny fins draining south towards lower in Lone Tree.


Just a couple miles farther away from the Mat valley, the snow was untouched by the wind, and even on the steep due south face the bright March sun was no match for the arctic temps. 


Nyssa:


With each lap down and skinner back up, we worked our way across the face, checking out a new fin on each descent. Behind Nyssa and Erin is Teacup Bowl.


It looks fun back there, I'd like to check out the Teacup and well as its handle of a chute dropping left from near the summit.


Erin:


With laps over 1,500 vertical feet and a five mile approach to Souvenir for breakfast, the vertical accumulated and calories burned accumulated rapidly.


For our last lap, we skinned to the nose of the ridge overlooking the Little Susitna. Several thousand vertical feet below, we peered down at ant-sized country skiers on the Mint Trail. Then we chased after them, finishing the day with a fast double pole back to the Goldmint lot.


We've been looking at these long sunny runs for the last couple months as we've chased the sun around Arcose Ridge, it was fun to finally check them out - perhaps next time will take us one drainage further to Teacup Bowl or beyond that to the Rock.

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