Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Return to TT43 - 1.5.2019

Watching old school GoPro video of Jimmy Kase ripping the TT43 spines on teles in midwinter light sold me on Alaska. After years of waiting for snow, stability, and weather to align we finally got to experience it.

As we drove south thru the pass, the bottom fell out of the thermometer. By the time we parked at Bertha Creek it was -8 degrees. Next up, was finding a way across the creek. Matt found a crossing and lead the charge across the cold water creek. Eventually the twig he was standing on collapsed, but he hovered over the water and kept his feet dry.

In retrospect, parking at Cornbiscuit and using the bridge would have been straightforward. Still, it was drier than skiing TT43 with Matt and Nick years ago:

We followed ptarmigan and hare tracks across the valley and up the climb to Seattle Ridge. Above the valley inversion the temperature rose to 10 degrees. Tropical.

From the ridge we looked across at a scrapbook of ski memories. Matt with dreamy south face pf Pastoral Peak in the morning light.

Brady led the charge towards the summit pyramid.

As we chased Charlie and Brady towards the summit, the shadowed spines and ribs of the New World appeared below us.

Looking north we drooled over the king lines of Kern Creek. I'm still hung up on Low Bush Peak.

In the cold, dry air the skyline shimmered as the moist, warm snowpack faceted away into a mirage.

Before we knew it we were on the last ridge and memorizing the complex face.

And then we were standing on top of the spine. Everyone was taken aback as it curved, squeezed, and rolled out of sight towards and Silvertip and Twin Peaks.

I dropped past the mushroomed cornice, stopping on the knife-edge as Brady ripped down.

Matt was next. Alaska boys sure can ski.

Matt leapfrogged past us, disappearing off the spine into oblivion. Seconds later he came shooting into the apron with his slough in hot pursuit.

Brady was the next.

He followed the spine as it tightened around him.

Then it was time for Charlie and I to navigate the perched pillows guarding the lower face. We wrapped thru the complex constrictions and the spine fell away below. Charlie:

Charlie pulled off in a safe zone and let me rip the Alaskan velvet past him. Then he chased me.

Still thousands of feet above the valley floor, and laughing with joy, we put our skins on and headed up for a double dip. Brady and Matt broke trail to the the ridge where it was time for another trip down memory lane. In the soft afternoon light, Carpathian dwarfed Pastoral and the "baby" spines of Goldpan. What do you do when Goldpan starts to seems small?

South of Carpathian, the spined massif dividing the Spencer and Spencer Tributary glaciers looked tempting. That's the Granddaddy and the Tommy Moe Run in the foreground. Ask Billy Finley for a history lesson on that.

To the north, the Girdwood Valley was just a stone's throw away. The Goat Couloir cornice was already the size of New Sagaya; I think Brian and Sam were skiing the X above the Raven Glacier that day too.

I looked towards Johnson Pass as Brady dropped over the cornice:

In the perfect light each turn was more beautiful than the last.

The spine rolled and rolled away as he made turn after perfect turn.

As he disappeared behind the fins below Matt raced after him.

Charlie provided moral support at the top while I hemmed and hawed before dropping into another dream line.

The he played tag with Matt's turns through the pillowed terrain.

What a zone.

Done with the upper face, we party skied the lower bowl towards Sixmile Creek, chasing a flock of moose towards beaver ponds covered in giant hoar frost.

At the flats we followed the steaming creek towards the Silvertip bridge. There were rabbit tracks, sign, and warrens everywhere. Andrew better get down there before George shoots them all.

Once to the road the only thing left was to hitchhike to the car. We quickly gave up on looking cold and pretending to shiver in favor of being cold and shivering. That worked better.

Back at the car it was -11 degrees. What's the windchill for a pickup truck going 65 mph at -11 degrees: -48 degrees. No wonder Charlie was cold.

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