Thursday, March 14, 2019

Goldpan - 12.13.2018

Alaska is the land of feast or famine. November brought days of rain, rain, rain to the Kenai Mountains. Fortunately, days of rain at the road mean feet of snow in the alpine, and in early December we finally got the weather window we'd been waiting for.

It was dark and cold as we broke trail out of the Sunburst lot, along Taylor Creek, and up Basketball. Climbing higher, we watched the sun kiss Turnagain's crown jewel:

Not entirely sure about stability and snow, we started with a long, protected spine towards Bertha Creek. Jono offered to go first; we could barely see him through the trail of cold smoke he left behind. It was going to be a good day.

Playing leapfrog down the long spine, I looked up to see a partially submerged Bucky. He'd later say this was the deepest day he's ever skied in the alpine.

At the bottom, we couldn't wait to get back up for another lap, and quickly forgot about the trail-breaking. Crossing a gaping glide crack added fun gymnastics to the skinner. Up top we were joined by Connor and Rey.

Connor had come straight from the night shift, and was ready to get the wiggles out.

Bucky skirted left under a cornice then dipped in and out of the light as his slough ripped on around spine.

Andrew and I traversed past Bucky's line looking across to see Rey disappearing into the white room:

We dropped into the shady face towards the boys waiting below. With the skin track already in, another lap was the obvious choice.

Andrew and I spooned Bucky's tracks from the last lap then watched Jono dropping over the edge of the bowling ball into the heart of the face.

Slough poured off the rocks and funneled down the gullies as he worked the complex terrain.

Bucky dropped the spine next to Jono's, porpoising in and out of the snow as he bounced down the pillowed face. that man can rip. To his right Reynaldo was working on his disappearing act again:

Meanwhile Connor was making quick work a cool fluted feature:

After sending six people down Goldpan three times there wasn't much snow left on the face; and the December shadows were getting long. It was time to trend to towards the parking lot, so we started breaking trail towards Superbowl. In the purple evening light we looked across at Connor and Rey on top of Cornbiscuit.

Bucky boosted the cornice into the untouched purple pow of Superbowl.

Superbowl was deeper than Goldpan. After a day spent racing sloughs down steep spines, alpenglow soul-turns hit the spot. But it wasn't dark yet, and we chased after Connor as he put in one last skin track up Magnum. By the top the stars were twinkling above us, and the moon was rising over Taylor Pass. In the fading light we skied by braille towards the road.

Back in the empty parking lot it was 1 degree - perfect for icing those tired joints.

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