Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Goats Head Soup Ski - 3.11.2020

Backcountry skiing is the game of patience. We spend years staring at lines and waiting for them to come in. There are so many factors: stability, weather, work schedules, partners, motivation, and thin snowpacks to name a few.

For the couloir above Goats Head Soup, its takes something we haven't had in awhile along Turnagain Arm - consistent snow to sea level. But, every time we round the bend at Windy Corner, we crane our necks, try not to swerve into oncoming traffic, and hope for a fleeting glimpse of snow snaking down the 4,000 foot line to the ocean.

In early March, when Andy and Connor figured out that it was in, Tony and I weren't going to miss our chance.

We left work early with bad cases of powder fever, parked at the Windy Corner lot, skinned the Turnagain Arm Trail to the gully, then popped out of the alder tube into the lower chute.

Andy and Lance were ahead of us, and we followed their tracks as they took the subtle left-hand turn into the upper couloir.

Booting upwards, the brown and orange rock walls grew around us. 

The line forked then split again as we climbed, at each intersection we took the way that kept going. Turning into a thin, hanging chute, we looked down on Andy and Lance in a different variation of the line below us. Behind Tony the bore tide was ripping up the Turnagain Arm thousands of feet below. I wonder if anyone was surfing it. Maybe the angry bore tide surfer? 

The upper chute finally ended and we clawed with our slippery plastic boots over frozen tundra, ice lenses, and thin snow for the last couple hundred vertical feet to the ridge line.

Photo: Tony Naciuk

Below us the incoming bore tide had swirled the sea ice into a frozen galactic vortex.

We ate a snack and drooled over South Suicide's smooth and long run into Rainbow Valley. One of Robert's favorite corn snacks.

Clamping on our skis and starting down quickly reminded us of just how thin that top bit had been. Its hard to believe from this picture, but it actually skied alright. Frozen tundra edges so well.

Sliding and scratching into the tight upper chute we found actual snow.

Photo: Tony Naciuk

With chalky snow and about 10 feet wide, this section was jump turn heaven.

Photo: Tony Naciuk

At the first junction, I pulled off as Tony ripped out of sight thru the rocky choke before blasting back into view below. That dude can ski. 

I leapfrogged past Tony at the next chute junction. In the chunky pow I was all too aware of the bunny rabbit jump turn limitations of my 95 flex slippers and soft skis and jealous of Tony's real setup - maybe someday I'll get one of those.

Photo: Tony Naciuk

One of the several variations on the spidery couloir splits from the middle left in the pic below:

Photo: Tony Naciuk

Tony scoping his next road gap:

In the lower chute we ran into Dave Bass who was out for an after dinner lap. Dave has been the source of much fast-lap and jump-turn inspiration. In true form, Dave would do the coolie car to car in under two and a half hours. He's also skied it five times in a week. Did we want to join for a second lap?

Four hours after leaving, we were back at the car, rehydrating on beer, and drooling over Alpenglow, another line that's rarely in. I can't wait to see what obscure couloir, face, or slog is in next year; there are so many to drool over, dream about, and wait for. 

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