Sunday, March 1, 2020

Temptation - 2.16.2020

After a really satisfying Saturday slog on Tanaina, all I wanted was more. So, by 7:30 the next morning we were headed to Hiland Road and Temptation.

Admittedly, Temptation would be easier from the Artic Valley Road. However, that seemed like a waste of the 9 hours of daylight we had to work with. Best to add several thousand vertical feet and a few miles. By the time we were done with the first unnecessary climb to Rendezvous Ridge, the Tordrillos were glowing across the inlet in morning light.

Meanwhile, Temptation's couloirs remained shaded by their deep rock walls.

No one would call the snowpack of the Front Range stable, and safely skiing towards Ship Creek was a process. So was skinning downhill thru the final section of alder gymnastics and beaver ponds. To add insult to bushwhacking injury, we both iced our skins on the soggy ponds. I couldn't help wondering what was wrong with us as we scrapped our skis in the zero degree temps. Ripping laps at Alyeska would have been far easier.

Refueled with gas station power rings (thanks to Malcolm for this descriptive term for donuts) and now with functioning skins we briefly joined the Arctic to Indian trail before climbing out of the valley and towards the peak.

The huge north face brought us back into the cold shade as we approached the apron of the line.

At the top of the apron we stopped to strap our skis to our packs. Behind us our first lap and basically everywhere else was sunny. Who likes sunlight anyways?

Above, it was hard to believe the line actually went, instead seemingly ending in hundreds of feet of vertical rock.

Fortunately we were saved from rock climbing in our ski boots by a hard dog leg in the chute.

Things got even better when our couloir ended with a short traverse leading into another gully to the top. I remember a similar bifurcating couloir that we skied in Montana Creek years ago. That day also involved lots of shooting at ptarmigan with a silenced pistol.

The split is visible in the middle of the picture below. The skiers left might go, especially on snowblades.

We made quick work off the final gully and were soon basking on the ridge. We were separated from the summit by about 500 feet of sketchy traversing thru unstable snow, and I was happy to at least pretend to be a skier and not a peakbagger.

Just like the previous day, my eyes were drawn north towards Ram Valley and Peters Creek. In front of those is Hanging Valley which Brady, Sarah, and I wallowed up on a cold nipple-deep day.

Andrew measured that long C-shaped gully on the south side of Raina as a full mile of turns. Hiding in front of Raina and Peeking is Cumulus, which seems like a minnow in the pond of bruisers that is Eagle River.

Despite being only a mile or two from Tanaina, Temptation brought different views and accompanying great memories. Eagle Peak seemed almost within reach; Ethan, Brady and I had a great time crawling through alders to ski that one.

The sunny ridge was nice, but we needed to keep moving unless we wanted to finish in the dark, so we finished lunch, squeezed thru the tight entrance, and dropped in.

Typical of big couloirs that constantly have spindrift tumbling down, the snow was a mix of powder, supportable crust, and not supportable crust. Just the right mix to make me feel like a horrible skier.

What a rad ski - the coolie was way deeper and longer than I'd expected.

As we worked our way down, the slough-cone built up and the skiing got better. Seth says "Slough Cone" was his high school nickname. I still need to cross check that claim. He's also claimed to have one testicle, I'm not going to check that.

Gentle enough to not steadily spindrift, the apron had the best snow of the line.

From under the big amphitheater we party skied down the moraine, through the alder glades, and past piles of moose poop to Ship Creek.

Then it was time for one more long climb back towards Hiland Road. I don't know if I would have made it without Spotify's Hip Hop Don't Stop playlist.

Sliding back into the dusky parking lot, I reflected on how objective skiing is not always the constant smiles of lap after lap at the resort, but it makes sweet memories that you smile about forever.

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