Monday, May 15, 2023

Three Bell Spire Ski - 4.1.2023

Three Bell Spire first came into my consciousness many years ago on the Bomber Traverse as we skied down the Penny Royal Glacier and stared up at the beautiful blue jewels of ice crowning the spire. As is often the way with these obscure objectives, years slipped past waiting for conditions, stability, interest, schedules, and the cosmos to align.

This spring, Three Bell finally emerged out of the depths of the gray matter and into my consciousness. On a beautiful April day, Nyssa, Erin, Tom, Carolyn, Scott, and I loaded onto one widetrack snowmobile and lurched out of the Goldmint parking lot.

Somehow we managed not to dislocate any shoulders, get the sled stuck, or catch it on fire, and soon were parked at the motorized boundary at the bottom of the Reed Lakes trail. Six people on one sled is certainly a proud highlight of my ski career, though now my goal is at eight people.

In the warm sun of the spring morning we skinned away from the sled and towards Lynx Peak.

As we rounded the corner and stepped onto the top lake, Lynx Peak rose above us at the head of the valley. I remembered the last time Nyssa, Zack, Eric, and I were here on a particularly chilly January day. It was -10 °F and windy, covered in icy-cold frost, they looked like snow ghosts; I probably did too.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Avalanche Mountain Ski - 4.15.2023

Avalanche Mountain as viewed from The Ramp in April 2019.

I always have a hard time motivating to ski the Thin White Line. Its a lot of squeeze for the juice, and I don't like the avalanche hazard of the mid-slope bowl. But, after skiing impossibly deep (and pretty darn dark) snow on Ptarmigan at 9 PM on Tuesday night, we knew we should take advantage of unusually soft conditions around Powerline Pass.

Given the relatively long approach, we'd want to plan on linking in at least a couple other lines while back there - start with the TWL, then a lap on the Wedge, then go from there.

Several of us had grown the requisite blisters by the time the five mile approach was over and we'd climbed the access pass between Avalanche and the Wedge. Dropping into the contrastless bowl, we all did our best not to tip over in the flat light, let alone look like we had any idea how to ski.

We skied past a group of Dall Sheep rams who took a break from their grazing lunch to watch us flail down the inside of the ping pong ball.

Somehow having survived the approach, and in the basin under the TWL, we squinted up through the gray light to see that the last storm cycle had pulled out a large natural slide on the northwest face of Avalanche. Snapping our boots and skis to walk mode, we started to ascend the debris.

The recent slide made the snow firmer and the ascent easier, and we were able efficiently skin until reaching the mouth of the upper chute. Here we were above the crown of the big slide, and the climb became a lot harder as we booted up the deep snow.

The Wedge Ski - 5.8.2019

Note: updated below the original post to include a Thin White Line - Wedge linkup on 4.15.2023.

Yogging out of the Glen Alps parking lot on Wednesday evening my pants seemed to be getting unreasonably wet. Then it started to smell like beer too. I stopped, dug the half spilled beer out of the bottom of my pack, drank it, and continued.

15 minutes later I ran into Maggie who was eating crackers and cheese and watching the ptarmigan/maybe on a Tinder date. The crackers and cheese went nicely with the beer, and after a short chat I was on my way again.

I waded through a few isothermal snowdrifts, found the melted out trail, and continued my yog towards Ship Lake Pass.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Fairangel Valley Skiing - 4.27.2014

Note: updated below the original post to include a glorious Fair Five linkup on 4.2.2023.

By late April the high pressure that had been hanging over Southcentral for a month briefly broke down, but the warmth didn't. This left us with a predicament, how to get above the rain line? We needed something high and north facing, so we picked the highest Archangel of them all: Fairangel Valley. Perched at the top of Archangel Valley, it hides five perfect couliors: the Fair Five.

We planned to skin past the Pinnacle to Dogsled Pass, then drop into Fairangel. Looking back at the Lost Couloir:

Hard to say if that's a rain crust or just a sun crust, better keep going.

Closing in on Dogsled Pass, vaguely soft snow starting to appear.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Anchorage Ski Outlook - 4.5.2023

THURS - FRI: partly sunny, light winds, moderate temps (moderate confidence).
Quiet weather for the end of the work week with in-and-out sun and light snow showers. Thurs will be sunniest in the Kenai Mtns; Fri will be least cloudy at Hatcher. Light ridgetop winds. Sun affect on southerly slopes if/when the sun comes out. Decreased confidence due to timing of sunniness and showers.
WEEKEND: stormy, cloudy, dropping temps (moderate confidence).
A stormy weekend is on tap with all of our mountains receiving snow. The mountains closest to the western Prince William Sound are favored (moderate snow for Turny/Gird) with lighter snow elsewhere. Heaviest snow (and highest winds) will be Sunday in the WPWS mountains when temps will be cold for this time of year. No rain concerns.

EARLY NEXT WEEK: mostly cloudy, light snow, cool (low confidence).
Light snow, showers, and clouds look to continue for our zone into midweek. Low confidence in timing of snow with some sun possible in between. Moderate winds Monday for the mountains around the PWS and the ANC/ER FRange. No rain concerns.