Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Chum Bucket - 1.30.2022

Spring and summer in AK is a manic time of year. Fueled by the midnight sun I become a caffeinated wreck who finds myself craving projects at 12:30 AM - I think I'm beginning to know what meth is like. Every week my self inflicted sleep deficit grows; my blogging backlog is not far behind it. Hopefully I never catch up on this backlog as the memories of one great adventure after the next pile up, but between midnight mania, midnight fishing, and midnight real estate mini-empirism here is an effort to catch up with a look back at a sort of soft, sort of stable, and sort of sunny January day at Turnagain.

Mid-winter at Turnagain was beset with storm after storm followed by surface hoar after buried surface hoar event. It was frustrating and had me wondering why I was pretending to work as a corporate drone in this unstable and dark land.

Swimming thru the classic fog of a midwinter inversion.

By late January we finally got a break in the cycle with a brief window of calm, cold, and clear weather. Well. Sort of clear. The "problem" with these calm midwinter periods following nuclear winter events is they leave the air full of moisture, and with no wind to scoop the soup out it becomes fog. You can get above the fog, but its particularly annoying when you are also navigating a considerable avalanche day with BSH 18 inches down. So, as we swam thru the fog of the Cornbiscuit parking lot and felt our way across the bridge, we knew it would be tricky finding a safe way up Seattle Ridge to Gulch Creek and eventually TT43. Using a combination of jedi mind tricks and black magic Tom located fresh avalanches debris whose bed surface we could safely follow to the top.

As we climbed higher, breaks in the clam chowder began to appear, teasing us with windows into Lynx Creek:

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Upper Nenana Packraft - July 2022

Just like so many times in the past, last Friday night found us driving north on the Parks Highway for a weekend smash-and-grab in the land of Southcentral AK packrafting Shangri-La around Broad Pass. We planned to park at the confluence of Wells Creek and the Nenana where the aquamarine waters of Wells swirl into a muddy mix with the glacial Nenana. From there we'd use the primo Argo trail up Wells Creek to avoid as much brush as possible, then climb to the head of the watershed where we'd drop to the upper Nenana to float back to the car.

By 10:30 on Friday night we were parked at the picturesque little campsite at the confluence. We drank a beer, set up the tent, and took in the soft pink sunset over the river as campfire smoke clung to the edges of the valley.

Saturday morning started with inflating our boats for the quick ford of the Nenana. With our packs sitting in our laps we tried not to dump into the chocolate soup as we splashed across.

The trail usually has a bit of wolf and bear sign, but this time it was covered in the evidence of heavy wolf traffic. There was furry scat everywhere.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Return to TT43 - 1.5.2019

Note: updated below the original post to include a Gulch Creek link-up in January 2022.
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.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Temptation - 2.16.2020

Note: updated below the original post to include an evening summit lap on the south face in April 2022.
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.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Silvertip - 12.13.2015

Note: updated below the original post to include a version of the Silvertip Traverse in March 2022.
After a great window of high pressure, last week brought two and a half feet of new snow to the top of Turnagain Pass.

Waking up in the morning dusk, we followed the old mining road up the creek. 

But, the high pressure had a downside, it left a weak surface for the new storm snow to bond to. As it slowly got lighter, we were treated to a view of Twin Peaks:

By the time we reached the upper basin, there was a foot of new snow sitting on a settled base. 

Wanting to take advantage of the new snow, but to avoid the danger associated with a thick slab we headed to the southern end of Turnagain Pass.
Avoiding potential avy danger, we followed the north ridge towards the summit. On the skyline is TT43, one of my favorites.