Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pastoral Peak Skiing - 4.11.2012

Back in Anchorage after our epic days in Valdez, Nick and I met up with fellow CB skiers Emma and Danny for a tour at Turnagain Pass. The weather at Turnagain had been a bit warmer than Valdez, and we didn't know what to expect in terms of snow conditions. I was beginning to feel tired from our travels and, I have to admit, I wasn't optimistic when we pulled into an icy parking lot with thick gray skies overheard. An hour and a half skin brought us over a low pass and and our first views of Pastoral Peak and glacier:

As we crested the pass the skies cleared enough to produce some amazing light around us:

From the pass a spicy diagonal downhill skin, complete with a serenade by croaking ptarmigans, brought us to Pastoral Glacier. From there we continued under the peak until reaching the ridge to the summit on the far side. The views from the final ridge were incredible, with some very unique soft, blotchy light:

Looking north towards the Spine Cell zone; we had hoped to ski this on our trip, but its south facing aspect nixed that. Next year!

More amazing light as Emma approaches the summit:

Nick stoked to be on top with incredible views in every direction:

Unfortunately, right as we prepared to drop into our north facing chute the clouds came back in, leading to some rather terrifying skiing down steep wind crust. Nick skiing by braille:

Emma unfazed:


After the upper chute we skied across the Pastoral Glacier and dropped into another 1000 feet of rolling terrain. This was honestly some of the most challenging light I've ever skied in. First, I thought I was at the bottom when I wasn't. Then, when I unexpectedly stopped moving because I had reached the bottom I was equally surprising. Emma:

Nick found some rocks to provide contrast:


At the bottom of the hole we realized it certainly wasn't as cold as it had been at the top...

and despite the morning cloud cover, none of us wanted to wait around to see if there would be any wet slides. So we put in the 1000 vertical foot boot pack through knee deep snow in 30 minutes. O, the joys of sea level! Emma and Danny done postholing and back into the land of cantankerous ptarmigans:

Once we were back at the pass, we realized it was only a bit further to the top of the Sunburst ridge, so we kept walking:

And dropped into 2800 vertical feet of south facing corn back to the car. Danny:


Back at the parking lot we were treated to more beautiful Alaskan light:

Because of the warm April sun, this ended up being our only Turnagain day of the trip. I'd love to come back when the snow is good and ski the plethora of easily accessible terrain that it has to offer. Not to mention Spine Cell...

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