Monday, December 29, 2014

Basketball Run - 12.13.2014

Saturday is a tricky day for weekend warriors. After spending the week out of touch, you have to sit down  and synthesize what you missed, and figure out how conditions will evolve. Ideally you think of a zone that has a few contingency plans built in: lighting, stability, and access come into play.

Starting the day with a new twist on the self destructive Plum bindings, this time a disappearing toe pin for Malcolm.

The 13th was such a day. Because we'd likely be dealing with flat light, we'd want rocks for contrast. Zones throughout Southcentral can fit the bill: Fairangel Valley at Hatcher, Ram Valley in the Front Range, or Falls Creek on Turnagain Arm. All those zones have snowpack problems at the moment.

Reaching Taylor Pass, dark and windy behind Pastoral. Coincidentally, that sub peak has a spectacular south face.

Turnagain has some good chutes, but they can be crossloaded. We needed to improve our stability odds by picking an area with options, and decided to skin towards Taylor Pass. Perhaps the South face of Pastoral, maybe the Granddaddy Couloir, or the Basketball Run?

Traversing under Basketball towards the start of the bootpack.

The drive from Anchorage was rather demoralizing, with pouring rain as we passed Portage. But, just as forecast, the storm didn't have the energy to push far from the coast. By the time we parked at Magnum, we even had a few breaks in the clouds.
Is it still called bootpacking when its running? Runpacking? Bootrunning?

Reaching Taylor pass, the light breeze had gained a painful bite. With the huge plumes of snow streaming off the peaks, we bailed on Pastoral. So, we did an about face and started traversing back towards Magnum and the Basketball Run. Looking across towards the Southwest face of Sunburst, not much light at noon.

With uncertainty in stability, Robert and I stopped to dig a snowpit as we transitioned for the bootpack. I've skied in equally stable maritime conditions in Cordova, but I've never dug a pit in them before. I gave up on hammering on the ECT when my fist hurt. Then we pried the column out and watched the entire thing roll intact to the valley floor.

The climb finished with an exciting set of moves through slippery rocks. I was surprised at the uncanny similarity between one of the moves and a V5 bouldering problem at the rock gym. Of course, tt would have been easy with an ice ax and crampons. Robert passed the IQ test and did not bother with such stupid behavior.

The top of the line brought an extended and rather funny interaction. I thought we should drop off the South side of Basketball and then climb back for the another run on the north side. Robert thought we shouldn't make Malcolm and his broken binding wait any longer. Eventually, I agreed that he was right.

Robert dropped first, and I followed, skiing a pretty cool little flute on the side of the chute.

Robert lower in the line:

I had been concerned that the transition from perfect Alaskan Velvet to raincrust would lead to a series of painful cartwheels across the ice, but with an inch of soft surface hoar, it was almost too easy.

Perfect, warm, super-glue snow in the alpine does have a downside...

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