Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Rae Wallace - 3.18.2016

Updated 3.17.2020 to include another great day.

Friday was Ethan's last day in town, so we wanted to take him somewhere fun. We'd done a lot of great adventuring, and as such were leaning towards a higher ski to bushwhack ratio. Maybe even something without dirt on the approach!

Cody watches Alex wrap up his warm up run.

Though we often ski Rae Wallace on our way thru to Archangel, I've never just spent a day lapping its steep and rocky chutes and spines, but I've always wanted to.

Alex and I spent Thursday chewing on weather forecasts and avalanche data as we decided between another Eagle River adventure and Hatcher. As soon as I dropped into the sheltered north facing terrain I was happy with our decision. Alex was too:

Mary also seemed happy with the decision.

Lap number 2.

Several other groups were out there enjoying the wonderful weather and soft snow. Always nice to run into friends!

There was quite a bit of moving snow, both from sloughing and smaller slabs. Ethan practicing slough management for when he comes back to ski Polar Bear and Rumble next year.

Alex finding snow that was more interested in staying put. I tried to ski the spine to Alex's left, which immediately slid, quickly ending that plan as I fled to safety.

Mary happily discussing the virtues of weight vests as related to spine skiing technique and other related and unrelated activities. In case you can't tell, I think she wearing one here:

For our last run we continued higher along the ridge to more untouched snow. As had been the trend thru the whole day, another storm slab immediately peeled away below Alex. It was probably because of all that leg power from a winter spent running stairs with a 65 pound sand bag.

Looks like the sand bag stairs were just the ticket!

Ethan skied a nice flute for his last AK lap of the trip. Hurry back so we can do more bushwhacking!

Looking back up at the end of the day; blue skies, falling snow, and good peeps: lucky me!

Thursday night above Delia Creek left me hungry for more Hatcher Pass, and Saturday morning found us driving north out of Anchorage again. Assuming that everyone had turned Rae Wallace into moguls on Friday, I'd been leaning towards an Arcose Ridge adventure.

But, Nathan pointed out that the road had been closed all day Friday, and there were only a few tracks on Marmot's northwest face. So, after collecting Tony and Mike from Fishhook Road we diverted for the Independence Mine parking lot. Arriving in the lot there were only a few cars, and the skinner in the uptrack chute wasn't in. Perfect. Gonna make it just how I like it...and shovel thru the cornice with my hands!

We popped into the calm sun of the deserted ridge and looked down on the inversion holding strong in the valley.

Knowing that it was only a matter of time before the rest of southcentral joined us, we started with the low hanging fruit. Not only did I get the privilege of breaking trail, the boys even letting me ski first. What gentlemen. The snow was right-side up, deep, and fun sloughy - it was going to be a good day. Nathan:

With the uptrack in, getting to the top for our second lap was fast, and we still had the place to ourselves. Tony and I went a bit farther north and looked south at the Nathans and Mike as they scoped out another large line.

Its hard to imagine the snow could get deeper, but the second lap seemed that way. Jensen and Mike skied a protected gully, Tony and I skied spines, and Nathan found a large drop. Mike:

On the third lap we were finally joined by another group. Of course it was Max. Max was one of my first ski buddies up here, and I don't get to see him that much any more, but we have so many fond memories together from Falls Creek to Ram Valley to Sheep Creek. This time we followed Max's lead and skied lines from south along the ridge. Tall Nathan:

Sendy Nathan:

Tomahawking Nathan (not to be confused with vomahawking Nathan):

As we headed up the skinner for lap numero cuatro people were starting to show up in mass. Stability was good, and there was lots of soft snow to be had, but space started to get tight. We often get these special places to ourselves, but every once in awhile everyone heads to the same place. and our growing crew could have done a better job of giving other folks space. Here's a sampling of what the top of the uptrack looked like. There were probably another 10 people on the skinner below, several had their shirts off, it was a scene!

Photo: Nathan Jensen

At this point the laps started to blend into a blur of spines, deep turns, laughter, camaraderie, hucking, and carnage.

Photo: Nathan Ord

Its hard to separate it all, but I do know this is the sendiest day of touring I've ever had and my back agrees with me.

I would have tried to keep going until my legs failed me and it was too dark to see, but at the top of the eighth lap I was outnumbered. It was either call it quits, or get pinned down and have my keys wrestled from me. So, we dropped into one last lap of perfection. Nathan:

Its hard to imagine another day this good on Rae Wallace, but I'm still dreaming of that ten-lap day; I'll be recruiting Nyssa for that one.

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