Sunday, April 9, 2017

Arctic to Indian - 2.5.2017

Almost everyone around town has done Arctic to Indian. Shoot, most people have done it multiple times, even multiple times each year. However, I unreasonably prioritize backcountry skiing above everything, so I miss out on a lot of other fun things. But, after starting out the weekend by skiing Byron and Wolverine, I was willing to try something else.

The descent down to Ship Creek was one of the most exhilarating things I've done in awhile. It also made me wonder why cross country skiers don't wear helmets. And hockey pads. And how anyone could consider cross country skiing safer than downhill skiing.

We reached Ship Creek and began to follow it upstream just as the sun was starting to touch Temptation Peak. It might be covered in beautiful couloirs and spires, but I still haven't been tempted to brave the bushwhacking and slogging to get there.

First light along the creek was absolutely magical: clouds of mist with each breath, huge crystals of hoar frost formed from the creek's unlimited supply of moisture, and the sun sparkling in the trees. Temps around -5 F were also very similar to those of the previous morning on the way up Byron.

At the confluence between the two forks of the creek we turned south towards Indian Pass. I think that's Mount Ewe in the background.

Stringing together meadows above the river was quick work and highlighted by countless tracks from wandering ptarmigan, moose, wolves, foxes, and wayward yuppies. Also, at risk of stating the obvious, this stretch is way better on skis than postholing thru bushes and swamps in summer.

As the sun got lower in the sky Alex took over and broke trail towards the pass. Alex usually seems to end up breaking trail when the sun is getting low in the sky. That's Avalanche Peak to the right, and Bird Ridge Overlook to the left.

Moonrise over the peaks that separate the forks of Ship Creek. This is roughly where we came thru when we did our weekend hike from Girdwood to Anchorage. Lots of sheep up there!

By sunset we were at the top and ready for our long descent to Indian. Early February in Alaska would put sunset right around 5:20, so still plenty of time before bed! That's Indianhouse Peak to the right of Alex, lots of good skiing up there.

6 miles of downhill may seem like the ideal way to finish a day. Add cross country skis, impending darkness, and temperatures rapidly dropping back towards the negatives and it quickly becomes memorable. Next time I will bring fresh batteries for my headlamp.

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