Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Delia Creek Skiing - 3.4.2018

Updated 3.17.2020 to include another great day.

Despite years of drooling over its faces, bowls, and couloirs guarded by tilted conglomerate walls, I've never skied Arcose Ridge before. With a fat snowpack at Hatcher I was out of excuses about alders, so on a beautiful Sunday we parked in the Gold Mint parking lot to check out Delia Creek.

Ahead of us, the west face of Souvenir and its twin summits were still in the morning shade. I'd really like to ski that one.

Working to stay away from major terrain traps, we contoured east thru the hanging valley, and then onto the ridge above Delia Creek. Behind our skinner is Goodhope Creek and the Snowbird Mine Valley. Goodhope is stacked with couloirs, bowls, and pillows, but is a bit tricky to hit right due to its solar aspect.

It was hard to leave the warmth of the spring sun and drop into the cold shade of Delia Creek. Well, it wasn't that hard.

Schyler spooned my tracks through windows of light on his way to the valley floor.

Not a bad way to start the day.

Stoked to have a valley full of soft snow all to ourselves, we chased fox tracks up the valley. On the south ridge of Delia Creek we were joined by Summit; he was enjoying the sun while his snowboarders spun laps to the south. He also wanted my Gameday Supreme pizza.

Summit's pack has a cool setup: they have an inholding along the Little Susitna River, so are able to bypass the non-motorized corridor and sled-ski on Arcose. On top of Arcose Ridge we looked down on the sea of clouds engulfing Anchorage. Talk about a good day to get out of town!

After eating our pizza and talking with Summit's pack we dropped back towards Delia Creek. The snow got deeper every turn.

Next, we picked a west facing bowl descending through the layers of rock. The rock here reminded me of the cobbles and boulders of the Eska Formation that makes up Castle Mountain and Wishbone Hill.

At the top we got an even better view of Souvenir. Maybe I'll convince Alex and the boys to ski it with me tomorrow. Down below in the Matanuska Valley we could see Wishbone Hill, Buffalo Mine, and the Moose Range; we've had lots of fun looking for grouse there.

Over the Mat Valley rose the giant peaks of the Chugach. Cloudbuster is looking giant (as always) on the left, with Marcus Baker in the distance.

King Mountain and the A Peaks a bit further to the east:

Just like the previous lap, the snow got better and better as we descended the bowl. We hooted and hollered as we party skied the rolling terrain of the valley.

All too soon it was time to skin up one last time. It felt great to be in the warm afternoon sun. I think its possible Schyler got a little warm in his down jacket though.

Gaining the ridge where we had started the day, the big terrain above the hanging valley was coming into the sun. What a rad place.

Back on top of the knob, we skied 1,500' vertical feet of pow back to the car.

I just realized its now been five years since I moved to AK. Hopefully there are some more days on Arcose Ridge in the next five years.

After last weekend's whirlwind storm dumped three feet of snow on Hatcher we've been jonesing to get up there. While the storm snow was settling we stayed entertained with the Bear Crack and Goat's Head Soup coolies, then on Thursday Connor and I jetted north for an afternoon tour.

However, our dreams of ripping Rae Wallace spines in golden, pink, and purple alpenglow were cancelled by the avalanche across the road. So, we called an audible, parked at Gold Mint, and sprinted towards the knob above Delia Creek.

Looking down on the hanging twin lakes we could see someone racing up our skinner. Figuring it was Tony or Mike, we ripped skins and dropped into the untouched chute below.

The timing was perfect, and Mike caught us as we prepped for another trip up the skintrack. It was nice to not break trail and reap the rewards of our trail breaking from the previous lap.

This time we dropped into a higher chute and back towards another climb up our well-packed trail. I went first, then looked up to watch Connor rip a fin on the side of the chute before finding deeper snow in the apron.

There has been a lot of trail breaking this winter, and I've been trying to embrace being a little more efficient, so we headed back up for our same high point. From the top we looked into the heart of the Mint Valley. Still lots of exploring for me up there, hopefully we'll have more days like Montana Peak. I think Seth brought a single Snickers for that 12 hour day.

For our third lap we descended into the cold shade of Two Mile Creek. In the protected basin we found cold smoke.

Above us, and looking like the Andes, was the north face of 5100. We had a great bonus lap on its east face a few years ago when we skied Delia. That's also the day I found out Josh sees whales in mountains.

The shadows were getting long, and it was time to break another trench of a trail for one last long run down to the Little Su. We got the top just as the evening light was turning gold, and listened to the tunes of David Walburn as we transitioned for the down.

Then Connor surfed into untouched snow kissed by the soft light.

I waited for him to stop on the rollover, then leapfrogged past.

Past the roll, the snow was the best of the day. I keep saying that. Maybe everything seemed perfect after four evening laps?

We party skied the apron to the creek, then looked back up at our tracks highlighted in the last light.

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