Thursday, February 18, 2021

Delia Peak Skiing - 4.1.2018

Note: Updated to include a sunny weekend in Two Mile Creek.

2018 was a Hatcher year. It was stable, deep, and soft, and we had a great time exploring new zones, revisiting old ones, and linking up favorites. With a fat snowpack down low, the Mint Valley alder jungle was buried, and we focused on Arcose Ridge. After years of staring at Delia Peak from Rae Wallace, Sidney Creek, and, well, everywhere else it was time to check it off.

As we climbed out of the cold inversion of the valley bottom and into the sunshine of the basin Alex, Charlie, Josh, and Zack raced for the chance to break trail.

The peloton of skinny fast dudes quickly had us on top of Arcose Ridge from where we looked behind us into the heart of the Mint Valley. We'd ski Montana Peak a week later. I'm dreaming about another window to get more of those.

We followed the wide ridge east to the summit of Delia. At the high point we could look straight at the twin peaks of Souvenir and the west bowl they guard. I remembered lying on Souvenir's overhung summit, looking 500 feet straight down, and feeling the tickle in my grundel.

To the west we could almost touch the complex north face of Peak 5100. I want to rip this face on a deep day and fall off a few of its cliffs.

Zack volunteered to guinea pig the snow conditions and dropped off the peak into our first lap. We listened to the scraping of dust on crust and turned around and skied the other way. Thanks Zack!


After finding better snow in a protected bowl we located Zack and used a sled track as a staircase back to the ridge.

This time we turned west at the ridge and climbed towards Peak 5100. Across the way were our tracks on Delia.

We peered into the sheltered north face and argued about who should go first.

Charlie was happy to be the test dummy and dropped into a sunny fin of perfect snow:

Protected from the sun and wind, the gut was classic Hatcher Pass square pow. Yummy.

Sandwiched between our last two runs, we drooled over the lines, and brainstormed where to go next. That morning we'd passed a beautiful little chute off of the shoulder of Delia, and decided to go for that. Josh in route to the third lap with our warm-up above him:

Farther from the winds of the Matanuska Valley and hidden from the sun, we found even deeper snow. I looked down from a perch of crisp maroon-colored tundra as Charlie skied out of sight. How did he finagle going first again?


One of the nice things about skiing with Josh is his eye for wildlife. Like this humpback whale, not every day you see a cetacean in the Talkeetnas:

Graphic design: Josh Gray

Done with the whale's tail we were hungry for more powder and skinned up the sub-ridge of Peak 5100 and in the general direction of the car. Zack has been stealing his wife's clothes for years. His mother-in-law caught on and started buying Zack his own matching set. Like this stunning rhododendron piece. Behind the flowers is the west face of 5100 hiding a couple of choice chutes.

At the ridge no one knew what was below us, but it seemed likely we were on top of large cliffs.

Charlie is an optimist and after sprinkling a healthy dose of fairy dust off the edge he skied into the cliffs.

Fortunately, when you believe things will it work out then they usually do - and there was a way through the cliffs. Energized by the fourth lap it only made sense to do a fifth one on the way home, so we skinned up and before long were standing 2,000 feet above the Little Su. Offset from the Hatcher Pass Front, we had a great panoramic view of the Arcose Ridge and our first four laps:

Looking left and east was Arcose Peak and the stacked terrain of Lone Tree Gulch. Lots to explore there, maybe 2020 will be a Hatcher season?

There was some disagreement about whether we were again standing over large cliffs. Whatever, memories are never made when things going smoothly. So, we dropped into the 2,000 feet towards the valley floor. Alex:

Halfway down the face rolled over and there were indeed large cliffs. We sidestepped around, scraped over, and stemmed down the precipice to the alder spines below and the parking lot beers beyond.

One of the things that makes Anchorage a backcountry skiing mecca is the number of distinctly different zones around us. When a couple of em are in bad shape one is usually still good. This has been the case lately. As the Kenai and Gach get crushed by the wind event after wind event, we have taken refuge from the cyclone at Hatcher.

Its still extreme low tide in the Talkeetnas, so after harvesting all the blueberries on the grassy slopes of the Valley of Sin, Sabrina, Nyssa and I went looking for more smooth tundra on Arcose Ridge. We used our favorite approach up the hanging valley of Twin Lakes before dropping into the smooth faces above Two Mile Creek.

Cherishing the midwinter joy of skiing sunny slopes, we lapped the face while it still had morning sun.


We tiptoed tenderly thru thin snow at the top of each run, before opening it up as we entered the filled in gullies.

Photo: Nyssa Landres

After three laps the fleeing sun chased us back into the shade, and we chased wolverine tracks towards a west facing bowl of spinelets and ridges that was starting to come into the light.

Ahead of us we could see Josh, Nikki, and Lucas breaking trail towards the same destination. Turns out they were doing a better job of chasing wolverines and had seen the giant mountain weasel breaking its own trail towards Delia Peak:

Photo: Josh Gray

We caught Josh and Nikki at the bottom of the bowl as they transitioned for another lap. We don't get to ski with these two enough, and were stoked to get to put a skinner in with them. From the wide ridge at the top we each picked our line of choice then slipped into the sunny face. Nyssa:

With burning legs we rendezvoused at the bottom and discussed another lap. The day was headed in the direction of 10,000 vertical feet, but Sabrina accommodated our neurosis and let us jog up for another lap. Gotta catch em all!

Photo Josh Gray

Then with the shadows lengthening, and the snow turning gold in the last light we all headed back up for one last long lap towards the Little Su.

Before dropping we looked back proudly at the thoroughly skied bowl.

Photo: Josh Gray

On Saturday we had done a good job of putting in lots of skintracks and then not using them again. With Sunday's tired legs we decided to return to our freshly installed highways. This time we were joined by Tony, and the Kiester siblings Seth and Shey. The Kiesters were some of the first people I met in Anchorage, and it was fun chatting about mutual memories and connections from AK and CB.

Seth, Tony, and I have had many memorable misadventures over the years, its always a treat to ski with these two, reminisce, and talk conspiracy theories. Tony:

We started Sunday playing the same game as the day before and lapping the glorious morning sun behind Twin Lakes. Its definitely getting to be sunscreen season.

Sunny snow and the lack of trail breaking received the Nyssa seal of approval:

With a storm brushing past us to the south, we knew we'd eventually lose sunlight. So, as the sun moved off the sunny east slopes we decided to drop back into Twin Lakes instead of heading farther from the parking lot.

Then as the blanket of patchy clouds floated in front of the sun, we dropped into a few milky laps in Delia Creek. Nyssa:

Suddenly it was 5 PM - time to race back to the parking lot for drinks, and then begin the hunt for diablo breadsticks.