Monday, April 29, 2019

The Ramp Ski - 4.23.2019

Last Monday, cold air blowing from western Alaska converged with moist air over the Chugach Mountains. Unaffected by wind, the storm left the Anchorage Front Range caked in blower snow. On Tuesday afternoon, with the storm beginning to clear, we headed towards Ship Lake Pass.

We were briefly distracted by ptarmigan herding lesson courtesy of Andrew. He's getting pretty proficient at it, after watching him touch one in Ram Valley a few weeks ago, next time I'm expecting it to waddle into his backpack.

Each break in the clouds brought immediate warming from the spring sun and associated glopping of our skins. I tried not to have a meltdown as I carried an extra 10 pounds of snow on each foot, then snapped my pole while trying to clean them off. Nice to not have real problems.

With continued onshore flow and an unstable atmosphere, one moment the clouds would part, the next moment we'd be back in the snowglobe.

At the ridgeline Andrew practiced his aircraft takeoff and landing signals. I assume they work for spaceships too.

Then he cleared Alex for takeoff.

We watched from the overhung precipice as Alex skied into the steep entrance.

With each turn the snow got deeper, and he accelerated out of sight below us.

Andrew dropped into the fluffy dendrites next and I brought up the rear. Leapfrogging down, it was some of the lightest snow we've skied this spring. As I came around the corner, I was surprised to find a significant crown, debris visible in the apron, and no sign of Alex. Hmmm. Concerning. Skiing a little lower, there was Alex tucked in a safe zone and smiling mischievously. The storm slab had broken at his feet and he'd skied off it as it accelerated away. Andrew:

The skiing in the apron was lovely low angle soul turns, and we couldn't wait to head up the twin coolie on the other side of the summit.

Untouched by wind and uncharacteristically covered in snow, the Chugach State Park felt like the Alaska Range as we started up our next line. Andrew looking small in front of Mount Williwaw:

The angle of the line ramped up as we entered the rock walls and switched to booting. Near the top, the snow became impossibly deep, and we wondered yet again why we hadn't brought our Verts. Why do I even own those?! Through a combination of swimming, digging, and bouldering we crawled to the top. To the east, BRO looked unusually skiable.

And to the south we drooled over the north face of Avalanche. I'd like to ski that line, the Thin White Line is quite overrated.

Once done dreaming of lines that are rarely and probably not in, we turned our attention to the business at hand - ripping the perfect pow while trying not to bury Andrew in snow.

I dropped into the double fall line couloir first, ripping left-hand turn after left-handed turn as the snow fell away from me. Kissed in evening light, the swirling powder cloud of slough shadowed me down the line. Hooting and hollering from the apron, it was time to watch Alex:

Not bad for a Monday night.

After a dreamy second run there was some discussion of a third line in the fading light. But, as I had not packed a headlamp I was quickly outvoted by more reasonable voices. So, we took one last look at The Ramp, and turned down-valley.

The cruise through the silent valley filled with sparking new snow was a special experience. Nice to have such good friends to share it with.

Under O'Malley Falls we took a left and started the ascent towards the Ballfield.

Passing under the Black Lake Chutes we renewed our vows to not initiate a ski boot-rock climb down them. Not to say I won't go along if its someone else's idea. Cough, cough, Brady Deal, cough, cough.

The scree climb to the pass actually wasn't that bad, and I took great pleasure in abusing my skins after the glopping nightmare they'd caused earlier.

Then, in the last purple light of the day we coasted down the Ballfield and towards dinner.

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