Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Bird Peak Ski - 4.27.2019

We've been dreaming about Bird Peak ever since seeing its iconic west face while ripping pow on Penguin years ago. Since then we've been waiting for conditions, partners, and schedules to line up for that  face:

The west face hasn't lined up for us yet, but in late April of 2019 I was in the midst of a Western Chugach bender and suspected that Bird's north face was in, stable, and powdery. After a great Friday evening on the West Twin Pencil, we were hiking out of the California Creek parking lot by 8:00 the next morning. Within a few miles we hit continuous snow and along with it, continuous bear tracks.

Yogging along the alder tube of a trail on the firm morning snow was fast, and we continued until we found a suitable running-shoe rack.

All too soon the "trail" disappeared into a tangled web of alders, and we ripped morning proto-corn to the valley floor.

Travel along the frozen creek bed was faster, and we continued to follow bear tracks towards the headwaters of the drainage. Ducomb says that when he skied Bird his morning skin track was crisscrossed with new bear tracks by the end of the day.

The spring sun felt tropical in the solar collector of the upper bowl. Seth and Dmitry had no choice and were forced to strip and work on their lobster tans.

At the pass from California to Bird Creek, the Girdwood Valley stretched out beneath us. So many lines to drool over. Big League, that one is still on the hit list:


We ate a snack and started the cruiser descent. Coasting along was a perfect way to fantasize over the dreamy lines on the north side of California Peak:

Past California Peak we turned left and skinned towards the small pass into the next fork of Bird Creek. Seth and D bronzing in front of Rubbletop and the Kinglets:

It was time for lunch and more sunscreen as the north face of Bird appeared.

Then we hacked thru the large overhung cornice and harvested ripe corn towards the Bird Glacier.

The glacier was a cool combination of curving moraines, ice bulges, and thundering rock fall. As we reached the the access couloir the slope ramped up in front of us.

I knew Alex was jonesing to hog the breaking trail duties, so I rushed to toss my skis on my pack and sprint ahead. Take that Alex!

But, the couloir was a long one, and I eventually had to cede the good times to Alex who charged on towards the ridge.

Topping out the couloir, the summit ridge came into view. Yummy.

Photo: Dmitry Surnin

I zipped up to the top, waited for the boys, ate Oreoes, and gobbled up the 360 degree views.

There were memories and new bushwhacking/slogging ideas in all directions. To start with, the trip down memory lane that is Penguin Ridge with Peak 1445 in the foreground:

Above Penguin Ridge, the Skookum Glacier Amusement Park with Carpathian towering above:

Turning a bit right, so many more lines. Pyramid's iconic west face, Wolverine, Eddies, Kickstep, the Spencer Glacier wall, and of course Isthmus 😻😻😻:

Looking south there was Penguin. Hard to beat that springtime combo of pow on the north side, corn on the south side, and ocean views all the time.

Rotating a little farther and it was the Anchorage Front Range. Too many peaks to name in there. Lots of good skiing too.

To our north we could see the Raven and Milk Glaciers where Anson and Scott were busy abusing their young nordork compatriots.

Once fully dosed on vitamin D and calories we traded our sunny perch for the shaded pow of the north face. I was able to dropped directly off the summit, while the boys worked their way back along the ridge a bit.

Photo: Dmitry Surnin

It was pretty cool to have the big line all to myself. Slough tumbled past, as I skiied directionally back and forth across the big chute.

The line was bigger than expected and just kept going. Perfect grandma skin and enjoyably steep too - about as good as it gets.

The hippy pow on the glacier was the icing on top. Once across, it was spectator sport time.

Zooming way way in, there were Dmitry and Alex poised on top of a gorgeous double fall line wall.

Separated by several rock fins, and with no risk of skiing on top of each other, Alex and Seth dropped simultaneously. Well, actually they probably had no idea what the other was doing, but its nice to think it was on purpose.

Dmitry came next and was absolutely charging as he hit the fin between Alex and Seth. With his slough flowing away from him, he didn't slow down as he ripped down.

Dmitry's snow was incredible, with each high-G turn he disappeared in a powder cloud of his own making.

At the lower choke he met Alex and they let the raging slough pour past.

Then they came flying into the apron and hooted there way happily down the glacier.

As each one came coasting out the bottom, you could just feel the stoke.



On the skin up the deep over-cooked slop of the exit chute, everyone giddily agreed that we'd just nabbed a king line.

Photo: Dmitry Surnin

And as we gophered through the soggy and dripping cornice, we were glad that we'd already taken the time to hack an exit thru it.

We took one last look at the king line, we ripped our skins, and skied rolling gullies of hippy pow towards the north fork of Bird Creek.

Photo: Dmitry Surnin

At the creek we rolled the giardia dice and refueled on much need water before the slog back to California Creek.

The crisp views in the evening sun and a few shot blocks made the miles pass quickly.

After an hour we were looking down on Alyeska and several thousand feet of freezer-burned corn through rapidly darkening bear thickets.

After one last look at Isthmus we descended into California Creek.

In the fading light we creek hopped,

...brown bear poop hopped,

...dry skied,

...and then enjoyed the last of the alpenglow before plunging into the darkness of lower California Creek.

1 comment:

  1. Damn Mike, that is a gorgeous face! Glad you guys got it in good snow too.