Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Tenderfoot Ski - 1.7.2024

The winter has been stormy so far. Actually, the last year has been stormy. No, that's not quite right either. The last year and a half has been stormy. Its been a practice in getting away from the usual haunts and getting creative.

Last weekend brought another storm, on top of another storm with sea level rain, on top of now buried surface hoar. We wanted somewhere with some contrast, a smaller load on the BSH, and a new adventure. With those factors in mind, we headed past Turnagain to Summit Lake. Japanese Trees was an option, but it seemed like that side of the pass might have seen more wind, and a little more vertical would be nice. 

We settled for Tenderfoot on the east side of Summit Lake. Pulling into the cramped excuse for a parking lot, we squeezed into the last spot between the six cars that were already there. Geared up and sliding out of the parking lot, we skinned past the old rope tow, and into the forest. Bodies wiggly from a week of  office time quickly brought us to the top of the ridge. We skied down the wind swept alpine ridge then dropped south towards Tenderfoot Creek.

The settled pow from the last storm cycle was creamy and smooth. Nyssa:

Skinning up for the second lap, we looked north towards Turnagain Arm and south towards Moose Pass where fingers of snow from the incoming storm were already creeping through the gaps in the Kenai Mountains. With the incised terrain trap of the creek, we were all hesitant to be the first ones to drop from higher on the ridge. As we approached the top, a group of boarders dropped in above us. We were stoked to clean up their leftovers.

This higher drop was longer than the first, and still no signs of instability. Charlie:

By the top of the third lap, the storm had arrived. This time we dropped a north chute towards Butcher Creek. Carolyn:

There were more trees over here, and we waltzed through them on the way to the bench above the creek. In terms of avalanche safety, I felt the terrain trap on the north side wasn't as severe, but the trees would be a bad place to be dragged into.

Stuck on repeat, we reapplied our skins for another lap on the north side. I dropped first, carving through open trees before turning back to peer out of the forest at Nyssa skiing through waves of falling dendrites.

At the bottom, we hid from the incoming storm behind the hemlocks, transitioned for our fifth climb of the day, and filled our lungs with the earthy smell of the forest. I love that smell.

Mesmerized, we climbed into the falling snow, enjoying the sensation of the windblown flakes hitting our faces and the rhythm our boots moving in the track. By the top we were in a featureless world that seemed so far from civilization; I wanted to stay there forever.

Unfortunately, the low and weak midwinter sun was getting weaker and lower. In dusky light filtered through thousands of feet of clouds, we chased each other down the ridge, through the trees, and along the frosty road to the car.

Between us there's over thirty collective years and thousands of backcountry ski days here in southcentral AK, and none of us had skied Tenderfoot before. What an endless winter wonderland we have to explore; ten years from now I hope we're still checking out these classics for the first time.

No comments:

Post a Comment