REGION: Kenai Range



Spring Break
Trip Date: 03/10/07 - 03/19/07   Posted in Kenai Range & Skiing Tags: family, john-trips  

My nephew, Matthew, and brother John, came to visit me for Matt's spring break. I'm not sure if they expected balmy spring like temperatures or not - but they certainly didn't get them. Temps hovered in the teens on the good days; on the bad days it was around -20 with 50 mph winds!

We spent 8 days skiing down on the Kenai Peninsula; 4 days at Turnagain Pass and 4 days up at Crescent Lake where we stayed at Crescent Saddle cabin. This was John and Mat's first winter visit to Alaska and their first ever backcountry ski trip.

I acted as ski guide for the entire trip and I have never worked so hard in my life... My brother and nephew learned fairly quickly; but I still had to literally battle with them to do key things like drink, eat, ski where I tell them to and not push themselves beyond their limits as well as seemingly stupid things like always wear liner gloves when it's -25 and not to lay down in the snow when tired.

We worked hard - and in 8 days skied a total of 47.5 miles and climbed and descended a total of 20,263 feet! Not too bad for a couple of chechakos!


On Sunday March 11th we skied Eddies in Turnagain Pass. The skin track in was beat down pretty well and we made fairly good time on the trek in. We skiined up to the base of the peak and then dropped into the low angle bowl on the northwest aspect of the peak. Snow conditions were questionable - there was lots of settling and shooting cracks so we opted to stay on slopes less than 25 degrees. I skied down the upper bowl and pulled off on a shoulder and then my brother and nephew followed.

Matt and John dropped into the knee deep powder and stood there looking perplexed... The snow was too deep for their small skis and then double poled down my tracks and joined me shortly afterwards. I skied down a little further but soon it became evident that they wouldn't be able to ski the lower angle runs; so Yvonne broke trail back up to the ridge and we dropped the steeper slopes that face southwest.

At the base we pulled the skins back on and skied back up to the shoulder. In the short time that we skied down and returned to the ridge a large slide had ripped on a southern aspect. The area is an obvious rollover that collects snow so earlier we had avoided it. Seeing a fresh slide a mere 100' from where we had skied earlier that day was a good wake up call for all!

At the top of the second run we had our first snafu of the trip. John broke a pair of Silvretta Pure bindings. Either he stomped a little too hard when trying to get his foot locked in or the binding broke because of ice. To get him out I had to loosen the binding, snap it onto his boot and then tighten it down as tight as it would go. Once we skied down to the point where we had to put on skis, John had to lay down it he snow while I pulled his skins on.

The ski out was uneventful and everyone made it back to the car and Anchorage sore but ready to head out the next day!

Crescent Saddle

On Monday, March 12th we woke up and packed up for a 4 day camping trip to Crescent Saddle Cabin. We all hauled medium size backpacks and dragged two sleds as well and 4 gallons of diesel for the stove. The ski into the cabin was pretty straight forward. We make pretty good time up to treeline and then took a long break in the sun at Carter Lake. Then we skied the final 2 miles to the cabin reaching it just as the sun went down.

Half way across the lake I was going over the list of supplies in my head when it suddenly occurred to me that I had forgotten the pots and pans. I kicked myself for being so dumb and quickly skied the rest of the way to the cabin in the hopes that there were extra pots and pans there. No such luck. After a bit of poking around I finally dug up two empty fuel cans - I cut on in half and cleaned out the other as best as I could. I then boiled water in both of them for 20 minutes each until I was satisfied the smell was gone. Breakfast and dinner were served out of fuel can for the next 3 days!

The stove was fickle but after screwing around with control we got the cabin up to around 35-40 the first evening.

The next morning we woke up, ate breakfast and then skied up into the valley south of the cabin. We skied one run off the ridge dropping to the west down to treeline. We then skinned back up to the ridge and skied up the bump just SW of the glaciated bowl. We dropped into the slot and skied NE to another bowl working our way towards the tree runs on the north. However soon we reached steep cliffs so we were forced to put the skins back on and ski up into the glaciated bowl east of the cabin for a nice long run. The temps hovered around -5 and I estimated the wind gusts to be up to 50 mph at times.

The ski down was decent; we dropped down a long ramp tentatively looking at the slopes above us; then we skied the long tree runs down the north side all the way to the lake. The snow in the trees was decent; although it was beginning to slab up due to the steady winds.

That night we managed to get the cabin up to around 25 - but half way through the night we ran out of fuel and woke to find the cabin temperature had dipped to around 0. John went outside and poured the remainder of the fuel into the stove reservoir and we got the cabin up to around 20 before turning it off and heading out again.

View from the summit. Click the photo to view a full size panorama.

Outside we had clear skis and steady winds. We skied up the valley W of the cabin and climbed Peak 4730. It was COLD! -15 all day. My brother and nephew were moving pretty slow so I spent a lot of time digging pits and trying to stay warm. They stopped about 500' shy of the summit and I ran up for quick view and then we all skied down. It was this day that I made three crucial mistakes but luckily was still able to get everyone up and down without any mishaps: Mistake #1 was asking someone else to pack the hand warmers instead of just grabbing them and throwing them in the pack myself. We got up high and when I asked my nephew to pull them out he admitted that he had forgotten them. Mistake #2 was leaving them for 15 minutes while I ran and tagged the summit and returned. Even thought I was gone only 15 minutes I returned to find both of them near hypothermia and shivering. My brother had really cold hands and as a result his body started to shut down. They had extra layers but forgot to put them on. I immediately forced them to put on another layer and their warmer gloves and then began skiing down with them. We made it down to tree line and my nephew warmed up and was alright; however my brother was having trouble skiing the simple line and I realized mistake #3 which was not packing Gu for emergencies. I pulled out my last quart of hot water and the remainder of the Gorp and forced them to drink the entire quart and finish the food; after that they both warmed up considerably and we returned to the cabin without any further mishaps.

The stove was fickle again that night and to conserve fuel we turned it off and spent a cold night in the cabin; waking around 6 am to light it for breakfast. Once again it warmed up to a balmy 20 in the cabin so we packed quickly and soon headed out, crossing the lake and then skiing a harrowing snowmachine packed trail back down to the car.


Everyone was tired but in good spirits so we ate a fat meal at the Moose's Tooth and then crashed hard - waking up early the next morning and once again heading south. The Tincan parking lot was empty so we parked and headed up. We were the only people on the mountain for most of the day and Yvonne and I were able to finally stretch our legs and lap my brother and nephew a couple times while they slowly plodded up the hill. The snowpack on the rollovers was kind of squirrelly so we played it safe and stuck to low angle lines all day.

John ad Matt both did two runs off the summit; Yvonne and I managed to ski four. We timed it so that we reached the top just as Matt and John were half way up the ridge. We'd then ski down and quickly jog back up, reaching them just as they had gotten their skins off and eaten some food.

After their second run (our forth) we dropped down into the lower bowl and skied down to tree line. At the bottom I managed to convince John that it would be faster to skin back up to tree line and ski out a different aspect as opposed to traversing the bench we had stopped on. He fell for it so Yvonne broke trail back up to the ridge and we skied one final run all the way back down to the parking lot.


On Saturday March 17th we once again repeated the process; waking up early, packing and then heading down to Turnagain. It was a gorgeous sunny day so the crowds were out. We headed up the valley south of Sunburst, climbed up Goldpan (or Taylor) Pass and skied a magnificent run just past the weather station. The day was sunny and warm, the snow dreamy and the views outstanding.

Yvonne skied the run first; dropping in and then zipping to the valley floor. Matt went second and also skied it in style. John dropped in third, made a couple turns and then promptly fell over and slid for about 50 feet until catching himself. Luckily the run out was mellow so he didn't hurt himself. After the weather station run we skied over the to the bowl everyone skis and did one run just below the summit.

We were all beginning to feel pretty beat from skiing 7 days straight so to celebrate we prepared a feast of king crab and salmon!


For our final day of skiing we once again headed down to Turnagain and skied Pete's. My brother at this point was literally a walking zombie. He could barely stand up straight and couldn't skin up through the trees at all. We skinned up to tree line, had a brief pit lesson, then headed a little higher and skied back down to the car.

Upon returning to the car that afternoon my nephew remarked that he never wanted to go to another resort again and my brother began asking a hundred questions about where we should go next year!!

My brother flew on Sunday night -- he drank one beer at Humpys and then stumbled into the airport his legs pure jello. Matt spent a final day at the house working on a paper (he missed a day of class) and then flew out the following night.

  •  John headed into Eddies
  •  Meadows at the base of Eddies
  •  John headed up Eddies
  •  Matt headed up Eddies
  •  John & Billy headed up Eddies
  •  Matt nearing the Ridge
  •  Yvonne Skiing Down
  •  John headed back up for Lap 2
  •  Yvonne and Matt headed back up for Lap 2
  •  John nearing the ridge
  •  Looking up at the crown on Eddies
  •  Looking up at the crown on Eddies
  •  Matt nearing Carter Lake
  •  John nearing Carter Lake
  •  Lunch on Cartter Lake
  •  Skiing across Crescent Lake
  •  Skiing across Crescent Lake
  •  Skiing across Crescent Lake
  •  Skiing across Crescent Lake
  •  Sunset at Crescent Lake
  •  Sunset at Crescent Lake
  •  John in front of Crescent Saddle Cabin
  •  John insdie Crescent Saddle Cabin
  •  Boiling water in a fuel can
  •  Headed up the Peak E of Crescent Saddle
  •  Headed up the Peak E of Crescent Saddle
  •  Headed up the Peak E of Crescent Saddle
  •  Headed up the Peak E of Crescent Saddle
  •  Headed up the Peak E of Crescent Saddle
  •  Headed back up to the ridge
  •  Nearing the bump SE of the peak
  •  Matt at our high point
  •  Matt and John looking south
  •  John with Kenai Lake in the background
  •  John & Matt with Crescent Lake in the background
  •  John skiing down
  •  Wind gusts to 50 mph!
  •  Skiing E. of Crescent Saddle Cabin
  •  Matt in the glaciated bowl
  •  Glaciated bowl W of the summit.
  •  Getting ready to head down!
  •  Sunset at 7pm
  •  John skiing down
  •  Matt headed back to the cabin
  •  Jell-O instant cheesecake out of half a fuel can
  •  Day 4
  •  Matt skiing up
  •  Matt taking a break
  •  Trying to stay warm!!
  •  Matt in the upper bowl
  •  Matt in the upper bowl
  •  Heading up towards peak 4730
  •  Heading up towards peak 4730
  •  Nearing the final bowl below the summit
  •  Matt heading up
  •  Matt taking a break
  •  A cold summit!
  •  Peak 4730
  •  Heading Out
  •  Heading Out
  •  Heading Out
  •  John loaded up
  •  Billy & John
  •  John headed down
  •  Matt skiing the icy snowmachine trail
  •  John skiing the icy snowmachine trail
  •  John at the car
  •  Yvonne testing the rollover next to the skin track on the way up
  •  Hmmm... the snowpack doens't look too hot!
  •  AK Block Test - 1
  •  AK Block Test - 2
  •  AK Block Test - 3
  •  Yvonne nearing our high point on Tincan
  •  John drops into the SW bowl of Tincan
  •  Yvonne skiing CFR
  •  John on the mid slopes of Tincan
  •  Headed back up for a final run
  •  Headed back up for a final run
  •  Headed back up for a final run
  •  Turnagain Arm in March
  •  Skiing at Sunburst
  •  Skiing at Sunburst
  •  Skiing at Sunburst
  •  Skiers headed up the valley
  •  Yvonne with Pastoral in the background
  •  Yvonne on the ridge
  •  Skiers on Pastoral
  •  Matt on the ridge
  •  John & Matt on the ridge
  •  Matt, John and Billy on the Ridge
  •  Three skiers (near btm right) headed up towards the pass on Pastoral
  •  Skiers off Center Ridge
  •  John near the top
  •  Matt near the top
  •  Yvonne dropping in
  •  Matt dropping in
  •  John Dropping In
  •  Heading up for a final run
  •  Matt and John at Petes
  •  John at Petes
  •  Matt at Petes
  •  Snowpit Lesson
  •  AK Block - 1
  •  AK Block - 2
  •  Yvonne on Petes
  •  Matt nearing our high point
  •  Matt heading up Petes
  •  Billy dropping in
  •  John
  •  Matt
  •  John at Petes
  •  Matt hucking trees
  •  John hucking trees
  •  Final run!
  •  Final run!
  •  Final run!
  •  Final run!
  •  Matt and John heading back down to the car
  •  Yvonne at Petes
  •  John heading down
  •  John with Jello legs


(237 KB)
Crescent Lake
Description: Ski ascents and descents at Crescent Lake with John and Matt; March 2007.

(245 KB)
Turnagain Pass
Description: Ski ascents and descents at Turnagain Pass with Yvonne, John and Matt; March 2007.

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