REGION: Kenai Range



Pastoral Peak - North Couloir
Posted in Kenai Range & Skiing Tags: turnagain  

A bomber snowpack and high pressure gave us all the itch to get out. Both Eric and I had caught the spring climbing bug after ascending Ptarmigan the previous weekend, and Dan was itching for some steeper runs - so after dozens of ideas tossed back and forth via email, we met at 8am on Saturday and headed south.

Unfortunately our high pressure was forecast to end by early afternoon. The winds were already picking up and NOAA was calling for 12 inches by midnight. However - everything still looked good from the parking lot, so we headed up to give Pastoral a try.

In front of us was another usual Turnagain crew who we caught up with at Taylor Pass where we chatted for a while and then set off once again towards Pastoral. We reached Pastoral Pass at noon; the north couloir looked to be in excellent shape so Dan headed up. Eric and I threw our skis / snowboard on our back and followed behind him. The boot up was fun Kenai range climbing - nice solid snow and a tiny firm snow step to give it some spice. I sunk my trusty whippet into the solid crust and pulled through grinning widely!

Photo by Eric Parsons

Soon we were on the top looking all around and talking about what lines to ski. North, south, east, west - everywhere we looked there was something inviting! Eric and I continued to gawk - but Couloir Dan put us all in place and forced us to focus. We scouted the north couloir - and then Dan dropped in. The first few turns were dust on crust and pretty mellow. Dan stopped at a notch that dropped us down into the north couloir proper - and Eric and I followed down to his stance. He then took the next pitch - traversing out across to the top of the run where he assessed the snowpack. The entrance to the couloir proper had an obvious pillow on it - so he continued traversing skiers right - not willing to risk an avalanche at the top of the run. He skied about 150 feet skiers right and then pulled off in a safe zone to spot Eric and I as we dropped down to his stance.

Dan then scouted ahead and deeming the run safe, dropped into the couloir below the pillow and ripped turns all the way down to the safe zone. Eric followed, putting about 3 turns in total and dropping down at mock 10. I took the last run and after a few turns on hard pack, I traversed into the couloir proper for some perfect powder!

After regrouping, we dropped the second half of the run in more perfect powder for a total of 2400' top to bottom! At the bottom we were all smiles and giggles - so we threw our skins on and headed back up for another run!

After that the weather turned sour so we headed out - detouring briefly for a descent of the weather station run in zero visibility and terrible snow. We got the to car just as it started snowing... and snowing... and snowing.

By morning Turnagain had received 17 inches of powder -and by late Sunday morning we were skiing waist deep powder at the resort!

  •  Pastoral Peak
  •  Skiers at the top of Taylor Pass.
  •  Kickstep Mountain.
  •  The usual Turnagain crews headed up Pastoral.
  •  Dan headed up Pastoral's W. Ridge.
  •  Looking down at the run we skied last April.
  •  Eric headed up Pastoral.
  •  Eric headed up Pastoral.
  •  My trusty whippet.
  •  Close-up action shot of my sexy whippet.
  •  Dan nearing the top of Pastoral.
  •  Eric nearing the top of Pastoral.
  •  Me nearing the summit; notice the increasing clouds!
  •  Eric and Dan at the top of the run.
  •  Couloir Dan drops onto Pastoral's N. Face.
  •  Dan scouts the run.
  •  Couloir Dan
  •  Dan skis to a safe zone while Eric spots.
  •  Eric drops in.
  •  Me dropping Pastoral's N. couloir.
  •  Our run.
  •  Eric drops the second half of the run.
  •  Pastoral Glacier.

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