It is the winter that never left. The trails, normally passable with tennis shoes or even bicycle lay covered in feet of snow. Those poor souls thrashing up valley in knee deep snow with their cute little LL Bean fishing rod case are in for a surprise when they reach the pass after hours of work to discover the trout lay underneath feet of hard blue ice. Complaints are filed with the higher beings to no avail so we pick up the skis where we hoped they would lie until October and head out the door.
Ten minutes up the Rabbit Valley trail in glorious mud and rock that sticks to the ski boots until we reach the snow that mocks our vain attempts to enjoy summer. The wonderful smell of spring (freshly thawed dog crap) hovers in the air. 30 minutes up the valley on our skis and we pass over fresh brown bear tracks in the snow. If we have to deal with bears the agreement was that we wouldn't be on skis.
But our complaints go unheard so we continue on until banking sharp left and pushing up Ptarmigan Pass.
Onward and upward under clear warm blue sky with soft corn until we reach the sun/shade line where the snow instantly turns solid. Then the transition to crampons that stick perfectly in the crisp snow. A delight for all. There is nothing that makes a mountain climber happy like crisp snow under crampons and we boot uphill in the morning light giddy with excitement.
Though a narrow gully to a perch with the Suicides glowing in the sun. The snow is hard as a rock and skiing will suck but when you can move at ease in the mountains without fear of weather and the bite of cold little can be done to curb your elation.
We break in a cluster of rocks for some food and water. JT actually pulls out a stove and fires up a pot of coffee. I am already properly tanked thanks to our latish start, but Todd, who's heart rate is elevated by the mere scent of caffeine, sucks down a full cup and then proceeds to literally bounce across the summit ridge.
We look left down Ptarmigan couloir. We look right down the south face. Todd has skied Ptarmigan couloir this season so he nixes the couloir and a glowing recent review of the south face from another friend gets us excited.
The south face gully is an OK ski. Unfortunately it tends to melt out in the middle so you're forced to traverse skiers left mid-route to another gully. We ski down to the exposed rocks, remove our skis and boulder hop to the next snowfield. But it makes up for it with the view. South Suicide towers above you and the striking north buttress taunts you. It's hard to believe this is all 45 minutes from the coffee maker.
Down to the valley floor but the day isn't over so we continue up-valley to another gully we've been looking at for years and boot up to the ridge.
A long break on the ridge in the calm afternoon as we watch the clouds build over Eagle River and start working their way towards us.
Then down the gully skiing around an unusual aiguille for the Chugach and back to the valley floor just as the rain comes and winter fades a little more for a few short months.
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