Photo by Eric Parsons.
Tis the season for post-work couloir skiing. Get up early, work till 3 or 4, ski hard till 7 or 8. Eat, sleep, and repeat. ( Read more... )
Peter above the Arm
Sun, snow and stability continues to linger in Southcentral Alaska, so we chose a steep up-track that we normally wouldn’t touch due to exposure from above. We tromped up the steep tree covered ridge topping out on a sharp ridgeline 3000’ above the Arm. Then across the subpeak searching for powder until finally having to remove skis and downclimb 500’ of rock and tundra to a protected bowl with boot deep powder. ( Read more... )
We went south seeking sun, snow and stability. Out the car in fringed temps and up Bertha Creek to Granddaddy, which we knew was in. The north ridge of Granddaddy was wind blasted rime ice with constant 25mph winds beating us as we climbed. Then off the top and down onto the frozen blob of rime ice that serves as a spotting stance. ( Read more... )
Heavy snow and low visibility kept us close to home searching for treed slopes untouched by wind. Surprisingly enough we found both and spent the day meadow skipping yellow slopes. The only thing we found above treeline was vertigo so we kept the runs short and had fun picking our way through the alders. Sun crust is forming on SW slopes and obvious wind lips have formed on rollovers making terrain traps not an option, but NW slopes were holding knee deep dreamy powder. Todd was in his element and schooled us all on how to ski tight alder runs gracefully. Scott schooled us on how to properly raise a ski dog, even if the dog does hail from Taiwan. I schooled them on how bash through trees helmet first and fall properly. I'll apologize upfront for another Garcia tune. Sometimes I get in a rut.
A good day in Hatcher with friends, sun, snow and stability. The magic combination. ( Read more... )
It is the winter that never left. ( Read more... )
The wind was howling, snow was swirling and visibility had been reduced to about 10 feet. A pure whiteout. The kind where you can't tell up from down and left from right. Stop skiing and look down at your skis and it feels like the ground is moving underneath you. Vertigo takes control and the only way to keep it in check is to turn and look through the thick fog at your partner who appears to be floating on skis in a sea of white.
I was roped up to Mr. 20ish-Grade-VI and I was sidestepping up the glacier, my ski pole probing the ground in front of me out of fear that there was a lip somewhere. Minutes before Brad and I had been skiing around unroped in search of cached gear when he let out a yell and dove backyards away from a gaping drop off. We were both disoriented from the fog so we dismissed the drop off as a combination of vertigo and perhaps a wind lip. We were wrong. Way wrong.
"Go left," Mr. Older-Canadian-Dude yelled, staring at his gps. I was way off to the right and I really didn't want to go left. Better to err on the south/right side of the glacier instead of pushing left. Somewhere to our left was a drop off. We all knew that but we thought it was way left, like 1/4 mile left. But Older-Canadian-Dude insisted once again. "The gps says go left. Go left." Brad, in the lead on rope with Older-Canadian-Dude and Mr. 20ish-Ski-Patrol, consented and changed his course, veering left, up and over the rock band and across the glacier.
"I think we should stay right," I said half- heartedly. But by now I was tired of arguing with the gps guy, so I stood and watched them push left. Brad skied ahead, gliding across the snow and into the fog. One minute he was there, floating in the fog. Then he was gone and 20ish-Ski-Patrol was on his side, skis digging into the glacier, the rope pulled tight and digging into the snow.
I took off running towards where Brad had dropped. A wind lip? Crevasse? No one knew. I approached slowly to where he had disappeared and saw a gaping hole.
Brad had fallen off a cornice and he was down there somewhere, hanging. ( Read more... )
Scott Fennell down KCK.
Yvonne down Goat Head.
It's no secret the snow has been good in the Front Range. While the official NOAA snowtel in midtown is reading 129 inches (just shy of the all time record of 132.8 inches set in the winter of 1954-55) the unofficial ski reports show much much more snow on Hillside and in the Front Range. Gullies are filled in more than usual, the tree skiing is good and normally hard technical couloirs are now doable for the average Joe. Thus when the snow is deep, sky is blue and the backyard calls, there is no need to drive north or south. ( Read more... )
What is a forecast? When the ave center gives you a green light, how does it affect your motives and goals for the day?
That was the discussion of the day as we skinned up valley under crystal blue skies with what appeared to be a stellar snowpack. We had a big line in mind but our group has been skiing long enough to know that ideas don't mean anything. You might have objectives for the day, but our ski group is equally at home backing off slopes and objectives as we are at actually skiing our intended line (actually the truth is we're perhaps more likely to back off the intended line). "We'll just go up there and have a look," seems to be the mantra every time we start out to do something. And so we go up stuff and look down.
Sometimes we dig a pit and sometimes the pit is good and we embrace the run. Sometime the pit reinforces what we already know and we go accepting the risk. Often it's a justification for turning around and going down as fast as fucking possible.
But that's the pit. The snowpack can very different from the forecast. Sometimes it's better than what they say; sometimes you have to read the fine print ("isolated avalanches in extreme terrain"). The question is: how does the forecast affect your decision making for the day?
Ten years ago it seemed the only way people skied big lines in Turnagain was by putting in their time down in the Pass and taking the time to study weather, snowpack and local knowledge before committing to dropping down big lines like the south side of Proper. These days Proper gets skied all the time and good visibility combined with a low to moderate forecast will lead to a dozen plus descents in one day. Would the big lines in Turnagain get skied as often as they do without a forecast? ( Read more... )