Spring… it means something different for everyone. For my mother in Virginia it means peas and corn sprouting after a short winter; for grumpy Anchorites unwilling to venture higher than 1500' it means mud and muck and 22 trips to the car wash to keep that shine. For me it means the annual Chugach migration into valleys and up couloirs I’ve never climbed or skied.
After a long overcast spell a sunny April day appeared and Eric rallied Dan, Pat, Todd and I to Ram Valley where we ventured up and into Falling Water Creek to try Raina’s North Couloir. The beautiful North face of Rainia has 3 striking lines that range in difficultly from (climbers) left to right. The far left (NE) couloir is a long moderately difficult couloir that drops right from the ridge where you top out when climbing the normal route up the South slopes. The middle (N) couloir is a striking direct line that splits the face in two. On the right side of the face is a beautiful thin couloir that is more of a climb then ski and would require a couple roped pitches and some screws / pins (at least for me). ( Read more... )
Peak 3 season is in full swing here on Hillside. For those who don't know what Peak 3 season is; It's that time of year where every day at 3pm the schoolteachers start calling you and saying "Want to go ski Peak 3? Want to go ski Peak 3?" If you can avoid them you'll get in another hour of work before the 8-4'ers start calling and saying "Want to go ski Peak 3? Want to go ski Peak 3?" If you can say no again - then you get another hour of work in before the 9-5'ers start calling. Usually I cave in to one of the above... and last week Peak 3 was really good! ( Read more... )
For years I’ve put off writing about the Bomber Traverse due to various reasons... but the primary reason being that I feel it's a very popular trip and I don’t really want to encourage people to head to the area. It's a pretty selfish reason. I love the area - I love the huts, I love the climbing and I don’t want to share the areas with strangers. But given recent events I feel it's time to stop trying to keep areas to yourself and to encourage responsible non-motorized usage in the High Peaks areas.
Yeah it can suck to share a hut with a bunch of 20-something tele skiers… especially when they ski harder and faster than you and make you look like an old man. But like I said… it's time to change that attitude.
The Draft Hatcher Pass area Management Plan was recently announced. It's the first time the Hatcher Pass area has seen a new management plan in 25 years. Too long given the changes and population growth in the region. And given the number of people you see out rock climbing, cross country skiing, hiking, back country skiing and mountaineering you’d think that the Division of Natural Resources would be implementing a plan that is more geared towards non-motorized usage in this area. ( Read more... )
We had the worst avalanche report of the season - multiple weak layers, 6 plus feet of new snow, warming temperatures - and to top it off, the threat of a rumbling Mt. Redoubt 130 miles to the west. But we couldn't stay home; the forecast was calling for a blizzard warning that evening. We had one day to give it a go before going back to the wait game.
So the Friday afternoon discussions began; where to go what to do who wants to go. I cast big in the hopes of netting some trailbreakers and got 1 yes and 4 definite maybes. Saturday morning we called around and again more reports of indecision filtered in. Eventually we set up a meeting time and at 9:30 we all gathered. First there were 2, then three - until finally 7 people showed up. 7 people is 4 too many for my comfort level, so we chose a spot with low angle trees, jumped in the car and drove south.
We chose to head into Wolverine via the circuitous route through the woods which I had eventually unlocked after 6 times of wandering about in circles in the dense woods between the highway and the peaks. Technically I wasn't lost during those forays - but some had taken to referring to these forays as "getting lost" - a semantic blunder that I always countered. I don't get lost. Lost is when you wander about in circles with no direction... sort of like that TV show where they shoot polar bears in Hawaii and struggle with inner demons. I might, at one time, have wandered about in circles - but I always had a clear direction: to unlock the secret route from the highway to Wolverine. As the cliche goes, Not all who wander are lost. ( Read more... )
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... ( Read more... )
On Sunday I headed up Rabbit Valley with Dan, Eric, Todd and Pat. The winds were howling on the ridge lines and once again, prospects did not look good!
We skied back the base of Ptarmigan, sat around discussing options and then headed up. The normal gully coming off Ptarmigan Pass was in good shape - but as we got higher the snow turned to hard pack - and eventually ice. ( Read more... )
High pressure and fresh snow makes the front range quite inviting so Yvonne and I opted to stay near town for the weekend and go ski in Rabbit Valley for a day. ( Read more... )
The dreary days of November, December, January and February have ended. While many of my friends embrace the cold deep powder of Alaskan winters, I never seem to totally enjoy the days where we are slogging through deep powder to ski the same runs again and again up and down. Thus when the sun finally comes out and avalanche conditions improve, I seem to wake up from hibernation and start beating myself into shape. ( Read more... )
I spent a long weekend skiing in Thompson Pass with Todd, Peter and Amy. We stayed at Matt Kinney's awesome place (Thompson Pass Mountain Chalet). We had relatively decent weather and conditions and were able to ski every day.
We drove down on friday afternoon. On Saturday we headed out and skied Gully 1 with Matt. The skiing was decent but it was howling wind and around 0 so after one run we scurried back to the chalet to put on more layers and eat something hot. After lunch Todd headed back up to the pass to kite-ski while Peter, Amy and I headed own into Valdez to ski Benzene Alley. The skiing next to the water was quite spectacular but the snowmachiners were out in force and we were continually buzzed. Everyone was very nice (no one tried to run us over a-la Hatchers Pass) - but being around a dozen snowmachines buzzing downhill at 50 mph when you're out for an afternoon ski above the blue water is a downer. ( Read more... )
High pressure pushed over Southcentral Alaska so I rounded up a group and on Saturday we headed down to Turnagain Pass for yet another day of powder skiing. We started out with a large group - 6 in total - and headed up and over Taylor Pass. However at the pass Eric the Viking's hip started bugging him so Dan (once again fresh from surgery) and Eric bailed and skied a run off Gold Pan instead of heading down to Pastoral. ( Read more... )