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).
After a 5 mile approach we reached the base of the North couloir and started up. Unfortunately about 2/3rds of the way up the snowpack changed and a suspect layer appeared about 16 inches down. 2 pits later with bad and worse results we abandoned the attempt and skied back down to the valley floor.
Eric, being Eric, was full of boundless energy so he was able to talk me into following him for an attempt of Peeking’s West Ridge. The others, sensing bad snow and a long day, opted to head home. So up we went – skinning up a beautiful couloir next to an impressive rock face and then turning right and booting up the West Ridge of Peeking.
We made it to about 300 or 400 feet shy of the summit when the snowpack once again changed and we abandoned our attempt due to unconsolidated snow and 3000′ of exposure and poor runout within spitting distance of our boot pack.
We downclimbed a bit to escape the poor runout then skied a beautiful run down to the valley floor and out to the trailhead where friends greeted us with chocolate, beer and a ride back to our car.
Eric’s photos are here; his video from our high point is below.