October 31, 2008

Jewel of the Chugach

Even when the conditions aren't so great, a skier's lifestyle is the best way for me. Such was the case at Crow Pass. Unable to rally my buddies to the Autumn Jewel, I ran to Girdwood to check it out. Well, it was good exercise and a nice sunny day, but the snow was wind-hammered.
This route can be dangerous. Several years ago, a woman died in an avalanche near the looker's left end of the trail.
The trail wraps around out of view, and up, up, up.

Jewel, the rocky side. At first it's hard to imagine a magnificent snowfield on the other side, but it really is there.
Snow quality has been better there on the other side, but on the typcially boney side (as in the pic), coverage was exceptional for October 31. I was able to ski down to the switchbacks within 500' vertical from the car. More often this time of year, I've found powder on Jewel/Summit, and not enough snow to ski on the Crow Pass Trail. Jewel and Summit Mountains are favorite fall powder stashes joined by a common access, the Crow Pass Trail. When we first skied here, my buddies and I referred to it as October Glacier – not having read the maps, we based our name on the reliable powder that we usually found there. On newer versions of the USGS map, in addition to Jewel Mountain and Summit Mountain, you may find the label, Bahrenberg Mine. While access is long and arduous, the prize is worth the work, usually. There were a couple of track remnants of more fortunate powder seekers, but the snow on this trip was either sastrugi, or breakable crust.
Summit Glacier
Turned around at the toe of the glacier, more breakable crust was evident, and sunset was approaching.
Top of Jewel
The line from the top of Jewel comes from the summit down the picture, and bends to lookers' left behind the cliffs.
Making a quick trip, I took my light skis. I think I found their limit. This system has held up really well under a lot of stress. But, I hit a rock circumavigating The Pinnacle, and popped the edge out, then cut off about 2", but descending the breakable crust from the toe of the Jewel/Summit Glacier, another 6" of the edge popped out.

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