December 31, 2009

Sunshine on Summit Lake Powder

Sunshine at Summit Lake was sweet. The snow was quite good, and companions were exceptional. DP, Pete and yours truly ascended the Summit secret and found sweet snow. We were a testament to powder diversity. DP rode his split board, Pete free-heeled, and this photographically challenged blogger rode alpine touring gear.

Imagine some great photos of sunshine, powder, and a beautiful mountain, as they are forever recorded in my mind's eye, but unfortunately not in my camera because I left the flash card in my laptop. I really do deserve to be fired as a blogger for such incompetence.

Though I'm a failed photographer, this fact detracted only one ever so tiny whit from what otherwise was an exceptional powder day!

December 29, 2009

Secret of Summit Lake

The secret shown to me by Pete must be kept, but this preserved powder can be found in the Summit Lake region. The secret is right there for all to behold. Ya gotta go to know.

And even if you do go, the super secret stash remains out of sight, hidden. Tucked behind a ridge out of sight is a classic alpine bowl, crowned with rock outcrop, and reigning above a perfect glade. Scaling the ridge for 2 hours, I had no clue there existed a beautiful bowl over the horizon until I followed Pete's traverse around the ridge and into it. Awestruck, I had to stop and stare. Today, the hidden bowl was slightly windlicked, so after one run there, we skied on the front side where the snow was sweeter. The super secret stash will have to wait.

A hard rain crust exists up to 1600 ft el, and sugary snow above. Snow above 3000 ft el was very hard. The sweet spot today could be found between 1700 and 2800 ft.

December 27, 2009

Microdot Winter

Few stones were uncovered, but we scraped just enough rockage to inhibit a freely flowing powder descent without fear. It was a good day, none the less. Lucy, Lige, Nathan, Eruk and yours truly scaled Microdot to find adequate snow and a couple of rocks. With a mere 23" snow pack recorded at Independence Mine, it was not surprising that we turned on a rock or two.

The boys cranked.

December 24, 2009

Lower Summit Lake

The Summit Lake area is the highest point on the Seward Highway, not the snowiest. Turnagain gets the award for snowfall, but Turnagain was wet at the road this morning, and I hoped Summit Lake with its 300 ft greater elevation would have a subfreezing temperature.

Summit Lake (Lower) snow was crunchy at the road, and a rain crust persisted for about 200 ft vertical. But, the snow was splendid at elevations above 1500 ft.

Following a skin track west from the road at the Lower Summit Lake turnout, I came upon Aaron from Anchor Point and his 4-legged companion, Stella. We were both rookies on this route, but we decided to push the ascent up to the exposed rocks on the ridge. The mountain hemlock glades held great snow, and this line is on the list to visit again.

December 20, 2009

Solstice Sunrise

Chugach State Park touring conditions are terrific. The chinook ruined Rusty above tree line; notice the plume? Snow below tree line is excellent!

Arctic Valley Aptly Named

AV lived up to its name yesterday. White-out blowing snow on the uppper reaches pushed us down into the alders and forests on the south side. Jrock, J48 and I cut it short after a couple of runs.
Good on the Anchorage Ski Club! From a distance, it appeared they were conducting training.

December 19, 2009

Roped into Rusty

Rusty's approach, grueling as it was with knee deep snow and 10 below ambient (Farhenheit), was even tougher for Eruk when his Voile binding broke, but more on that later. Rusty's exceptional and unique line down a narrow gully holds great snow. Starting from an alpine bowl and funneling into a gully, the line is a terrain trap that could be deadly if you choose the wrong day. Eruk, Lucy and yours truly are living proof that is was stable enough yesterday. But, Rusty is not recommended for those unfamiliar with the snow pack.

The present snow pack is not yet settled, and breaking trail was slow going. The exceptional descent down the gulley was worth the pain. The gully alders out, and moose trails are the ticket through the alder thickets covering most of the lower part of the hill. Of course, moose trails meander a bit, occasionally deadend. But, following tracks of the big ungulates finally, after a couple of backtracks, leads to the Middle Fork Trail.

Middle Fork Trail from the bottom of Rusty back to the Near Point Trail is a touring dream, slightly downhill almost always with a ski track. We were lucky and a nice track was already set in the trail for us.

More on Eruk's broken Voile. I hate to be a hater, but I've witnessed and experienced too many Voile binding failures. On a Crow Pass trip after hiking on foot for 2000 ft vertical, I broke a Voile binding bail on the first ascent after less than 500 ft of skinning. Fixed it up with repair kit wire, and 4 hours later, broke the other one on what turned out to be my last ascent of the day, more wire got me down the mountain just fine. Maybe I'm too harsh with Voile because Eruk's Voile was an old vintage, some might say antique, at least of classic age. I say Voile in the singular because Eruk's front range touring setup consists of a pair mismatched skis with Voile (broken) on the left ski, his 1980's Toute Neige (snow of any kind), coupled with what originally was a downhill ski of similar dimension and Pitbull binding on the right. With his old Asolo double boots, the true telemarker throw-back is complete. The system works, or worked until the Voile failed.

At least Eruk's toeplate remained in tact. He was able to lash his boot to the toeplate with some rope. He made it down Rusty roped into his binding. I was awed by the boot-ski connection Eruk improvised; he stayed in it on a steep, narrow pitch with some bushwacking, and then more than a mile on the Middle Fork Trail.

Eruk and Lucy launched from Prospect Heights, and I started from Roger's Lake. We met up at the junction of the Near Point and Wolverine Trails, skied up and over Rusty's saddle, and back down the Middle Fork Trail. Lucy led Eruk back to Prospect, and I trudged home. Arriving late after some trail breaking on Backdoor Trail, I was in big trouble with my beautiful better half for arriving way after dark.

December 16, 2009

Basher Backdoor

Whew! Couldn't let the fresh foot settle, had to ski it! Bodacious breaking it was on the Basher Backdoor Trail tonight. Worth every bead of sweat, too!

December 6, 2009

Lips at Turnagain

Lucy, Eruk, and yours truly tested the Lips today. Snow in the alpine had been worked by the wind, but careful selection yielded boot-top bliss. We gave up on Lips and crossed Spokane Creek above its gorge to try the glades on Pete's North.

Enthralled with Pete's North glades, we couldn't stop and skied to the precipice above Spokane Creek gorge. We backtracked a bit, and made our way through the hemlock forest to the road. Snow in the forest was crunchy as usual. It was an adventurous new route for all of us, one I would like to repeat.

Like a few other aspects around Turnagain Pass, evidence of a slide was apparent on a northwest-facing aspect above Pete's North glades. Exposed rocks with rubble about 500 ft vertical below; the debris appeared to be weathered as if it had been there a few days.

December 5, 2009

No Bridge to Somewhere & Cornbiscuit

The Winner Creek cat trail and dead-ended at the Winner Creek no bridge to somewhere, Kodi the uberdog, J-rock and I learned. The bridge footings and supports are in place on each side, but the main span is gone. Someone had propped a 3x8 timber across the creek, about 3 feet above the torrent and 8 feet across the water. Three inches of ice crowned the timber. We weren't confident we could safely cross without crampons.

We shifted our objective to Cornbiscuit, skied back to the car, and drove to the pass. Had time for a single lap. Snow was worked by the wind on the more southerly facing slopes, but really sweet on the west side and lower on the mountain.

I probably should be fired from this blog for my incompetent photography. I thought I took a lot of great shots today. But, now I find no images on my camera card. %^&^$%#!

The cat was on the trail, grading it for the season. Maybe the Powder Guides will rebuild the bridge soon.

November 29, 2009

Give Thanks

Thanksgiving 2009 ski conditions on the Anchorage Hillside were among the best. A workout on Wolverine was today's agenda. The Prospect Heights area trails were groomed by drag and the snow was in great shape for the several dozen skiers and hikers I saw. The flanks of Wolverine above treeline held great snow, but needed a little settlement to achieve an excellent rating for turn-earning yo-yo laps; let's give it an 8 for a great top layer with unconsolidated base. Wolverine Bowl, Wolverine Peak, and Lost Cabin Valley Trails were fabulous today! Variously packed by either skis, snowshoes, or paws, the trail was in terrific shape and skiing was very good with rare 'bones'. The connector between the Powerline Trail and Spencer Loop was a blast - keep your head down on this one; deadfall and low hanging alders create some doozy head knockers.

November 28, 2009

Anchorage Chugach State Park - Heavenly Hillside

Exceptional conditions were the norm today on the ski trails of Chugach State Park in the Prospect Heights to Glen Alps corridor. Ski-set tracks had formed almost perfectly in the high density snow, tempered by last night's clear weather . The 8" of fluff beside the track created foamy flotation on the steeper pitches along the Anchorage Hillside trails.

Rusty from the South Rim Trail.

November 27, 2009

It's Back!

Anchorage Hillside skiing is here, again! This past storm left enough snow to form a nice base on summer trails. About 8" of dense snow fell at temperatures in the mid to high 20's, terrific base material.

Hillside single track bike trails are fun ski trails, too. With fresh snow, the single track trails are skiing great, but a little slow. But after packing out, these trails will be a thrill.

November 8, 2009

Pastoral November

Eruk, Lucy and yours truly had the Taylor Creek drainage and Pastoral to ourselves for a fun reconnaissance trip. Hiked the first 500 ft vertical in both directions due to thin snow cover, but otherwise had mostly good coverage for November 8.

I had the camera set on manual for the better part of the day, sorry.
It was good to ski with Eruk after so many years. Now that the kids are grown, attending college, we'll have to go more often.

Our not-quite-early start, fog, and unfamiliar route limited our trip to the red route today, a very nice tour. Someday I would really like to cross the Pastoral Glacier and ascend its eastern ridge.

November 2, 2009

Summit Sunshine

With anticipation, we endured.

Summit's bergschrund was filled in much more so than our pilgimage of a week prior.

Kruser, mw, Doc, and yours truly trudged toward the sun. We were rewarded.

mw unfixed the heel.

Doc tested the crevasse edge.

Jewel was still lacking adequate cover, so we opted for Summit. There is still plenty of ice there, but still the recession of the glacier and snowfields are testaments to climate change.

Kruser tested the shadow's edge.

Doc farmed Patrick's Line.

Like most glacial lines, Patrick's is not steep or particularly difficult, but it has a style and elegance reminiscent of Patrick. After 25 years, I can still clearly picture Patrick's sweeping arcs gracefully navigating the crevasses. So full of life and ready for adventure he was.

He was a true friend with a lot of heart who pushed the envelope. One time too far, he pushed it and perished in Cook Inlet whose waters are fed by his namesake.

October 25, 2009

Summit Glacier

A dusting of snow at the trailhead and friendly skies portended the conditions on high. Only 3000 ft vertical hiking and maybe we would find the fluff on Summit Glacier. As it turned out on this occasion, it was worth it.

Worth it, it was in 2009 as it was 25 years ago when we first ventured here. In 1984, we used 3-pin bindings, leather boots and skinny skis. We skinned without heel elevators and we turned by telemark. We even jogged back down the trail at the end of the day. Youth has left our bodies, and we've adopted the superior technologies of wider skis, alpine touring bindings, and plastic boots, but the essence remains the same. That essence of self-reliantly ascending to the glaciated slopes, and then descending the deep snow, floating and gliding and feeling free.

Crystal Lake in the background.

Summit's bergschrund, a great place to de-skin!

Looking over the 700-ft abyss from the Summit saddle to the Milk Glacier.

The light was bad.
The snow was good.
Experience was golden.

Jewel wasn't skiable 25-Oct-2009. The line down Summit was very nice and rock free. The far northern descent (blue line, ascent routes are red) is called Patrick's after the late Patrick Hallin, our dear friend. He was lost long ago in the cold waters of Cook Inlet.

October 11, 2009

Four Letter Word


Early October powder is a bonus. But with Archangel Road closed this fall, the reliable October powder at the Lane Gl. is about 5 miles further than normal, and 'normal' is an arduous hike.

Perhaps this warm rainy episode will be one less Pineapple Express we'll endure this winter. One can hope.

October 4, 2009

When the rain comes, run and find your skis

Rain, I don't mind. Hatch Peak was wet today. Worth the climb, but the second lap ended as a proposal with no takers. Gloppy, wet snow, poor visibility; nevertheless good to get a run in.

According to his wife, this man has a problem.
New toys and no POWDER!

September 22, 2009

Powder Dreams

Snow line below 3000 ft in the Anchorage foothills of the Chugach. Dream sweet dreams!

August 21, 2009

Anchorage Hillside Single Track

Batting one thousand in baseball is a mathematic figment, but a statistically insignificant possibility. Yet, my survey on the Anchorage Hillside Single Track Phase 1 is unanimous, albiet anectdotal. Hillside Single Track bats 1000 and packs a very ridable, thrilling and fun set of 3 loops into a surprisingly small area.

Doc & Mrs. Snow were on the trails yesterday evening with another 100 cyclists including yours truly spread out over the system. Again it was unanimous that these trails are fantastic!

The trails are exceptionally well designed for mountain biking with mostly easy ascending gradients. High speeds on a motocross-like surface combine with limited line of sight for some thrilling descents where keeping both wheels on the ground is optional. And the many high-banked turns are fast and fun.

Keep an eye out for moose, bears, hikers, and uphiller bikers and enjoy this Anchorage jewel on the hillside.

Map of Anchorage Hillside Single Track link:

August 3, 2009

Resurrect Your Will and Pedal

Resurrection Pass is a classic cross-country mountain bike route from Cooper Landing to Hope, Alaska on the Kenai Penninsula. It passes through lake-bejeweled country starting in the Kenai River Valley's rich conifer and birch forests, wending up through upland spruce and hemlock groves, tall grass, willow and fireweed, to alpine tundra, and descending back down to near tidewater elevation. Over its 40-mile length, it has a gross climb of 2500 ft vertical with a 2800 ft descent, though there are considerable ups and downs along the way - my typically reliable altimeter recorded 3800 ft vertical descent.

TK graciously helped shuttle cars before floating the Kenai River; we only had to bike from Cooper Landing to our car at Hope and drive home. It was so nice to simply load up at Hope and head home - Thanks TK, you're too kind!

Doc led CW and yours truly on the classic cross-country tour, the federal people call it the "Resurrection Pass National Recreational Trail." Thankful as we were for the excellent trail, we wondered aloud why the federal government would place signs 10 miles from the nearest road asking us to please stay on the trail.

The fireweed was a sight to behold. Perfect weather combined with spectacular scenery and fun trail to create a terrific trip.

The SoggyBottom bike race was held the day before our one-way trip. Those guys do a round trip plus a 20-mile side trip for 100 miles of arduous riding, way beyond my level.

We detected a slight undercurrent of unfriendliness from a few of the hikers who had been on the trail the prior day. Some hikers described the bike race as "crazy". It is only one day per year for the race, and you won't find me on the trail that day.

We found immense enjoyment in the ride, suffered no crashes and only a couple of minor mechanical problems near the end of the ride with very minor delays. Pulling into Hope, we were happily tired.

August 2, 2009

My Friend, Ken

My friend, Ken, did not deserve cancer. For 8 years, he beat the odds, bravely battling, but it is with deep sadness that I report his passing.

Ken was kind, considerate, athletic, wise, honest, well-mannered, admired, strong, inspirational. I wish I could be more like him.

I know Ken ascended to a better place, but we grieve his passing from our earthly lives. Memories of Ken live on and provide inspiration. I should say more, but words I cannot find for I only have tears.

July 13, 2009

Johnson Pass

While awaiting my buddies at the Johnson Pass trailhead, it was a good omen: chatting with the two shapely women sporting string bikini tops and nice tans, sorry no photos.

The bikini-topped women departed down the trail, and a bit later my buddies arrived. Dr. Snow, TKSnow, and AKRobb and family and friends made the trailhead after shuttling vehicles. And, the four of us pedaled up toward Johnson Pass. The hot, buggy grind up to the pass was quickly forgotten as we careened down to Upper Trail Lake.

Doc wisely chose the bug-free bridges for regrouping breaks. I lost count, but there must be 8 or more bridges along the 20-mile trail. The deadfall has been cleared, and the cow parsnip and stinging nettles were only minor nuisances.

We made it to Upper Trail Lake free from injury, save a few bug bites and the odd imprint of a chain wheel or pedal and a little rash from cow parsnip (yours truly). It was really nice for Doc and family to stage the vehicle - what a treat to just show up, chat for a short while, and ride the trail to a pre-staged vehicle. All in all a terrific trip, Johnson Pass is highly recommended for cross country mountain biking.

July 3, 2009

Day One: Byron Glacier

With a backstop time, we opted for a short trip. Byron Glacier has snow at 400-ft elevation, and had potential to take us up to its summit at 4700 ft el.

Kruser & I hiked a mile or so, then skinned another mile to its ice fall.
Crampons were necessary to skirt the ice fall, so we opted to ski back.

Enough snow was probably available a week or two prior to provide a ski route up lookers' right, but too much tilted blue ice was exposed today; so, cramponless, we decided to live to ski another day.

Kruser declared the new season! Old snow, new season marked by the summer solstice.

I suppose he's earned the right to make such declarations. This seasonal Day One toggled the count to 274 consecutive months of skiing in Kruser's quest to live to ski, ski to die.

Riding 2 Planks with wind in his helmetless hair on Day One, Month 274.