April 28, 2010

The Younger Generation

Joined WK and kids for an enjoyable evening on Peak 3. To be backcountry skiing as 2nd and 3rd graders was amazing to me. The kids' thoughts of the ascent are similar to mine: it takes a long time. They were both bomber on the descent, I couldn't keep up.

Snow was warm and slushy. Skied to within 50 feet of the cars.

April 24, 2010

Because the Sky Is Blue

The snow is soft.

Northerly aspects were powdery on Tenderfoot Ridge, and others were sun-crusted in the morning and warmed for perfect corn skiing in the afternoon, while other slopes collapsed under their own weight in the sun and fell down the mountain. Clear skies on a long spring day were perfect for a trip to the end of Tenderfoot Ridge.

DP and Jared met up with Geo and yours truly at the headwaters of Butcher Creek and Tenderfoot Creek. And, what a day we had the next.

TelePete joined us for the 1st ascent.

Geo was happy all day long. Perhaps that one particularly heinous booter was an exception.

Jared ski cut it, and went for it.
DP's contrail
Geo's contrail

Powder in the shade, corn in the sun. Ascending the corn side was a hot sweatfest!

Happy Geo

DP and Jared stayed a little longer. Farewell my friends; it was hard to leave.

Geo and I took the ridge route, and Dante and Jared to took the valley route in and out. Both worked really well.

April 22, 2010


Arctic Valley 9:30 p.m.
I joined 3 kindred spirits for an evening powderfest. The 6" of cold, fresh snow billowed around our waists, suspended behind the skiers like sparkley smoke.

Thank you, Mother Earth. On her day, Earth Day 2010, she adorned our mountains with a fresh blanket of pure powder.

April 18, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Jaunt

Dr. Snow, AKRobb, and yours truly had more energy than time Sunday afternoon, so we opted for the nearest slope, Arctic Valley. The wind was brisk, the snowpack was warm, and we were stoked for spring turns. Rendezvous held the best snow.

April 17, 2010

Eight Hundred Six

inches and snowing at the top of Alyeska. Deep soft snow at the top skied sweetly. Dense is a euphemistic way of describing the base conditions.

April 16, 2010

Hatch Workout

Hatch Peak was blustery today with poor visibility. Snow stability was not good. Natural releases had occurred on convex rollovers with northeast aspects, similar to the line we preliminarily planned to ski off Hatch. With cracks extending from our ski tracks, audible snowpack settlement and the recent slide activity, we settled for a mellow line down "Thousand" and lived to ski another day.

We encountered another intrepid group on Hatch. They practiced some snow science on a rollover just across Fishhook Creek from the parking area near the Hatcher Pass Road gate. They were working at a slab that slid to ground. It may have been triggered by a traverse track above the crown not really visible to the camera, or perhaps it was a natural and someone made a post-slide traverse above it.

April 11, 2010

Sun Crust and Powder of South Fork

Scritchy sun crust under grey skies... If you don't know the area and if the skies are cloudy, it can be difficult to find the shady slopes with the soft snow this time of year. There are still a quite a few places that still preserve the sweet soft snow, but my group unfortunately did not find a lot of it because we did not choose the best aspect.

Aspect is the slope orientation with respect to the sun in this context. The combination of inclination and azimuth, or direction, of the incline are the elements of slope aspect. As the sun's path across the Alaskan sky lengthens, the aspect becomes more important to finding soft snow. Sunshine melts the steeper south-facing slopes first, and then progressively affects the east, west and finally north-facing slopes. North-facing slopes are crucial this time of year for powder preservation, and the best powder bowls are north-facing cirques with steep walls that provide shade from the morning and afternoon sun.

Temperature and wind, of course, are key elements for powder preservation any time of year. And the aspect with respect to wind can be really important for powder preservation, too.

Eventually, regardless of aspect, powder will disappear from most slopes, except the really high ones, as the days grow warmer (or windier). And, then we'll be left with skiing slushy snow or riding bikes through verdant forests.

April 4, 2010

End Better than the Beginning

Snowing and blowing on Mount Alyeska, storm riding at its finest. Kruser's rally got me going, and it was a good call. Markman, Kruser and yours truly found untracked lines on the North Face until its 5:30 pm closing. Heavy snowfall (medium light density) and wind filling in tracks between runs made exceptional skiing.

Kruser got it right: the end was better than the beginning

April 3, 2010

South of South Fork

Clear skies without wind means powder preservation in shady north facing bowls. I saw this bowl from afar a couple of days ago from South Fork North Bowl, and had to go back and see it up close.

The valley of the South Fork of Eagle River is a splendid scene with upland hemlock and subalpine flora gradually giving way to the alpine. Of course, this time of year the valley is blanketed with a shimmering snowpack in the bright long days of spring. So sorry, I didn't catch an image; camera is being repaired. Android captured the image above, not bad for a phone.

The route to the southern bowls requires a little extra work. This place is well worth the effort with conditions such as today: boot top untracked snow. It's not always like that; sometimes, the wind just won't leave it alone.

Is this place part of the Anchorage Front Range? It shares a ridge with Rendezvous at Arctic Valley. For the proposal list: South Fork to Indian traverse via the saddle near the southern bowls. There is a beautiful line unfettered with brush all the way to Ship Creek from the saddle, or for that matter the peak just south of the saddle. The west face holds snow and would provide a terrific start for the Ship Creek traverse.

April 2, 2010

Summit, AK

Northern aspects are so sweet, sweet enough to drive a man crazy. Betty Jane, Geno, Eruk, Dante and yours truly returned to the hidden bowl with a shady northerly aspect and perfect powder preservation.

Photo credits: Eruk

We enjoyed a nice visit with Alex McLain, a forecaster with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. Alex described a few point releases and rollers, mostly induced by the sunshine. If you don't count our lunatical giggling on our rides down the shady powder, we observed no signs of instability.

April 1, 2010

South Fork North Bowl - Chugach State Park

MW's words of a couple of weeks ago, "it doesn't look that heinous," came back to me on the east-facing ascent above Chugach State Park's South Fork Trailhead. The approach slope had thaw-freeze and wind effects, but just around the corner is a place they call 'North Bowl' for good reason. Although the last snow was 2 weeks ago, North Bowl had preserved boot top soft snow worthy of 4 laps.