October 31, 2010

That Little Dog

We knew she wouldn't live forever, but did not imagine the grief of her loss.  We look for her, and sometimes think we hear her, but she's gone.

That little dog was smart, and very shy.  But sweeter than shy.  She loved her family, especially her adopted Momma.  She followed her Momma everywhere.

That little dog chased bears away.  Fifteen pounds versus 300, she didn't care, and the bear ran when she came after it, snarling.  Quite a sight, that little dog chasing a big black bear!  She defended her home against moose, too.  She circled and darted, just beyond those sharp hooves, growling and barking.  That little dog never gave in and the moose always lost.

Her eye sight was never too good.  Once, from her perch on the deck, she looked over her queendom and saw an intruder way off.  She charged it full on, hackles up, roaring her little dog attack bark.  She circled and got real quiet.  She sniffed.  Trotted back a-panting, not too proud.  That little dog rushed the lawn tractor.  Remembering brings a tear.  So funny she could be, and so sad we are to say good-bye.

Oh, how we miss her, that little dog.

Big Bo Peep

Bo Peep and Flock
Big Bo Peep and yours truly skied to the High Grade Mine in the Hatcher Pass area.  Snowpack is thin, but adquate for the mellow grade terrain.  First trip this season on the rugged touring set up after alpine touring the past several weeks. 

High Grade
A storm was brewing, portending a deeper snowpack.
Telemarking through Goldcord
On the way back, we happened upon friendly Fred.  He showed us around the new A-frame cabin he and his wife have nearly completed above Goldcord, a beautiful place with propane heat, running water, and an exceptional view in all four directions.

October 21, 2010

Little Jewel of the Chugach

Jewel Mountain beckons southcentral Alaska powder seekers to its inspiring fall line.  And while the Jewel snowpack is shaping up, it was still real boney today.  Kruser and yours truly were tempted, but the prospect of its sharp rocks and tremendous plumes blowing of Jewel's ridge were enough to convince us elsewhere was a better choice.  We scaled the Summit Mtn glacier and enjoyed its mellow line with surprisingly good snow.  The wind was gusting all day, blowing in our tracks between runs.
After a couple of laps, trudging back up Patrick's Line into the teeth of the wind was a daunting proposition.  Little Jewel was right there, how could we not try it? 
Little Jewel is an insignificant minor summit overlooking Crow Pass with a cliff on the south side and a powder field on the north side, just like its big brother, Jewel Mtn.  But, Little Jewel's lee slope has been catching enough powder this season to make it skiable.  And today, Little Jewel was a worthy alternative. 

Photocredit:  Kruser

October 16, 2010

Up to the Abyss

The place is magical, Crow Pass, and Summit Mountain Glacier particularly so because its unique position protects it from the wind and it accumulates early season powder.  After stumbling upon this powder field many seasons ago, and not studying the map, we called it October Glacier.

Part of the Pain
October powder has its price, 2000 vertical feet of hiking on a rocky trail.  Crow Pass skiing is a wonderful experience, but the arduous journey there is painful one.
Part of the Pleasure

Enjoying a most elegant entry to Raven Glacier via Patrick's Line, Kruser and yours truly toured up the Raven and skied the Milk.  The Raven-Milk loop is one we've skied several times, but this one was remarkable for its elegant entry to the Raven, and its perilous crossing of crevasse fields in a cloudy, snowy whiteout. 

Patrick's Line
Kruser on Patrick's Line between Summit and Raven Glaciers

We found a trail up the Raven, set apparently the day before.  As the clouds moved in, the set track helped with our decision to continue our quest to ski the Milk.  Raven Milk Loop is a marvelous tour.  The top of the icefield where the Raven becomes the Milk, and vice versa, is a crevassed ice field with fissures so deep they look bottomless and black.
Up We Go
With many trips to the top of the Raven between the two of us, we knew what to expect.  Raven Milk met our expectations of enormous, gaping crevasses.  Yet, knowing of the abyss does nothing to the fear of falling into it.
The Abyss
Milk Glacier
Bottom of the Milk Glacier
Descending Lateral Moraine to the Barnes-Jewel Saddle
Photocredits:  Kruser

October 10, 2010

Patrick's Line

Crow Pass, Alaska
The true Patrick's Line offered extraordinary skiing, very good for mid-winter, but extraordinary for October 9. The flat connection between Summit and Raven Glaciers was well-covered with a firm base topped with 4 inches of sparkley powder. And even more, 6 to 8" covered the north-facing permanent snowfields tilting down to Raven. Summit Glacier's low angle 'ball room' skiing was esconced in 4 to 8" of fluffy stuff that glistened in the sunshine. It fed our egos.

Last season was a gloriously sunny day, too, but we skied only the upper half of Patrick's Line because the inter-glacier connection was too rocky (archive).

mw pushed Kruser and yours truly beyond 7000 ft vertical, a lot for me especially with the hike in and out. It was great to ski with the old crew at that place we call Patrick's Line. Named for Patrick Hallin, a true friend and adventurer. He led me to Patrick's Line long ago; we wore leather boots and rode skinny skis. Patrick lost his life windsurfing Turnagain Arm in the summer of '88.

mw photocredit
mw framed Patrick's Line with clarity of purpose: the pursuit of powder.

October 3, 2010

Didlikama's Shadow

How many times have we made the Lane pilgrimage? Up the boulder field, frozen in the morning, sunny and warm in the afternoon.

Didlikama reigns over the Lane Prospect.

The ice has receded to such an extent that there is only about 450 ft vertical skiable terraine with the present 8" of new snow.

Didlikama is the name of the peak that overlooks the Lane Prospect, the Lord of the Lane. You won't find this name, Didlikama, on the USGS map, but the USGS does show a minor summit just above the 6100 ft contour in section 11, T20N, R1E (61deg 50.23' N 149deg 12.9'W). A group of skier-miners who held the claim in the early 1980's named Didlikama for what, I don't know. But, isn't it catchy, Didlikama? These miner-skiers were a hardy bunch; one of them, Alaska Magazine Covergirl Norma Jean Saunders, laid claim as the first woman to solo climb Denali.

In the shadow
Of Mt Didlikama
The boulder field inflicted its pain
Health care by Obama
Powder remedied all at the Lane