February 26, 2011

Murphy Meadows

Palmer's front range is the beautiful Arkose Ridge south face overlooking Palmer with the Chugach Mountains rising above the Matanuska River. 

Terrific touring can be found in the mature birch forest of Arkose south face which is interspersed with meadows and a few spruce trees with a lot of moose browse.  Snow machiners use this area a little.
Today's snow was wind hammered above timberline, but sweet and soft in the trees.  The sunny calm morning gave way to a windy and still sunny afternoon.
Bundled up against the cold wind, Geno and BettyJane with the Chugach Range in the background.  Mount Marcus Baker can be seen in the distance just above and right of Geno.
The best snow was found in the forest, as usual.  Arkose south face lower elevations were very pleasant.  This area is just east and upslope of the Matanuska Ski Club Moose Range Nordic Trails.  We saw four of the big ungulates.

February 20, 2011

Tikishla Reconnaissance

Knoya and Tikishla are so close to home, but yet so far away having been on "the list" for a long time. Teletips posts by like-minded backcountry skiers were all the inspiration needed for some Tikishla recon.  Five and a half hour round trip to the base of Tikisha were required today with slow solo trailbreaking for about half of the outbound portion. 

Snowpack is typical front range: powder to sastrugi to breakable crust with brush, tundra and rocks.  It stormed today with more wind than snow up high.  Winds were absolutely howling in the alpine country at the base of Tikishla.
Start of Descent to Campbell Ck North Fork
Touring skis (Fischer Outtabounds Waxbase) worked great with the long approach distance to Tikishla.  Walking the steep, narrow descent to the North Fork is recommended.
Campbell Ck North Fork Bridge
Knoya Bench
Wind Scoured Lower Tikishla SW Aspect
Looking Up Basin WNWof Tikishla Summit
The wind (and a lazy start) assisted with the turnaround decision, and the recon provided confidence that Tikishla is a reasonable day trip.  Depending on the trailbreaking, 6 to 8 hours would be my planning time.  Decision on gear would depend on conditions.  Alpine touring skis/boots would fit the alpine country best, but the rugged touring set up is adequate and is superior on the approach and retreat.

February 19, 2011

Pete's Lil Tincan

"Ay-eet!", she blurted, repeating in two syllables the my answer, eight.  After hearing my response to her question about the headcount of the oncoming party, she wasn't happy.  Both shocked and chagrined, her voice revealed what her forced smile belied.  Her voice with a tragic tone said it all:  Pete's North powder will be pulverized.  I gave an equally forced smile and knowingly nodded as if to say, "what is the world coming to?".  Her party didn't stay long.

It wasn't a mere eight snow riders oncoming, it was more like a twenty souls seeking Pete's North powder.  At the end of the day, the safest alpine area on Pete's looked like Tincan on a popular day, totally tracked out with mogul precursors.  But, DP and I certainly found our untracked lines throughout the day in fabulously rich powder. 

The sunny skies were energizing, but the steady wind took its toll over the day and worked the ridge top into sastrugi.  Single digit temperatures on the summit ridge, 20F at the parking area.  Sloughs on the steeper terraine ran a long ways, the longest ran from the ridge top to the valley floor.  We observed a lot of natural releases on the east facing slopes on the motorized side of the road.

Cat-apalooza Powder Mania

Robin and friends tracked up the exquisite snow of Notch Mountain and (not very) Sunnyside.

Thanks, Robin!

February 13, 2011

South Fork Whiteout

Ascending in a whiteout into an avalanche debris field was nerve wracking - where did it start?  are the slopes in the fog loaded and ready to come down?

It was 10 deg F at the South Fork Trailhead with very little wind and light snowfall.  The upper half of North Bowl had a couple of inches fresh snow on a very hard, icy base.  It wasn't worth a second lap. 

Moving to the west wing of the bowl was a mistake.  Stumbling into the debris field, finding the avalanche starting zone much higher, kicking steps up an incredibly hard cornice in the snowy fog were enough to make me want to bail.  Bailing out was the plan, but where was the pass to the front side?

Traversing back to the pass, the fresh snow deepened and the fog lifted.  After 4 hours of up and down wandering in the whiteout on sketchy snow, a sweet line with deep snow presented itself in good light.  The 'secret' line was accessible from the uptrack of about 3 hours prior; skinned right past it oblivious to the treasure.  Better late than never.  The best snow was between 3500 and 2000 feet on a north-northwest aspect.

February 12, 2011

Five Below at Milepost Forty Nine

Seward Highway Mile 49 was shady and cold at 9:30 a.m. this morning.  Moving quickly and adding layers made the -5 F temperature a little more bearable.  Just a few hundred feet above the road, we found warm sunshine, calm air and boot top powder.  We were happy.

BettyJane, Daniella, Geno, Josh, Eruk, Lucy and yours truly hit the track early, and were later joined by about 7 others.  Fresno Ridge has so many lines that we didn't see the others' tracks on the way down.

Classical Mystery Tour

Got everything you need
Satisfaction guarranteed

Hoping to take you away take you today

The sold-out audience was taken away by the Anchorage symphony, conducted by Randall Craig Fleischer and the Faux Four.  Steve Craig (John), Paul Bronson (Paul), David John (George), and Beaver Parker (Ringo) were fabulous!  The entire ensemble deserved the standing ovations and reciprocated with encore performances of Twist and Shout, and came back again for Can't Buy Me Love.  After taking us from Liverpool to Abbey Road with authentic, rich orchestral sound, the 'boys' and symphony had the audience standing, screaming, dancing.  Shake it a baby now!

If there are tickets for tonight's show, the last, you gotta go!

February 6, 2011

Sunny Again at 4068

Sunshine (again), a set track, and plenty of untracked lines called me back to 4068.  Both the sunny and shady sides were sweet.  OK, Hatcher place name experts, what do they call the line down the northwest side of 4068, Halibut?

The Girdwood Gang, Doc, AKRobb and others, planned a Turnagain trip with reports of great snow from the day before and improving stability. Worried about the Turnagain Pass weather, and called by the 4068 sunshine, the difficult decision for me was north to 4068.

4068 had sunny skies, calm winds, 15F at the parking lot, and boot top snow. 

February 5, 2011

Sunny 4068

We were shown the way by the brilliant sun.  Climbing upward to the great white expanse, knowing not what we would find there, we were called by its brilliance.

Beckoned by it, we were drawn to it, warmed by it, blinded by it.
We found good skiing with boot top snow, slightly wind affected in places and sparkling smoke in the swales.  The +13F temperature at the parking area felt much warmer on the incline reflecting the warm sunshine.  Light wind on the ridge in the afternoon, but otherwise calm. 

A State Parks Ranger told us the area was closed to motorized vehicles.  We saw and smelled an outlaw pair riding a single, loud 2-cycle snow machine.  One carried a snowboard. 
Geno and BettyJane found the untracked experience in the sun.

February 4, 2011

Highly Recommended: Chugach State Park

Sunny skies, calm air, fresh snow.
Near Point View Point
Temperatures were in the high teens in the shadows, felt much warmer in the sunshine.  The 10" snowfall earlier in the week settled to a blissful boot-top.  The snowfall was warm, then the clear and cold skies overnight pulled moisture from the fresh snow up toward the surface where hoar frost crystals formed. 

Skiing was excellent on Backdoor Trail, Wolverine and Near Point in Chugach State Park.  There is some great touring in the Anchorage Front Range.  The rugged touring/light telemark worked perfectly in today's tour with plenty of turns.
Lost Cabin Valley Trail
I've never found the 'Lost Cabin'.  Chugach State Park is a jewel.