April 30, 2011

More Armchair Traversing

Bomber Traverse 'Tom Murphy' route is plotted below with an alternative "Idaho Peak Circumnavigation".  Murphy's route is 18 miles, 5000 ft vertical with two main ascents.  Alternate route is 14.7 miles, 3500 ft vertical.  Also added hut locations from Mountaineering Club of Alaska coordinates.

April 18, 2011

Summit Lake Springtime

From Hatcher Pass to Summit Lake, spring skiing 2011 in southcentral Alaska has redeemed the February/March dry spell with sunny powder days.  Aspect at this latitude is not much of a consideration until the spring equinox passes.  Now, nearly a month beyond the equinox, aspect is everything to powder preservation at the common backcountry skiing elevations here; 1000 to 4000 ft.
Tenderfoot Ridge Northwest Face

DP and yours truly found the shady sweet spot on Tenderfoot Ridge at Summit Lake under mostly sunny skies.  We discussed whether to call this TelePete's Line; made a good case for it.

DP Tracking TelePete's Line
New Facebook Profile Photo

April 17, 2011

Swiss Bowlagain

Geno and yours truly found the powder aspect again in Swiss Bowl.  But, great conditions in the South Fork country were a little less widespread after another week of bright blue skies and spring time sunshine.

There is still some avalanche activity as a hapless couple discovered as they traversed below a sun-baked slope.  One skier was beyond the path, but the other skier had to run for it as it came down.  This same pair had earlier dug a couple of holes at the top of the shaded run, but skied down elsewhere.
The experience of the two skiers digging and (I assume) analyzing the snow pack on a shady aspect, and then triggering a slide on a dissimilar, sunny aspect was thought provoking.
Geno and I avoided the sunny slopes and skied as much shady powder as we could find.

April 13, 2011

After Work Powder Party

About ten powder seekers were tracking it up at North Bowl above the South Fork Trailhead tonight.  Kruser, Doc and yours truly joined several others and enjoyed the after work powder fest with beautiful weather, beautiful snow and an all around beautiful evening.  Photocredits:  Kruser

Spring Time Moonrise

April 10, 2011

South Fork Swiss Bowl

Why?  Staring at the Three Bowls avalanche, feeling the whoomphing of the basin snowpack, and pondering the question, one must come to terms with propects of avalanche.  Ephemeral powder is the eternal answer, of course.  But, is it worth dying for?  A single lap on low angle terrain, less than 30-degree slope, would be a test case. 
Failed the test.  Remotely triggering a slab, even though a small one, was not a confidence builder.  The steeper powder-covered slope just over the horizon went unskied.

The Dragon's Lair

We felt the dragon's breath.  Like the sirens, the glistening powder beckoned us into his lair.  He breathed upon us, whoomphing and settling in the brilliant sunshine of 4068. 
4068 North Aspect Photo by Geno
Jon jumped into the exhilarating line and swooped down to the valley floor, unaware of the terrifying earthquake-like settlement behind him.  Matt, Geno and I were stunned by the massive whoomph.  We moved down the ridge a bit to a slightly lower angle slope.  Then, one at a time, we each followed J-Rock into the dragon's lair.  We all agreed that going back was not an option and we live to ski another day.

April 5, 2011


Click to enlarge.  One route from Stuckagain to Temptation is shown above, an ambitious day trip:  16.5 miles with 7500 feet vertical.  A couple of shorter options would be available on the approach:  Knoya and Tikishla.  Expect some gouges in your ski bases with this year's snow pack.

April 3, 2011

Hatcher 4068 Corn and Powder

4068 is a non-descript, commonplace peak in the Talkeetna Mountains, notable for its exceptional access.  Today, Peak 4068 near Hatcher Pass was both a powder paradise and a sunny respite from the big storm blowing in from the Gulf of Alaska.  4068 southeast aspect softened into terrific corn under today's mostly clear skies, and its shady backside facing northwest held excellent powder.
Looking Up 4068's Backside
Looking Down 4068's Backside

Hatch Peak Avalanche March 19, 2011

It's hard not to think about the recent avalanche that killed Jim Helling on March 19, 2011, may he rest in peace, and may his family and his ski buddy find solace.

A tragic turn of bad luck and really not predictable with precision, the slide that killed Mr. Helling was a slab of a few feet at its crown.  Skiers and riders were venturing into seemingly more dangerous terrain; several had earlier skied the same slope that slid and caught Mr. Helling and his partner.  We can only hope others may learn a lesson from this sad episode.
Highlighted Fracture Line of 19-Mar-2011 Hatch Peak Slide
Fracture Line of 19-Mar-2011 Hatch Peak Slide

Hatch Peak 19-Mar-2011 Runout Zone
The slide funneled into a narrow ravine where the avalanche material accumulated.  News media reported that Mr. Helling was found beneath 14 to 16 feet of avalanche rubble.  The slide started above Mr. Helling and apparently pulled him into the ravine. 

There were tracks that crossed the starting zone and several ski tracks parallel to the slide path.  A report is posted here with close up pictures and a technical description of the slide.

Hatch to Microdot

Hatch Peak to Microdot sunny aspects offered crunchy crust varying in thickness from a thin veneer to a three-inch armor, while north facing tilted terrain held cold powder.  'Thousand' run off Hatch was unworthy of a second lap, so a short lap on Microdot was the next best alternative.

The Hatcher area south-facing slopes had been cooked in last week's sunshine, but did not soften in the grey light of yesterday.  We happily found smokey fluff in the north facing chutes.  There were lots of tracks in the Nose Bleed area, but we found some fresh lines.