November 30, 2011

Ski Eat Sleep

Break the trail
Breathe the air
Ski the powder
Eat sleep repeat

November 27, 2011

Gordon Lyon

Southeast face of Mount Gordon Lyon has a very good early season snowpack, as good as some midwinter snowpacks on the ridge and gullies overlooking Hiland Road.
A couple of other skiers were on the Arctic Valley backside when I was there.  They were skiing way below my turn around at the lower end of the blue descent line.  It would be fun to ski all the way to Hiland Road.  Other than the South Fork Trailhead further up the road, I don't know if there is an easement east of Mt. Gordon Lyon and Rendezvous Peak to avoid private property along Hiland Road.

Grayjay sent this update map with Gordon Lyon access from Hiland Road - Thanks Grayjay!

November 26, 2011

Back to Normal: Wolverine

Anchorage from Wolverine Gully
Wind seems normal in the Anchorage front range; we get a really nice snowfall and then the wind normally blows it away.  Today's trip to Wolverine was normal.  Sam, Fran, Gus, and Yours Truly skied up the Wolverine Trail with two trotting dogs in cold temperatures, about zero degrees Fahrenheit.

As normal as front range windpack snow in the alpine, powder is normal below the front range alder line.  Snow in the forest and lower alpine was like cold smoke.  The upper alpine snow quality was pretty good, even though it had been worked by the wind for several hours.  But, the steady breeze above timberline had teeth and one lap was enough.
Wolverine Peak in the Morning Light
Yesterday's Tracks Blown In

November 25, 2011

Chugach State Park Wolverine Peak

Fresh snow, Thanksgiving, clearing skies, Wolverine Peak skiable ...
Wolverine Peak from Backdoor Trail
Backdoor Trail
Hemlock Gap to Wolverine Peak
Wolverine Peak Closer Now
 Even Closer and Sunny!
Setting Sun at Latitude 61 Thanksgiving Friday
Anchorage from Wolverine Peak

Snowing and Getting Dark, Time to Go Home
Wolverine Peak with its 4500 ft front range elevation contributes to the desception that it's really close.  It's one of those destinations that one can see for a long time, and hour-after-hour, it seems like it's never getting closer.  Today, Wolverine summit was just as far as always, but it was a rare windfree day with excellent skiing. 

November 24, 2011

2011 Thanksgiving - Anchorage Hillside Powder

Anchorage Hillside up to tundra line is skiing exceptionally well.  Above the tundra line looked good, but I didn't have time to try it.  Maybe tomorrow...

Today's report for elevations 800 to 2500 ft:  6-12" powder on a soft base, no wind, single digit (F) temperatures, light flurries, terrific skiing!

Magnum Thanksgiving

Returning to the place we were before:  Several seasons of seeking the untracked experience have passed since my last trip to Magnum/PMS Bowl, and it was incredibly enjoyable rediscovering its vaguely familiar features, and skiing the blower powder we found there.

PMS Bowl
Jrock and yours truly took the Taylor Creek route up Magnum, then over to PMS Bowl for a couple of laps among the glide crack slides.  We endured the steep wind-packed ridge, and booted the crux.  Trusting the weather forecast, we were happily surprised by sunshine and calm wind.  It was cold; temperature at the bottom of PMS Bowl felt subzero, but a layer of warm air persisted above 3000 ft elevation and the ridgetop breaks were quite comfortable.  Other than several old glide crack slides on south aspects, we observed stable snow.  Two other parties used the parking area, one went to Sunburst, the other to PMS Bowl via the creek between Cornbiscuit and Magnum. 

PMS Powder
The return home via Magnum west face skied almost perfectly in the setting sun.  With deep hues of blue and red swirling in that wondrous high latitude sky and alpenglow softly lighting our way, we floated down the mountain powder in a dreamlike trance.  We gave Magnum thanks.

November 21, 2011

Go to sleep, go to sleep, Little Bruin

Caught the big birdseed-eating bear in the act - it was a couple of feet from the back door pulling down the last remaining feeder hanging off a flower hook.  Expecting the bears had gone to sleep for the winter, I set up our annual feast for the chickadees, magpies, grosbeaks, and redpolls - too early this year.  It only took a couple of days for the bear to find the feast and eat up the 20 pounds of birdseed.  Now we just hope that a big bellyfull of birdseed will make the bear drowsy.
Remnants of a Not Bear-Resistant Bird Feeder

November 13, 2011

Trust the Trail

Skiing home in fading light with a toy-more-than-tool headlamp, had to trust it.  Trust the trail.  Trust the instinct. 

My instinct this morning wanted to ski the front range, but we couldn't find that consenus having set a path toward Turnagain Pass.  Doc, mw, blob and yours truly left a foot of fluff in Anchorage for Turnagain Pass.  We had our reasons, but the muttering about a failed intelligence test spoke of the morning vibe on Cornbiscuit where we found good visibility with glide crack slide debris, hollow convexities, and a steady breeze.  Snow in the alders was sweet, but we weren't feeling it and didn't lap it.  Hope for a different venue such as the trees of Tincan faded after finding about 100 cars in various pull-outs.

Ya gotta go to know.  And, the question of the fresh snow in the front range had to be answered.  Resetting after the morning episode, I donned lighter gear, and headed up Backdoor Trail to powder in the Wolverine hemlock.  Could barely find yesterday's track in the fresh foot of fluff.

It was inspirational:  chatting on the trail with neighbor skiers, telemarking in alpenglow powder, and following a trustworthy trail.

November 12, 2011

Telemarking Hemlock Powder

The winter weather was heavy and the Anchorage front range was shrouded in snowy clouds, but it was skiing serene on Wolverine in Chugach State Park.  Up into the snowy clouds, I ascended through the stunted hemlock forest on the western flank of Wolverine Peak.  This area is a favorite because huge amounts of snow accumulate in its microclimate with very little wind, and the hemlock not only shield the snow from wind, but also provide a great contrast for storm skiing when visibility nonexistant above timberline.

November 11, 2011

Stuckagain's Backdoor

Backdoor powder!  Neighbor Sam and yours truly set ski tracks in Stuckagain Backdoor Trails in Chugach State Park.  In creating a fire break, Chugach State Park and Municipality of Anchorage also opened up some great ski country accessible from the Basher parking area at Stuckagain.

November 8, 2011


Bushwhacking with skis down an unnamed Alaskan creek through alder tangles, spruce forest, and thin snow cover, we chuckled about our choice of routes.  Not an epic, but all agreed that we'd rather not repeat it.  Little did we know that no-name creek would be a relative cake walk. 

J-Rock, Blob and yours truly enjoyed a fine day above Turnagain Pass at the Bertha Creek headwaters, a lot of people call it Superbowl.  Skinning up Taylor Creek with Viking, we listened to his musings on snow quality, aspects and lines.  Our path diverged from his trail to Magnum, and we continued to Taylor Creek Pass and Superbowl.  We weren't first up the ridge, and we were grateful for the terrific steps kicked by another pair of skiers. 
Back Up Superbowl

There was plenty of untracked powder for the ten souls I counted on the Superbowl ridgeline.  It was a thrilling adventure, but the best snow quality was somewhat lower on that aspect Viking foretold.

The combination of waning light and a sore knee convinced us to follow the Bertha Creek valley back to Highway One.  We faced the route finding dilemma:  ski a not totally unfamiliar powder fall line at our feet, or continue across the boring traverse to a very familiar, reliable descent to the car.  Of course, we took the 'powder now' route and we giggled in powder delirium.   Trail got boney about 300 ft above the road.  We skied over semi-buried brush, occasionally grasped tree branches as we traversed a steep bank above open water, and walked a little.  The pow was worth it, but we agreed that next time...

Next time came less than 24 hours later.
Down into Superbowl
Blob, mw and yours truly woke the next day to find Anchorage beautifully blanketed in a fresh foot of powder.  Stoked by the fresh, we headed to Girdwood and Max's Mountain.  Starting on the Virgin Creek Trail, we mostly booted about 1500 ft vertical through dense hemlock in 6-12" fluffy snow, and popped out into Max's glades and crotch-deep unsettled snow.   The right superlative to describe the skiing above 1500 ft el:  extraordinarily near perfect powderosity.

Ascending Max's
Max's lower elevation access on Virgin Creek Trail skis best after a thaw freeze cycle to create a hard crust over the rooty trail; add a little powder on top, and the dense hemlock forest can be a terrific descent.  But, lacking the crusty base, we opted for a route that might be more skiable.
Our descent did have more skiable vertical than the ascent.  But, the powderosity of the alpine and glades elevations was balanced at the opposite end of the spectrum by a 400 ft vertical hand-over-hand, spruce bough hanging, pack sliding, deadfall booting, alder tangling desent.  Upon reaching skiable terrain for the final 400 ft vertical, mw searched for the proper superlative for our route and asked, it that i-e or e-i in heinous?
Max's West Face
Photocredits:  J-Rock and Blob