February 18, 2012

Midwinter Journeys

With Anchorage midwinter snowfall about double the average, this has been a front range season (I only have 3 core shots).  The large amount of snowfall and a few wind events have transformed the topography.  From megadrifts on normally flat trails to smooth snow bridges over normally ski-breaking creek beds, the snowscape is lacks familiarity, but the snowpack is thick and sweet with a few exceptions.

Yours truly discovered the exception on lower Wolverine Peak ridge yesterday.  Where last week we enjoyed fabulous powder turns on a mellow grade, this week I found wind blown tundra with a few patches of snow.  Below the mountain hemlocks of Wolverine, the snowpack is sweet, but the snow near the trees was hideous.  The top 20% of Sam's Secret was wind hammered, but the lower 80% was too much fun.

Fun was the order for today's tour with Eruk and Lucy.
Uberdog Lucy
We skinned up the now defunct military ski area at Arctic Valley and traversed into the southerly bowls below the present day lifts.   Eruk and I had both eyed these bowls from Arctic Valley lifts, but never skied them.   Near the ridge top, we carefully traversed across superhard wind pack toward the powdery bowls where we found a great line that dropped 1500 powdery, vertical feet down to Ship Creek.  We skinned back up the Ship Creek Trail to the Arctic Valley Road to finish the tour with a long slog.

Arctic Valley South Bowl
Our high traverse was a little sketchy, but the reward of the sweet snow in the bowls made it worthwhile.  There is great low angle skiing down the creek we followed with no bushwhacking, unlike some other direct fall line routes to the Ship Creek Trail - this season's exceptional snowpack may have something to do with the lack of bushwhacking.  We also checked out the South Fork-to-Ship Creek route I've dreamed about for years.  The eastern edge of the the map above shows the saddle above the South Fork trailhead (section 9, east of sec. 8).

We saw dozens of rabbit tracks on our return slog up the Ship Creek Trail.  And we saw numerous lynx, coyote, and possibly wolverine tracks, too.  Also on the return leg, viewing a moose, spruce hen, ptarmigan, and raptor further enriched our experience.  Lucy was dragging her tongue and showing signs of deep fatigue in the powder, but when she got a whiff of all that game on the Ship Creek Trail, she perked right up and hunted rabbits, grouse and other scents the whole way back to the car.

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