March 30, 2012

Shady Chutes of Hanging Valley

Ski touring in the scenic South Fork country at the end of Hiland Road has so many options from kick-and-glide skiing in the valley floor to lapping alpine powder bowls to dropping into steep couloirs.  Overlooking the South Fork of Eagle River is Hanging Valley just beyond the end of Hiland Road.  Nathanael and yours truly skied up the Hanging Valley to its cirque in the shadow of Hurdygurdy Mountain.
Kicking steps up the couloir was exhausting, but thanks to Nathanael's stamina we topped out on the overlook.
The north facing shady couloir protected the snow from the sun, but after a couple of weeks since the last storm, the snow was a little stale.  Though the snow wasn't great up high, it was worth the climb to the overlook where some sheep came down the slope of the sunny side.  The lower two-thirds of the cirque had very good cold snow.
Stairway of Pain
Testing the Snow
We crossed the cirque from the shade to the sunshine and skied up a slushy slope and enjoyed a view of the couloir, but we enjoyed the ride down more.
With the sun asecnding higher each day and our season waning, slope aspect makes such a difference.  Finding cold smoke in the shady cirque was our hope, and the sunny corn was a bonus.

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