March 17, 2012

Talkeetna Touring

Touring in the Talkeetnas in late winter sunshine has offered endless possibilities.  From the Mint Trailhead to the Goldcord/Pinnacle area, touring the Talkeetnas in the Hatcher Pass sunshine has been the skiers' sweet spot over the past couple of days.
We ascended the knife-edge Arkose Ridge just east of Delia Creek, crossed over two basins from the Delia drainage, and thought about running down a concave line.

Topping out on the ridge from the other side, and looking down, we thought we had found untracked creamy couloirs waiting to be skied.  From above the concave horizon, we imagined perfect couloirs packed with untracked powder, and yours truly really wanted just to ski it.  But, apprehension of unseen hazards overcame the urge to descend and prudence prevailed.  I volunteered to take the line we could see to the basin floor and signal from below:  one pole up - a single chute, 2 poles up would mean 2 or more chutes, waving and crossing poles would mean no go.  Arriving at the basin floor and gazing up, I was struck by the shocking reality of huge cliffs just below the concave horizon of our ridgetop vantage.  Frantically waving my poles with straight arms, I wondered if the tiny specks of people, my party on the ridgetop could make out my NO GO sign. 
Jon descended toward the cliffs.  As he taversed toward the cliffs, I again waved my poles in a frenzy, emphatically crossing my arms and back down to my sides, channeling: don't go, don't go.  It was a quite a stress relieve when he turned and cruised down the mellow line spraying powder in the sunshine.
Nathanael Drops In
We knew that the couloir on the opposite side of the ridge, our original objective, had clear routes from the ridge to the valley floor, and we expected it would have much better snow, and we happily learned that the couloir lived up to our expectations. 
Nathanael's Line
Nathanael pioneered the lookers' left line (above) and as I followed his track down the powder filled couloir, the moments seemed long and serene.  Matt and Jon took the lookers' right couloir.
Matt Entering

Jon Found the Slot

Matt and yours truly found ourselves back in the Talkeetnas the following day in the Rock Garden area of The Pinnacle, and gazed at our line in the couloirs of Arkose.
Left-to-Right:  Nathanael's, Matt's, & Jon's Lines

Matt Tracking The Pinnacle South Ridge
Matt and I peeked over the northern slope of Friendship Pass above High Grade, but with the flat light, corniced slope and adjacent natural slab, we weren't feeling it, so we backtracked down the sunny side of Friendship Pass on crunchy melt-freeze sun crust near the pass that gave way to soft powder on the slopes with lower inclination.  We skied back past High Grade and traversed in falling snow to the the Rock Garden beneath The Pinnacle.  As we topped out on a minor saddle along the southern ridge of The Pinnacle, the clouds vanished and we found some nice powder in the shady northwestern aspects. 

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