October 21, 2012

Pastoral Autumn

Sunny skies, fresh snow, and lots of daylight convinced 4 parties, 10 people and one dog that Pastoral was the place to be.  Sunburst Trail was boney below timberline, but we survived most of it without incident and all of it without injury.  We embarked about 9:30 from the Sunburst parking area when the temperature was a chilly 3F.  Photos by Kruser.

We weren't the first.
But, we found the untracked experience.
Staubs and grass clumps were momentum busters.

October 16, 2012

Didlikama, Alaska

There beneath the blue Talkeetnas skies...
mw and Yours Truly on the Didlikama Precipice
Photo by Kruser
Three men began a Talkeetnas powder quest decades ago, seeking the perfect snow on a perfect mountain.  After years of searching the Mint, Pennyroyal, Montana, Lane, Snowbird, Arkose, Government, Marmot, April, Hatch, Pinnacle, Microdot, Friendship, El Dorodo, Skyscraper, Bomber and beyond, our quest continues.  Our October destination was the Lane Prospect on Didlikama, and we made it in the nick of time.

Kruser Descends Didli
mw on Didlikama
The Lane has been a popular destination for powder seekers since the late 1970's.  As early as Labor Day, yours truly has found cold smoke worthy of multiple self-propelled laps on the Lane.  Northern aspects form the Fast Lane and the Slow Lane glaciated tongues that preserve early season powder in the shadow of the mountain we call Didlikama.  In late snow years at lower elevations, the 6200 ft elevation of Didlikama is usually reliable for great skiing.

But, Didlikama access is troubled.  Didlikama, Lane, Snowbird and other areas can be accessed for day trips via Archangel/Fern Mine Road, a seasonal spur road extending about 5 miles from the main Hatcher Pass Road.  We found the Archangel Road gate closed on our way out - a disconcerting finding after entering an open gate in the morning.  With just a little looking, we found a small paper sign at the gate on our way out proclaiming the road closure at 10 p.m. October 14.  The Alaska Department of Natural Resouces, Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation apparently planned closure of Archangel Road on that date.  We were happy that the gate was not locked, but disappointed in the Oct. 14 closure.

I've driven street legal vehicles on Archangel Road to the Fern Mine gate in late November without incident.  I hope comments by users will convince the state to keep the Archangel Road open based on actual conditions; most years would have a later closure.  I can remember many seasons when there was great snow above Archangel Road while the road condition was quite drivable well beyond mid-October. 

As mid-October, 2012 would have it, there was an extraordinary base on the Lane moraine and boulder field.  The skiing quality was worth a lap on the Fast Lane with another trip up to the summit of Didlikama for a ride down the Slow Lane.  The snow was somewhat crusty, but we found nice pockets of powder here and there.  We were able to ski down to 4400 ft el.

From Didlikama, Looking Down the Slow Lane
Photo by Kruser