March 16, 2013


The Kenai Mountains rise up from Gulf of Alaska to the south and Cook Inlet to the north and west with an eastern isthmus connecting the range to its Chugach brethren. Where the Kenai Mountains begin and the Chugach end is a blur to me, but the great skiing in both ranges is a product of the weather predominantly flowing from the North Pacific and the gulf.  Endless skiing possibilities can be found in the Kenais from the road with several trip launching points along the Seward Highway in the Summit Lake vicinity.  Pondering DP's proposal to launch from mile 48 of the Seward Highway bound for Spirit Walker was decided with Dante's beta, "There's a broken trail."

Not that trail breaking was much work yesterday, but it was nice to have a route to follow to the Ditch at the mine.  Mills Creek Mine was a busy enterprise in the 20th century with heavy equipment, a big tumbler/sluice box apparatus, and the Ditch.  I would appreciate comments on the history of Ditch; I guess that the miners diverted Mills Creek flow through the Ditch to power their mill, or perhaps created the Ditch in the course of placer mining.  Ditch was a prominent enough feature to make the USGS map, created with photogrammetric methods from aerial photographs in the 1950 and 1951, with limited revisions in 1976 and later.

Negotiating the route through the Ditch was not obvious, but TonyD set a track a couple of days earlier saving DP and yours truly some difficult route finding.  The pair of us were basking in the sunshine at a lunch time break when TonyD caught up and happily joined us for the ascent to Spirit Walker summit.  Tony rounded out DP's splitboarding and my alpine touring systems with a state-of-the-art telemark system with a tech-style Skitrab toe piece and sprung heel loop used only on descent.  We skied up to about 4700-ft el where the incline and snowpack favored booting.  DP added crampons to his soft knuckledragger boots, and set a sweet booter for a couple of hundred vertical along the summit ridge, and TonyD led the summit push skinning, and finally booting the last 50-ft vertical.  We were awestruck with the panorama from Spirit Walker summit on this brilliant blue sky day.  

Slogging the 4-miles to and from the base of the mountain was enjoyable, if not thrilling.  Skiing the west face of Spirit Walker was thrilling with sloughs running about 1000-ft vertical.  Once started, the larger sloughs ran for minutes over cliffs.  A man tumbling down the cliffs could  get severely injured.  But, man!  The velvety snow above the cliffs and in the gullies was creamy and easy skiing even though the inclination was pretty steep.  Skiing Spirit Walker on a blue bird day with TonyD and DP was one of those experiences that created a memory worthy of its name.  Very grateful to both for an epic trip with vivid camaraderie.

We walked in the cathedral of the Kenai Mountains, inspired by the brilliant majesty of this place they call Spirit Walker.  
DP Waiting for TonyD
Mills Creek Headwaters
Almost there, only 2000-ft vertical to Go!
Will link a few more pics by Tony and Dante.

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