March 16, 2013

South Fork to Ship Creek

South Fork to Ship Creek:  An Exploration of an Alternative

It's mid-March and time to ski the Anchorage backdoor classic tour:  Arctic Valley-to-Indian, a superlative, 20-mile ski trip.  Most folks take the south-bound route.  Quite a few ski the net uphill south-to-north route, and there are even a few high-endurance round trippers.  The south-bound route has a nice trail that descends about 1000-ft vertical from the Arctic Valley Trailhead.  The trail is popular with skiers, hikers, moose, lynx, coyotes, and other creatures and usually is pounded into a pretty hard surface.  It faces south and can get a thaw-freeze crust in mid-March.  Why ski the hard stuff when there are routes with soft powder?

A few years ago, we started the ski trek on a nice powder slope just east of the main trail.
On really good snow years, I've skied lines further east with even more powder! Today's sojourn was an exploration of another even further east way of starting the Arctic Valley to Indian ski tour, except it would start at South Fork, not Arctic Valley.  Yours truly skinned and booted up the North Bowl peak 3965 for you folks that just can't let go of the imperial units of measure (I prefer feet, pounds, and gallons, too, but this version of the USGS map is available only in meters.)  Booting was treacherous on the steep boiler plate. Skiing in North Bowl was good; weather was perfect and snow quality was a big "meh", 4" fluff on boiler plate, slightly to somewhat (on steeper pitches) scritchy.  But, the low angle touring was blissful.  Based on a carefully calibrated altimeter, I turned around about 100-ft above, and 1/8 mile shy of the Ship Creek Trail.   
The snow on the west side of peak 3965 was the best quality.  I used alpine touring skis with a lot of confidence to the western turnaround point.  There is a lot of deadfall where I turned around (west end of blue line), and it presently would be pretty tricky with lightweight touring skis.  On a big snow year, this route will be a "must do".

Anchorage from Peak 3965
North Bowl
Ship Creek Pass from Peak 3965

Ski Track and Coyote (or Lynx) Tracks Meet

View of Route Down to Ship Creek

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