January 12, 2014

Can't Win 'em All - Sketchy South Fork

We had such good conditions yesterday at Hatcher's Delia Creek, and with a good report from Arctic Valley and reasonable weather forecast, today's tour up South Fork should be really good. Sound logic, bad outcome. We found thin snow and windboard. The supportable nature of the crust was the best thing going for the snowpack at Swiss Bowl. The dust-on-crust conditions did not merit a second lap.

January 11, 2014

Delia Creek, Alaska

The Mint Trailhead is one of the six significant parking areas in the Hatcher Pass area. D2E2 and yours truly followed the Arkose Ridge uptrack option. Each of the six Hatcher parking areas, plus a few smaller pullouts, have multiple uptrack options, and each uptrack option has several descent options.
We skinned up toward the headwaters, dropped off the west face and skied down to Delia Creek. There are hundreds of potential lines on each side of Delia Creek.  We skinned across the creek and up the ridge west of Delia Creek. I was slightly hobbled by a heel piece failure of my Dynafit FT binding.
Free the Heel, Free the Mind
The snow was so good, descending with one free heel was easy and fun.
Diana in Delia Creek
Winds were calm, temperatures were in the low teens. Sky was mostly cloudy, but the clouds opened a few times for some exceptional light.

We saw some debris from an apparent natural avalanche that likely triggered from a ~40-degree slope, but no movement. We skied on 30-degree, or less, slopes.

January 4, 2014

Returns the Raven

Each afternoon, hundreds of ravens return to roost in the Chugach front range overlooking Anchorage, a spectacular thing to observe.  The big black birds start arriving around 3 p.m. at this time of the year. They come up from town, calling and soaring in circles as more and more arrive. As the sky darkens, I have seen many roosting in cottonwood groves on the southern flank of Near Point.

Birdwatching was better than the skiing today. The Anchorage snowpack is thinner than normal, and the recent snowfall is nonexistent. The trails have been dusted with a very thin light coat a couple of times, but no measurable snow has accumulated in a week. Traffic on the trails has been accumulating, and the trails are packed hard into an unsmooth, fast track with few options for checking speed.