Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Raina and Peeking Amphitheater

The Front Range goods are just that...good.  We've had a decent spring/summer snowpack, so it's couloir season (also know as cooler season, or coolie season).

Local Anchortown friends Matt, Agnes, Marc and Gayle headed close to home to explore what the North Fork Eagle River Valley had to offer.  And I must say, it had lots to offer - sunshine, warm temps, corn snow...and Coolers!!

The group headed up Falling Water Creek.
Mission essential snacks.
Making our way to "Couloirland"
Said couloir's on the lookers right.  We skied the main couloir off of Raina's NE face.  We certainly scoped out the N couloir, but it looked pretty burly.
So about now the group is split.  Gayle took a much mellower route that overlooked Ram Valley, and Matt and Agnes basked in the spring sun, took a nap, and ate some bon-bon's.  Meanwhile, Marc and I booted the 2000' NE couloir.

Marc earnin' it.
Bootin' the coolie.
It was all ice axe's and crampons for this boot pack.  Marc and I finally made it to the top, after a dicey top-out on the cornice.  I must say, we were tattered.  We shoved some food down our throats, drank some water....oh wait i'm out of water.  That's what you get after 6 hours of climbing.

Polar Bear (center).  Notice the large crown face.  This slide down to glacial ice about two weeks ago.
This is the view from 6500'.  These pictures never do these runs justice. (Denali, Sultana, and Beguya in the distance)
The entrance was surprisingly steep...lets play guess the slope angle!
Enjoying the jump turns.
Marc taking advantage of the late May corn harvest.
So now it was time to gather the stragglers.  Matt and Agnes (both with fresh legs), set off on a sprint only to see corn snow rooster tails in their path.  We linked up with Gayle, and made the long run to the toe of the moraine.

We stopped and marveled at Raina's N couloir.  Matt was wishing he got the shot.
Agnes in awe.
The North Couloir of Raina Peak in all her splendid glory.  Definitely on the "to-do" list.
We finally transitioned back to sneakers, well some of us, and headed down the valley.

Making our way back, with Eagle Peak in the background.  Interesting note, this peak got skied a couple of times this year.
We finally made it back to the Delta Tango in about 9 and a half hours time, not a bad days work.  I grabbed Meg and LB, and we all enjoyed beers and dinner at Marc and Gayle's.

This is where our travels took us today.  ~10 miles round trip???
I also got a Spot for my b-day.  If yer lucky, yer on my email list.  If yer not, too bad soooo sad.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

T'Bird Falls

With a backpacking trip planned over Memorial Day weekend, Meg and I decided to get a little practice in and visit some local sights.  Meg's choice was Thunderbird Falls, so we loaded our packs, filled the CRV, and made the short jaunt to that wierd purgatory between Eagle River and the Valley.

Meg making her way down the trail.
The better half.

The not-so better half.
Meg's favorite site are the waterfalls of Southcentral Alaska.  So if you know of your favorite spot, let us know, we'll definitely visit!  Meg standing under Thunderbird Falls.
Now she's ready for the big show!  Our destination is Rabbit Lake for an overnighter.

The Uptrack wouldn't be complete without a picture of Dogface (AKA. Lobita)!

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Pete's North and Glacier Creek

Another year older...

I celebrated my 32nd birthday this past week.  What a better way to ring it in than with an outdoor backcountry adventure.  I got this hairy idea to ski-raft-bike all in one day.  What the heck...lets do it!!

I convinced my buddy Marc to join me.  He just returned from 6 weeks in the lower 48, and was jones'ing for an outing.  The plan was to ski this couloir in TPass off of Pete's North, packraft Glacier Creek, and mountain bike back to the truck.

Phase I: Backcountry Skiing

We headed down to the pass with a truck full of gear to find dismal weather.  Typical Western Prince William Sound weather - windy, rainy, and snowy.

Marc making the best out of a difficult situation - skiing in a ping pong ball...
We never reached our destination.  We lived to ski another day, and skied the mellower aspect down to Pete's Creek.  The pass received about 6-8" of fresh heavy snow, so we saw a lot of wet snow slides.

Marc workin' it.
Marc hucking his meat.
Marc enjoying the heavy wet stuff.  But its fresh, so that's why he's in the back seat...
This is what May skiing is all about.
Instead of going back the way we came (good idea), we headed down Pete's Creek (not so good idea, but interesting and fun).
We made it back to the 'Delta Tango', and were headed to the next destination.  Damn that's a lot of gear.

The finer things in life.  Utica Club and Dynafit's.  Phase I complete.

Phase II: Packraft

We headed back to Girdwood and dropped our bikes at the bridge near Chair 5 and headed to the Crow Creek Mine.  Our objective was to float Glacier Creek, but the lack of a recon would prove to be a terrain mistake.

I did see a pretty neat vehicle though.  This is a vintage 'Deuce and a half' with the US Army Alaska shoulder sleeve insignia.  We call it the "Binky Bear".
We rapped down to Crow Creek and inflated the boats.  Marc making his way to the put-in.
And the parting shot.

At this juncture, I am unable to give details about the final leg (ie. Phase III) of our trip.  You'll have to ask Marc or I for further details.  All I can say is that it involved a situation that would require problem solving and both of us swimming.  Nuff said.

We were successful in our triple header, finally navigating lower Crow Creek to Glacier Creek.  We made it back to the bikes in wet gear, and pedaled the ~4 miles back to the trailhead.

As one of my skiing buddies say, "Backcountry adventures make you late for dinner."

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May in AK: Pastoral Peak and the Grandaddy Couloir

Well its been an awesome run of high pressure to welcome the month of May.  So good, that I had to bag work the first two days of this week and go skiing.  I didn't have much going on, so local photographer Matt Hage and I had plans to ski Mount Alpenglow after returning from Girdwood on Sunday.

Conversation in the car:
#2: "Hey what are you doing tomorrow?"
#1: "Nothing....why?"
#2: "Lets ski that [pointing to the large north face of Alpenglow]"

This run taunts every backcountry skier on their way to TPass.

But mother nature and the Six Mile Creek had their vote.  We got turned back here:
We brought hip waders and sunscreen.  But we forgot the packrafts.

So we headed to Turnagain as the backup plan, and toured up Taylor Creek in hopes of skiing Pastoral Peak....a run i've been wanting to ski for a long time now.

Matt making his way up Taylor Creek.

We got to the pass, and these were the sights.
I left #1 at the pass with some boot issues, and I pressed forward.  I made it up to summit in just over an hour to find powder preservation.
While on the summit taking in the views, I noticed this obvious couloir on the adjacent ridge - the Grandaddy Couloir.
Conditions, weather, and snow stability were so good that I had to go after it again today!

I got an early start, and was climbing by 0930.  I toured up Bertha Creek and made the pilgrimage in about 3 hours, taking my time.  I ran into a guy yesterday who was going to ski a line essentially on the northern side of Pastoral that drops further into Lyon Creek.  Here they are on the top.  They had plans to continue on and ski the Grandaddy...good on them.
The view from the top was terrific.  Carpathian is the obvious peak in the center.
Looking down the Lipps ridge.  The cooler is below.
The B-I-G P-O-P-P-A on the approach.
This way back home.
The entrance to this chute was hairy.  There was a massive cornice, and I didn't feel like dropping it with me on top.  Mandatory air was not in my vocab for the day.  I skirted around the skiers right and entered from the side.  It was boot-top powder goodness!  It got a little punchy and scrapy down low, but it was powdery the entire run.

All in a days work.
Another look, riding the sepia bandwagon.
And the parting shot...
My legs are smoked, blisters on my feet, i'm sunburned and dehydrated.  And now I have to go back to work.  Here's the trip route:
Note: no Yellow Labradors were harmed in the aforementioned powder pursuit.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Swiss Bowl

Its back to my old stomping grounds.  After a morning of Eagle River being socked in, overcast skies, and snow (that's right, May 1st and its still snowing), I headed to the South Fork for some spring turns.  I received reports of an isothermic snowpack in the SoFo, but I certainly didn't find that on the shady northies.

The backyard.
After a short hike, I found myself at the bottom of Swiss Bowl, a run I usually do this time of year.  But it seemed that the peak was just socked in with low hanging clouds.  I continued to climb, and found myself on the top of the ridge.  I wanted to ski this line, from upper right to lower left.  Notice the lower flanks of Eagle Peak in the sun (Note:  future ski destination)
Just my luck.  As I reached the summit of Peak 4219, it started snowing and heavy thick clouds blew in.  After a bite to eat, I was forced to ski in the soup.  This area got a freeze last night, so there was no collapsing underfoot.  The skiing was heinous.  I did survival turns down most of the run.  The snow was almost boilerplate, with a dusting on top, and very grabby.

Skiing solo.  The lower valley of the South Fork, Eagle River.  (Note: future packraft destination)
I was able to ski all the way back to the parking lot.  I couldn't do that a year ago....cuz Mount Redoubt had a vote on last year's spring skiing season.

Swiss Bowl on the right, and my run in the center.
I heard of a skier triggered slide on Hiland Road this past week.  Temps reached 60 F this past week.  Shown below is an area that slid on Superbowl Sunday, caused by some F-15 pilots.  This avy slid all the way to some dude's house.  This run is called "Leighow".

Q: How do you know there's a fighter pilot at your party?
A: He'll tell you...

ok, one more...

Q: What's the difference between God and Fighter Pilot's?
A: God doesn't think he's a Fighter Pilot...

Lobita all loaded up.
And the finer things in life.  Thank you Alaskan Brewery.

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