Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hometown Skiing

The Chugach Front Range certainly did not get the amount of wind that Turnagain Pass had over the weekend.  I expected the normal boilerplate, but was rewarded with some nice wind-buffed powder.  The ridge tops were pretty scoured, but gullies and lower elevation runs held good skiable snow.

Tyler snagging first tracks.
Disclaimer: There was no trespassing conducted during the making of these powder turns.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wolverine Creek

With bluebird skies and fair temps, I headed up Wolverine Creek to check out Sharks Fin with local Avy Saavy Gals instructor Jenna and her pup Kijik.  The approach wasn't as bad as I thought.  The toughest part of the access was getting across the canyon of Ingram Creek.  And the uptrack was already established.

The wind has had its way with Turnagain Pass and Southcentral Alaska.  We found wind affected snow from the alders all the way to the ridge tops.  I've never seen wind so devastating in TPass.  Needless to say, the skiing was marginal; but we took some time to dig snowpits and conduct stability tests.

I couldn't help but visually recon some new terrain.  Peterson Creek anyone?

We dropped a south-facing line into Wolverine Creek.
We'll definitely need some new snow before the skiing gets good again, or you'll have to be clever in discovering a powder stash that hasn't seen the hands of Abu Wind.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lots of Blue and White!

The weather has cooperated.....but Father Wind has not.  On Saturday I skied with Anchorage-based professional photographers Matt and Agnes Hage from Hage Photo.  Our powder mission took us to the heart of the Kenai Mountains - Turnagain Pass.  We traveled off the beaten path a bit, as all of the usual turnouts were packed.  However, Lipps was not different with groups of 2 or 4 scattering the ridgetops.  Crowded or not, we found some spectacular snow.  Although we did some work for some of Matt's clients, I was obliged to lend a hand by making multiple laps in the riches that Mother Nature had dropped the previous day...8 inches to be exact.

Matt gets to reap the benefits of his own hard work.
Agnes (AKA "The Talent") is all smiles.
Yours truly enjoying my day's work.
Today I headed out to Hatcher Pass to see what the recent storm total of 16" had done to the snowpack.  TTips, CNFAIC, and the State Troopers all reported of a large natural avalanche closing the road.  Sure enough, the main south facing Marmot ribs had slid.

I toured up past the Indy Mine towards Friendship Pass and Gold Cord.  Although the pass was my destination to scope out some new lines, I didn't go past the base of Gold Cord.  Elevations above 4000 feet were pretty wind hammered.  I enjoyed my breakable crust and low angle powder turns with LB back to the truck.  Yup, she's off the injured reserve after pulling a hammy.

The Uptrack...
 I did manage to scope this nice couloir.  Maybe a springtime endeavour?
Almost every steep wind loaded gully had slid during or after this most recent storm.  I talked to a guy in the parking lot that triggered a slide and was carried for a bit in one of the chutes on the north side of Marmot.  His partner was apparently partially buried.  Crown face measured 2-2.5'.  Be careful out there, its touchy.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ingram Creek and Nosebleed

The clouds finally blew in yesterday and gave SCAK a little bit of low pressure.  Flat light proved our descent of the south face of Eddie's fairly challenging.  Josh and I skied a steep south facing shot into Ingram Creek on Wednesday.  Just as we were skinning out, the clouds broke and gave way to clear skies.

Josh contemplates which way his sluff is going to go.
Today B-real and I headed up to Hatcher Pass to see what Eddie and the crew have been boasting about.    We headed up Microdot and skied the shady north face - known more commonly as "Nosebleed".  This is my favorite run in HP.  We only saw a party of two walking behind us, and a mere 3 cars in the parking lot on our return.

Tyler sees the light......or lack there of.
The viz was kind of in-and-out.  We dug a pit at the top of our run.  Typical shallow snowpack of Hatcher Pass (and Eagle River for that matter).  Facet farms at the bottom of our column, with failure at the ground.
That's a wrap for skiing the last 18 out of 20 days.  Tomorrow is a rest day.  I guess if you call a rest day skinny skiing, then its a rest day.  Or I may go out and see what this storm has brought us.....

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lipps Service

Not much to say here.  The pictures pretty much say it all.  I skied Lipps today with Josh under clear and cold skies, calm wind, and another day of epic cold smoke.

Cold Smoke (n.): originates in dry clouds whose temperatures hover around five (5) degrees. The frigid conditions permit the growth of "Stellar Crystals", as they are known to scientists. The lack of humidity allows the flakes to escape the cloud without a heavy coating of frost. When these flakes arrive on Earth on a windless day, they stack up so tall and delicate on fence posts and ski slopes that their mass is about ninety eight (98%) percent air. This is known as two (2%) percent snow or ....COLD SMOKE!

As we were walking back to the parking turnout, we looked overhead and saw a CPG helicopter returning to its Girdwood base.  As much I would've loved to have been on that bird, I was happy to know that I earned my turns, skied nearly 4000' of vertical...and it only cost me a tank of gas.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunburst Cold Smoke

No matter how tired I am, I always find it inspiring to ski on a bluebird day with fresh snow.  I've skied the last 15 out of 17 days.  Its like my job.....damn that sucks.

I toured up Sunburst today.  With my dashboard temp gauge reading -8F, I'd figure I would enjoy the skiing in the sun.  I observed some surface sluffing from Sunday's tracks, and some other folks getting after some pretty steep lines - but no other instabilities noted.

Lots of tracks on Tincan.  But only 2 cars in the parking lot today.
Tincan Proper was catching my glimpse all day.  Certainly on the "wish list."
Here's another one on the "wish list" - Kickstep. 
Which one's are mine?  The freshest....

Cold Smoke at its best.

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Patron, Jose Cuervo or Cazadores?

No, i'm not a Tequila Connoisseur.  The Shrink (AKA. Meg) and I skied Tequila Bowl on Sunday.  Temps were only in the single digits, and the howling wind made it feel more like -10F.

We started at the Arctic Valley trailhead, and skinned up Toklat Creek to the saddle between Mount Gordon Lyon and Rendezvous Peak.  There was about 3-4" of blower powder on top of a firm carve-able base.  There was a parking lot full of patrons at the AVSA.  Looked like a fun day with all of the lifts running.

Meg on the final ascent to the saddle.
 Posing for a quick picture.  That's Eagle Peak in the background (left).
 Perfecting the powder turn with her new K2 "Got Back's".
The reward was wings and beer at the Peanut Farm!

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Front Range Powder...

It seems like I never get to use the post title "Front Range Powder".  Something like "Snowed a little bit, and the wind took it away" would be more appropriate for our Anchorage bowl powder explorations.  But these last two small storm systems dropped some very nice low density snow.  Old Man Wind didn't blow everything away, but deposited the snow in gullies.  Eric, B-real and I pretty much skied out the main Harp/Two Bowl drainage.

Eric and Stella sniff out the dry powder.
B-real enjoying the untracked experience.
Yours truly milking my own turns from the day prior.
It was so good, we skied this drainage three days in a row.  Despite the stellar skiing, we did find some widespread instabilities.  Many E-NE aspects that became windloaded during the storm were ripping out remotely.  These occurred on steeper slopes (30+).  While skinning up the lookers left Harp bowl, the entire slope settled ("whoomped") below us.  We saw shooting cracks and fractures in the gully.  Had this slope been steeper, the entire gully would've ripped out.  I had an immediate desire to go and enjoy the beer in the back of my truck.

But we did enjoy some turns in the nice south facing slopes.

 Lobita enjoying the down.
On Saturday, I participated in the Observer Training sponsored by the CNFAIC.  Avalanche Forecasters Kevin Wright and Wendy Wagner took a group of 7 skiers up to Tincan.  Their goal is to empower the public to submit quality snow observations and make their job of forecasting better and more realistic.  These guys did a phenomenal job and have some amazing knowledge of snow science and avalanche hazard and recognition.  We dug a crew served fighting position (AKA snow pit) and talked a bit about the snowpack in Turnagain Pass.  Although our stability tests showed very good results, the deep-slab instabilities that exist will certainly keep me off of steep terrain with high consequences.  Todays forecast certainly shows what spatial variability and a thin snowpack in certain places will do.

Drawing our sector sketches and going over the rest plan.
Quote I heard while doing a Compression Test: "Ski it if it's white!"

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