Thursday, April 21, 2011

04/02/11 Russian Crust

The crust hadn't set up many places yet. I knew there was some in the Russian Lakes Area from a trip I was on the weekend prior. This trip was a mix of crust on groomed trails, variable off-trail crust, and great crust on Lower Russian Lake. Not perfect conditions, but it was great to start enjoying the short crust season!

I skied through the Russian River Campground to the Russian Lakes Trail, onto Lower Russian Lake, up Russian River, into clearings East of the river, to the Russian River Falls Trail, and explored the campground. I left at 9:30 and returned to the trailhead at 4. I also checked out a trail leading East from the campground. It may have been a Forest Service Road. My route was 19.3 miles with 1400' of elevation gain.

My original plan was to ski to Pothole Lake over Skilak Lake & River, but there was barely any snow on the ground. These were the conditions I found off Skilak Lake Road.

A little bit of glaciation on the Russian Lakes Trail.

 Bumpy crust with brush just under the surface. It didn't freeze really hard the night before, and the crust wasn't firm enough for optimal skiing.

 Prescribed burn area to provide moose with denser vegetation for browsing in the future.

 Luckily the USFS public-use cabins are nicer than this shack.

 I think I'll walk across.

 Great Crust-Skiing on Lower Russian Lake!

 Skate Lane

 In hopes that there would be skiing up-river I crossed a couple meager snow bridges.

 Where's the snow?

 I found a nice crust stash East of the river & lake.

 Snow coverage on the lake was getting thin.

 The Barber Cabin is sweet! I should stay here some weekend.

 Russian River Falls Trail

 Deck at the falls

On the way back from the falls, I encountered a small brown bear on the trail coming in my direction. He quickly turned around and ran off. Bear spray might not be a bad thing to carry crust-skiing.

I explored the campground at the end of the day. The grooming made the skiing very enjoyable. Nice place to trail-ski near Cooper Landing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

04/18/11 "Double Glacier" - Crust Skiing to Skookum and Spencer Glaciers

Last Thursday's weather was less than optimal for fun crust skiing. Monday was very different. I really wanted to see the Skookum Glacier. To add some more miles, I decided to check out the Spencer Glacier once again. A day of sun & glide!

I started at Alder Pond again at 7:45 (for directions see the last post). More openings were showing up in the ice. Same slog through alders, wetlands, and the creek crossing. With the low snowpack this year, any area with brush poking through wasn't very supportable. By 11:30 it was almost unskiable; it was especially bad in the trees/brush near Spoencer Lake. Away from brush & out in the open, the crust held up until 2:45. My route was 29.5 miles without much elevation gain. I got back to a mushy Alder Pond at 4:15. The glaciers have receded quite a bit since the map was produced; I didn't actually ski up the glaciers. Unroped this could be quite dangerous.

 Skookum & Placer Valleys from the Seward Highway.

 Lots of these popping up in Alder is getting thin. Pretty sketchy in the afternoon.

 Hiking during the Portage sunrise.

 The water in the creek was shallowest on the failed beaver dam, but it was still higher than my overboots. Got a little damp.

 Yup there's still crust to ski!

 Effortless cruising up Skookum Valley.

 Carpathian & Skookum

 Skookum Glacier. I couldn't miss it this time!

Fun rolling terrain in Skookum Valley.

Skookum Glacier

 V2 in paradise.

 Heading up Placer Valley.

 I think I'm on the Spencer Glacier Trail.

The skiing was so epic my binding gave up near Spencer Glacier Lake. It was functional, but cracked in a couple places. I'm glad it stayed together because I was 10 miles from my car.

 Spencer Glacier Lake

 Tincan Mountain (not the popular bc skiing destination). It can be accessed from Center Creek Pass, and needs a visit from my splitboard.

 Center Creek Pass, Tincan Mountain & Placer River

 Spencer Whistle Stop

 AT&T fiber-optic cable following the AK Railroad.

Passing by Skookum Valley.

 Crust-skiers gettin' some!

 Back to overboot terrain.

You know it's a good day when your exhausted at the end. We'll see if the crust holds up next weekend. Middle Fork/South Fork Loop? Turnagain Pass? I guess I'll need to buy some new bindings first.