Sunday, January 29, 2012

01/28/12 "We should've gone to Alyeska." Shlarping the Gnar on Pyramid Peak (3378')

Turnagain Pass keeps on giving this winter. While Anchorage is in the deep freeze, a temperature inversion and sunshine made for some nice riding conditions in Turnagain Pass. I'm always looking to check out new places to ski, and the objective today was Pyramid Peak (on the motorized side). 6.4 miles and +3550' in 6 hours.

As we drove towards the pass Turnagain arm had a fog layer about 1500 feet up making us question our destination. We checked the Alyeska webcam and sure enough it was beautiful and sunny at the top of Chair 6. We saw some sun breaking through so it was still a go. We parked at the first powerline crossing on the Seward highway and ran into an Alaska Avalanche School instructor from our class 2 weeks ago. She was teaching the weekend warrior level one course.

We started following a skin track up the powerline and through the woods, but after a short time we were at the base of skiable terrain. We followed a buried skin track and eventually others breaking trail while we made our way up. Before long we arrived at the thin cloud layer; able to see above and below. We encountered more wind affected snow as we climbed. The only slope I questioned all day snow machines mobbed through; that's a pretty good stability test.

Before long we were on Seattle Ridge crest, making our way on wind-affected snow towards Pyramid's broad summit. The views were incredible, the sun felt great, and the riding was fresh snow. At one point I made the sarcastic comment "We should've gone to Alyeska" Ha! We rode down from the summit to a col and skinned up a short ways before the 2800 foot descent.

We ended up staying near the skin track on the ride down much of the way, not knowing the area yet, but there were many good lines up there. The snow on the last pitch was incredible! Another short ski through the forest and back at the lot. Best day in the backcountry so far this winter.

 The snow behind Andy rode incredible!

 Blanket over Turnagain Arm.

 Above and below the blanket.

 upper slopes

 Snowmachiners enjoying the terrain features.

 On the way to Pyramid's summit.

 Small cornice release from wind-loading.

 Seattle Ridge (center)

 Pyramid's and my shadow.




 Shark's Fin, Eddy's, and Tincan Ridge.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

01/21/12 MCA Trip - Ski Tour Glenn Alps to Indian

This trip was planned for December originally, but it was postponed because of 100+ mph winds at Glenn Alps with rain. With 6.5 hours of light now in mid January, there wasn't a lot of time to dawdle. We started at sunrise from the Glenn Alps Trailhead. It's been such a good snow year that snowmachines are allowed in the valley. There was a wide groomed track leading nearly to Ship Lake Pass. If it hadn't been 0F at the trailhead there would have been some fine skate-skiing. Just below the pass the snow got steeper. I opted to traverse towards the pass having only half-skins. I hiked the final push after the snow tuned to boilerplate. 

We finally reached sunshine at the pass, although it was short-lived. We were able to hike towards Ship Lake on mostly bare ground, and some of us glissaded a short ways. The snow was variable once we got our skis back on until we got to the hemlocks. Trail-breaking was fast through a few inches of powder on a firm base. The descent from Indian Creek Pass to Indian was a dream. Everyone in the group agreed the conditions were the best they'd ever seen. The snow was variable in places, but mostly untracked powder.

A few of us skied the Power Line a mile past the Indian Trailhead to the Brown Bear Saloon. A Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and Onions with a Glacier Brewhouse IPA never tasted so good! It took us 6.5 hours to travel 15 miles with 2050 feet of elevation gain.

Ship Lake Pass and the Ramp

Ship Lake Pass and Avalanche Mountain

Descending from Ship Lake Pass.

Descending from Indian Creek Pass.