Sunday, April 8, 2012

04/03/12 Thirtythree Miles of Crust in the Twentymile Valley


4/3/12 Crust Ski to Twentymile Glacier from Justin Wholey on Vimeo.

We had deep snow and solid crust during February of 2007 (see link: http://crust.outlookalaska.com/Skiing2007/ ), but I had to do homework or something less fun than skiing. I've been waiting to crust ski up this valley ever since. We finally had a good snow year, so after a couple days of above freezing temperatures and the forecast for two days of clear skies, I decided I needed to take a day of work to ski up this finicky valley...it was well worth it!

I started the day off successfully by getting to the trailhead before 8am. Unfortunately when I tried to turn around in the parking area I became very stuck. I figured I should go skiing and figure this out when I got back. I started from the snowmachine crossing at the Portage Railroad Depot. I quickly got off the frozen tracks and cut through the willow & alder mess. Before long I was on wide open crust near the Twentymile River.

It was smooth cruising for the first few miles. I encountered a few small water crossings that I was able to cross by poking around. I eventually reached the Glacier River and looked for a good spot to cross the two channels. I used my Wiggy's waders to get through the ankle deep water, but the waders weren't able to hold up to the sharp rocks and a bit of water got in.

The rest of the way to the Twentymile Glacier was pretty straight forward, and I followed the river channel. Just before the lake there was a traverse that sloped into the creek, so I elected to hike up and over to avoid any unnecessary risk of getting wet. I finally made it to the Twentymile Glacier's proglacial lake! I poked around on the lake for a while and finally took off at 12:45 with the crust still bomb-proof.

I didn't want to ski the last part of the trip in mashed potatoes, but I still wanted to see Carmen Lake. I went back and forth whether I would ski there or not, but I had committed by the time I got to the intersection on the rivers. It was well worth it because the crust never really softened much minus some isolated areas.

I lost some steam on the way back, but made pretty good time still. As I got closer to Portage I took a different route and made made some circles in the alders and sloughs. I should have just headed out to the Twentymile River. I was back at my stuck vehicle at 5:30 (9.5 hours and 33 miles later).  After about 30 minutes someone pulled into the lot to help me out. Thanks Kevin! By the time I got back to Anchorage I had just enough time to vote.


Majorly stuck!



Wide open crust.

I wonder if this snowmachiner saw this crossing coming. Quite the jump.









Crossing the Glacier River.




Twentymile Glacier







Small avalanche




Carmen Lake



Minor creek-hopping


Some people got some turns with Chugach Powder Guides.








Twentymile River Bridge on the Seward Highway

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