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.
Wide open crust.
I wonder if this snowmachiner saw this crossing coming. Quite the jump.
Crossing the Glacier River.
Some people got some turns with Chugach Powder Guides.
Twentymile River Bridge on the Seward Highway