Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hatcher Pass and a Thompson Pass classic that certainly deserves it's name: Crudbuster

Hatcher Pass is not hard neither easy to find. You can either access it by either Wasilla or Palmer using either the Wasilla-Fishhook or the Palmer-Fishhook road. After having to look for it, I think it is easier to find via Palmer since there is also a small sign on the road. 

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As we got there, we were both shock by the amount of tracks there was! It really looked like a resort!!!  We finally found out that a lot of people were car-shuttling up to lap the lower part. 

As usual, the part that requires to climb haven't seen as many tracks. We aim for a ridge that was starting straight at the parking lot. The climb went really smoothly and we quickly found ourselves at the top of a peak that was overlooking most of the nearby ones. 

It was really a beautiful day and even if the temperature was about -7Celcius at the parking lot, the powder on the sun facing slopes were melting up and becoming more heavy. 

This is just something we learned on our way down….

We've been able to find nice powder on the way down nevertheless!

We left after this rather short day to drive towards Valdez. The great weather was nice since the roads in Alaska are not always greatly maintained and that our car was on 4 seasons tires…

On our way, we witnessed probably the nicest moonrise we've both ever seen. The moon was big, orange and rose straight behind a huge mountain that was just in front of us!

We stopped probably 5 times to take pictures and we finally haven't made it to Valdez and slept in Glenallen.

We woked up to a nice -5Farhenheit (about -20Celcius). As we got to Thompson Pass, the temperatures haven't climbed much, we didn't had great visibility and it was really windy! We chose to go for some willow turns not too far from the road around Mile 42. 

The face we intended to ski wasn't far, but to find a place to cross the river that was separating us from the face made it a much longer hike! 

We eventually made it up not too far and not too high since the conditions were far from ideal!

We then went to all the heli-ski company to try to get an heli-drop like I did few years back with Babiche, but it didn't work this time. Most of the company were either too busy or were charging too much to our budget! Couple of guides pointed us some backcountry options and we opted for Crudbuster around Mile 40. 

The temperature was better and we had good visibility all the way up then we got fogged up as we got to the top and we had to ski in a nice whiteout.

The mix of snow, windcrust and breakable windcrust made it quite a challenge to ski!

We went to the opening party of the Tsaina Lodge. It actually didn't looked too much as a party but rather as a big family reunion. 

We saw most of the guides from all the company we've visited that were here to kick off the heli-ski season. It was a great way to show everyone the installations!

It has been really windy on almost all the days that we've been up at the pass and it seems that the best skiing was between Mile 45 and Mile 35. We spotted from the car a nice crack between the rock and we thought that it would be cool just to skin up this narrow feature. It was also nice since we were sheltered from the wind!

This felt quite weird to be so squeezed in but the slope to climb up was nice and steady.

Just as we got out from the crack, the wind picked up and cut a bit our motivation to climb really high. We were this time able to get some nice powder.

We picked a different line on the way down that featured a mix of cliffs and trees. It was certainly interesting to make it down safely!

We are looking to stay around Thompson Pass for a few more day before having to drive back towards Anchorage to pick up Babiche who will fly in to join me until the end of March!


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