Saturday, March 31, 2012

Heli-powered hut trip at Rosie's Roost

As we were having breakfast and checking the weather forecast in the Alyeska resort daylodge (fastest internet from a daylodge I've ever seen!), there seemed to be a nice weather window in the coming days on the forecast. We have actually been waiting for days for a continuous nice weather window to get drop off to a backcountry cabin just out of Girdwood.

Even if the sky was pretty cover with clouds, we figured we could probably drive to Alpine Air Service (heli company) to see our chances to fly out on the same day. We thought they would probably reply that we were stupid or something and that we only had to look up to realize how jam was the sky but we tried nevertheless.

Instead of laughing at our request the simply reply: 'Yeah, probably around 12h30. Is that work for you?! Our pilot reported that it is quite sunny up there today!!'

Of course it was working for us and we quickly started packing for a 4 days (3 nights) at Rosie's Roost Hut in the Chugach State Park next from Girdwood.

So 2 hours after the first thought about getting the heli-drop that day, we were in the heli flying through the clouds and heading to the top of Eagle Glacier.

We landed after an about 10-15 minutes flight on the top of Eagle Glacier under some terrific blue sky.

After a short hike to a nearby peak to oversee the inversion we were on top of, we roped on and started our trek down Eagle Glacier towards Rosie's Hut. 

There was about a foot of fresh snow on the way down so it eventually took us about 2-3 hours to ski down this glacier (If I had to do it again, I would be getting drop off at the top of West Fork of the Eagle Glacier which offer a better skiable slope and a shorter hike).

After about an hour or so after we got to the cabin, an other group skiing down the west fork of the Eagle Glacier showed up at the hut. This eclectic German-American team was there to complete the Eklutna Traverse and documenting there journey in part of the Ataraxia project. We would share the cabin for the next two days with those very cool and funny guys. 

They were actually more into kiting and speed flying that glacier crossing and they were using this traverse as a training trip before going for different objectives in the coming months including kiting up Mt Markus Baker (highest peak of the Chugach Mountain. 

We headed the following morning to a nearby valley going up towards a col that was giving us a really nice view of the Raven Creek valley.  We had a wonderful morning with great visibility and the snow nice and stable. 

Unfortunately, as we got to the col, the clouds moved in and we had really poor visibility on the way down….. making really poor pictures. 

We moved back to the hut and eventually, the clouds kept moving in. So we stayed in and share good time with the Germans.

The following morning brought again some great weather. On our previous hike, we've spotted a slope quite close from the hut that would be a great skiing ground.

We were sooooooooooooooooooooooo right!!!

The snow was really nice, steady and… tasty!

We lapped the slope a few times but we eventually got back to the hut saving some legs for the hike out of the hut we've plan for the following day. 

The forecast was calling for some clouds and snow moving late in the afternoon so we figured it would be good if we woke up early and climb out of the hut before the bad weather moved in. We originally planned to go to bed early but the night was just too nice to sleep early. 

The wind shook the hut all night making me wonder how the weather would be on the morning. 

We made it up fairly early to our standard (which means 7AM) and left the hut around 9AM. The weather was not so great but not so bad so we left thinking we would still be fine. 

On our way climbing the West Fork of the Eagle Glacier, we wind got really bad and the visibility really poor. We kept climbing anyways despite the 10m visibility and the 100km/h wind. As we got close to the Raven Headwall, Babiche remotely triggered a foot thick slab. it didn't went any far but the really poor visibility made us wonder how to safely ski down the Raven Headwall (a 50degrees slopes) with the new overnight light snow. 

We kicked the cornice at the top of the headwall since we were not able to see the conditions of the slope. Fortunately, it seemed that the wind hasn't created any wind slab on the headwall but created instead a nice 50 degrees hockey rink!

As I stepped on the slope, it was much harder than what I would originally thought so we got the ice axe out (first time for me skiing with an ice axe); just in case. We stayed close from the sharp wall and made it down safely on the Raven Glacier. Sorry no picture! We were a bit focused on what we were doing!!!

We had originally thought to ski down the Milk Glacier which is suppose to be the best ski down but due to the poor visibility, we changed plans and ski down the Raven Glacier which flat enough to ski down roped on.

At the bottom of the Raven Glacier, we roped off and made it out in the Crow Pass valley. The visibility didn't get much better on the way down and the ski down was far from great with all the snow being stripped from the slopes due to the high wind. 

We eventually reached out the Crow Pass road after crossing multiple fresh avalanche and having to get the ice axe once more to ski a steep icy slope.

The 6 miles ski out on the Crow Pass road was fairly fast due to the really firm icy road. 

After getting our car back from the Alpine Air we did the only things to do after such a nice trip: head to the nearest cold beer and burger! 

With not even a week ahead of us before leaving it looks like we'll most likely hit the car-accessible backcountry stuff until we leave.

Few more days before heading back home!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Alyeska, (Again) Turnagain Pass and Peterson Creek

As planned, we headed to the resort the following morning. The High Traverse, the North Face and Max's Traverse were all closed the previous day.  We got our ticket and lined up in somewhat one of the shortest lineup i've seen for a powder day!
All the areas previously mentioned were closed at the opening and as everyone were skiing under the chair and ripping the overnight freshies, it was easy to feel the anxiety of everyone to hit those areas. People were lining up next to the gates waiting for the green light from the ski patrols. The High Traverse was the first to open and everyone rushed to get a line. 
We got in line and got a few laps while people were packing at the gates of the North Face. We missed the opening and showed up about 15 minutes after it opened. We quickly understood while everyone were lining up since the terrain is big and steep. There were still some fresh turns to be done and we got some good lines. 
We pretty much stayed on the North Face (located pretty much under the Tram) the remaining of the day. That was certainly a really nice way for Amelie to end her trip in Alaska as she was flying at 22h30 the same night!
After some packing, we drove back to Anchorage to drop her.
I was now only with Babiche for the next 2 weeks. 

After some midnight shopping (this is somewhat weird to have the grocery opened 24h for me), we drove back to Girdwood.

The following day was a bit under the cloud as we leave Girdwood to drive back to Turnagain Pass. On our way, the cloud became fog and as we were driving up the pass, the blue sky showed up!
We figured it would be nice to ski Tincan for which Babiche has heard a lot of good thing. We were certainly not the only one to have thought about this since it was probably the most crowded skintrack I've ever seen! 
As you get higher up, the ridge become quite narrow and sharp and there was some really nice couloirs on the north side. We didn't know exactly were we were going so we kept hiking. We eventually got to a big opening were one after the other, skiers were dropping on this wide open face! 
We got inline and I had probably my longest run of the year! By the bottom, my legs were burning. It was weird for me not to stop to take some pictures but it was too good to stop! We got back up for another run. Most of the couloirs that we've walk pass now had 1 or 2 tracks in them so we picked one each and dropped in!!
This was another great steep run on the north side of Tincan!

From the bottom, we figured we could easily ski out. If we had knew, we would have probably hike back up because we had to pole quite a lot. I think it is not much effort to hike a little bit back on the ridge instead of pushing your way out at the bottom.
We came back the following day to Eddies which lay just north of Tincan. The terrain looked a bit mellow compare to Tincan, but since we've both have never skied it, we gave it a go. The bottom part is certainly a pain since there are a lot of up and down. I think the approach in certainly one of the reason why there is not as many people in Eddies as in Tincan. 
Once you're past the bottom, the climb is much steady. The skintrack gently climb the rolling slope all the way up. The terrain was as we thought (a bit flat) but due to the beautiful weather, we couldn't complain too much!!!
We then figured, it would be great to try something different than Turnagain. Since it has been really easy to get a lot of information from the people we met on the skintrack, we headed to Peterson Creek just (about 5 miles) south of Girdwood.
We parked straight on the road and started to climb the drainage on a newly put skintrack. Due to the avy conditions, we were quite happy to realize that our trail-breaker has open the skintrack on a ridge that was climbing all the way to a plateau. From this plateau, there is a terrific view of the Peterson Headwall. We spend about an hour warming up in the sun and looking at different lines that would have been possible with better snow conditions. 
We eventually cut our dream short and headed down. This is really a great run as the slopes drop quite constantly all the way back to the creek bed. The sun has started to bake most of the face that it sees. There is a lot of north facing aspect on this run to make it down of fluffy snow!
Today was my first day off since I started skiing in Alaska. My credit card company has cancelled my credit card with which I've rented the car we were using. We now had to drive back to Anchorage to fix this issue…. thanks VISA!!!
Since the grocery in Girdwood is really limited and expensive, we bought food for almost the rest of our trip in Anchorage. We also use some of our spare time to practice our crevasse rescue skills. Babiche school me in an elementary schoolyard the basic for our next little adventure!
Stay tuned for more, winter is not over yet!