« Rainier Speed (Updated 6-5-13) | Main | May Powder »

Grudge Rematch

Google Earth graphic of the day's objective.Since I’ve failed to get my partners motivated for a proper alpine start up here in AK, I decided to have one myself on Saturday. The season is rapidly coming to an end with temps in the 70s this weekend. But I wanted to finish the season with a grudge rematch on the line I took a fall on not too long ago.

Haven't done this in awhileSo, I set the alarm for 4am and was hiking and then skiing by 5:30. With the sun up early in these parts it didn’t feel that alpine but, hey, it’s Alaska. Who needs a headlamp? Mountains always look better in the morning

Still, the light was super cool, quite different than what I’ve seen most trips with the typical crack of 11am start.

Easier to see the brownies this time of yearThe first 30 minutes was on dirt and the walking easy. One problem this time of year are bears...goddamn bears! I was packing bear spray and the bushes were thin but still. I had a patient last spring that was mauled in these parts. Scares the crap out of me.

Once on snow, the frozen surface made for fast travel. I’ve sweltered on this approach most other trips so it was nice to be in the shadows. Still, I was in a t-shirt and, as I got closer to my objective, worried that even the shady, north-facing couloirs would be mank. The line sits on the sun lit buttress in the center

More Google Earth fun. Cool line, isn't it?? I thought this right up until I was booting 20 feet below the entrance to the couloir. There, the snow had a nearly winter quality to it, just what I hoped.Up we go

Surprisingly, this time of year, the gut of the line gets some early morning sun. This melted the thin glaze on the exposed surface but also started lobbing projectiles my way from the adjacent rock walls. Most of these were ice and snow so I continued. I didn’t see anything big and the top of the line was still in shade.

At one point, I small point release took off from the wall to my right. It went by me but would have been interesting if I was lower when it went. I was beginning to think my rematch was doomed. I persisted.

My grudge match game face.The snow quality improved higher up. I topped out, had a look around, took a few pictures and transitioned. I was ready to get this monkey off my back. I had powder for the first hundred vertical. The wall shedding created a runnel or two in the mid section but there was enough space on the shoulders to make turns. I still had to be careful. I couldn’t afford any mistakes on the firmer surface.

The descent went by without incident. I collected my stuff and headed over to the second, wider couloir further east. The sun was higher now. The tops of the peaks were warming rapidly. I skinned up past the schrund and made my assessment. Saved for later.Lot’s of runnels on this one indicating frequent debris dumping down its course.  It’s much wider so the potential for bigger problems was there. I hemmed and hawed and finally relented. This one would have to wait.

I thought about other distractions around me. Lot’s of things to ski. But the air was still and forecasted temps were near 70 down low. I figured it was better to get out while the trail out was still frozen.

I can’t remember ever having so much fun on mellow terrain. The valley is low angle and everything was baby butt smooth. I could basically go wherever I wanted; doing GS turns at will on the frozen corn surface. Pays to be early. I was able to skate over a couple of rises and was booting down the dirt trail in no time. Mission accomplished.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (6)

2nd one? Pussy ;-)

May 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDane

You are what you eat, Dane.

Besides, if I got beaned on that one I wouldn't be able to come down to the PNW and drag your gasping hide all over the place. Prepare yourself for impact!

May 29, 2013 | Registered CommenterBrian

Why are you so hung up on alpine starts? It takes all of 2.5 hours to get to the base of ***** from the trailhead you chose. And your couloir ends several hundred feet below the summit so it's not like it's a long day. Alpine starts are for days when you actually travel for more than a few hours and actually ski off the top of something big.

May 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Really Dave? Are those your rules or something you read in the Holy Grail of mountaineering? Maybe you're the Obe Wan of ski alpinism and I'm just a punter.

Did you actually ski off something "big" on Saturday? Did you even go outside? I sort of feel stupid even entertaining the comment but a blog is only entertainment anyway so .....

How could you even know what I had in mind that day? You can't. Maybe it was a longer day and the warm temps had me deciding otherwise. Hmmm. Yep, that could be it. Forecast was for temps in the 60s. Purty darn warm in my book. Early start's a must.

Leave early and get to travel on frozen ground and return on the same. Easy money there.

Leave early and travel when it's cool. Go faster and need less water. Lighter pack. Yes, please!

Leave early and not have melty things falling on your head while ascending your objective. That seems smart.

Leave early so you can enchain multiple objectives if conditions indicate. Sound strategy.

Leave early so you can get home sooner and have time to do something else. Some people have real jobs and can use the luxury.

Leave early so you can be the first on and off your objective. Now there's an idea.

If none of this resonates with you or makes even the tiniest bit of sense than you can stick to your criteria for alpine starts. You won't be alone.

May 30, 2013 | Registered CommenterBrian

Damn near spit my nutty buddy all over the key board. Thanks for the laugh Brian. Better than the obvious I guess. If you'd made a proper start on those long Alaska spring days you'd have gotten in the 2nd onjective with ease. 4:48am was legit sunrise on the 25th.

You had 6 hrs to use that head lamp. wtf happened, you sleep in? Good to know I'll have time to get a Starbucks every morning whle you're around ;-)

Remember, "the easy way to feel strong is go out with a weak partner" :)

May 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDane

I know, Dane, right? It wasn't even dark. Honestly, though, I'm kinda scared cruising around the real dark up here with all the damn Brownies out in those parts.

You can get your coffee at home next week and we'll go out "properly early".

May 31, 2013 | Registered CommenterBrian

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>