Sunday, January 31, 2010

The title of this post is at the end of the video

video
Keith very eloquently sums up this weekend in words that I cannot, at least not on this blog. This was certainly a weekend of saying words perhaps we normally should not. The f-word, certainly, but another word comes to mind as well, the b-word.
No, no, not a b-word that refers to a female dog, I was thinking of the word "best."
Best is a word I hate to use.
By definition, if I experience, and admit that something is the best, I would have to acknowledge that I may never have an experience that's better. I'm far too young to be hitting any peaks yet.
So it is with much hesitation and consternation that I say that these past two weekends have probably been the best snowboarding conditions I've had in my life.
Read that statement like I just wrote the f-word umpteen times in a row instead, because that's what it feels like in my gut to publicly to admit that.
That being said, I really haven't been here all that long in the scheme of things nor have I seen all the terrain this land has to offer. In other words, the ceiling is still a very long ways overhead, even if I'm now looking down at whatever the previous best was.

I'll shut up now and let the photos do the talking.

Friday Keith and I got a leisurely start at Ravens Ridge in Summit Pass.


The day started with some typical Kenai God wrath that made for some epic lighting and heavy wet snow down low. Very early on the gods tinkled on us a little, but then moved on and took the clouds with them. As we gained elevation we hit the freeze line and the snow, still cold from the previous week, lightened up underneath.

Keith's mirrored goggles offer a different angle of the mountains. (Click to enlarge.)


(CTE)


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(CTE)




Saturday the "Peninsula Posse," Pete, myself and two others, rendezvoused back at the base of Raven's under some brilliant bluebird. Cold temps overnight sucked the moisture from snow below the freeze line lightening things back up.
Jack had already blazed an uptrack another 500+ vertical feet up the rib above where Keith and I had been stopping the day before.

Clear views all the way to Tern Lake.


And to a fog bound Turnagain Arm.






(CTE)


You can't not smile. (CTE)




The next round Jack and I pushed all the way up the rib and scrambled over a low spot in the cornice to reach the wind whipped summit ridge.

No snow to be found up here.

But some pretty good views.


Oh, and a pretty awesome run with an adrenaline pumping launch point. (CTE)



(CTE)


(CTE)


I know I've posted this view before, but it's still unbelievable to throw your head over your shoulder and see this.

Rach this is for you, per request. (CTE)


While we were skiing a little red plane touched down and took off twice on the lake below us. I found the plane on Tern Lake on the way home. Not sure what happened.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's not as dark

Ok I'll start off, no, no pictures from the trip. This as, was expected, has been another busy week. The good news is, life is getting back to relative normalcy, whatever that is.

On Monday night I stepped out of the office about 10 minutes to six, and blinked in what felt like the bright light.
In all reality, the sun had set just less then an hour ago, but the last tinges of twilight left the parking lot more than bright enough, and I thought to myself, this confirms it, it's brighter this year.
As we head into the final days of January we leave behind what I consider to be the darkest days of the year.
Last year I wrote (link) about the fallacy and myth that surrounds Alaska's dark winters, at least in my opinion.
The short of it was that my first winter I looked on worriedly as the sun hung lower and lower in the sky and the days shrunk at rapid speed.
By solstice however I saw that my active lifestyle and positive mental attitude kept the darkness at bay.
All the same, I couldn't help but feel a little intimidated by it.
Last year, my focus was on the dark. It was always, "Look how dark it is, look how much daylight's been lost, look how long it takes the sun to rise every morning."
I was looking for it.
I distinctly remember an October day in 2008, after a long period of rain, the sky broke and the sun shone. I strode across camp for something, and stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of the sun, still struggling to make it over the tops of the scraggly spruce, hours after it had risen. The sight scared me to think what was to come.
There is something to be said about the shock effect of having long periods of rain where the sun is out of sight and suddenly to see it shining one day as well, a common weather pattern in the fall here.
Anyway, this year, as early as October, things seemed brighter.
I waited every week though to feel that same pressing fear I felt the year before. It's the same sensation I've had when the shadows of the trees stretch long across the forest floor in woods I don't recognize, only the haunting feeling follows me everywhere.
Still it didn't come, and more often I found I was surprised how early the light returned in the morning and disappeared in the evening compared to what I remembered.
Then came Thanksgiving. This was the beginning of the darkest days. Until late January, I'd drive to work in the dark, watch the sun beam its weak twilight for over an hour as it worked so hard to clear the horizon, then sink again, leaving me to drive home and put in a ski in the dark.
Trips to the backcountry were dialed back by the light. Hit the summit too early, and the lighting was flat leaving us to careen down the mountain unable to differentiate up from down. Hardly could we get two runs in before were were looking at our watches and the disappearing ball of fire.
After work, the headlights of oncoming cars burned my eyes.
I noticed a little of that this year, absolutely.
More however, I felt like my experience Monday was just as likely.
Indeed, there was no solar event that made things brighter this year, but sometime after Turkey day, I began to wonder.
Certainly there were more then a few times I cursed the low light these past two months, but for whatever reason, it seemed like the darkness was less noticeable.
I can only reason it through another experience I sometimes have. The first time I drive, hike or bike somewhere new, where I'm not sure of my surroundings, it always seems to take an exceptionally long time relative to whatever distance I might be covering.
I've noticed this over and over again.
To an extent I imagine that I might actually be going slower as I absorb new sights and sensations or watch for unknown junctions or landmarks.
When I do these same trips again later however, they almost always feel like they go by quicker by orders of magnitude though.
I think my journey through the darkness last year was much the same. I know this trail, even in the murky depths of a stormy new moon winter night.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Big white lines

Good stability, bomber powder and clear blue skies in the backcountry this weekend reminded me why I live in this cold land and not the sunny southwest. Lots of big white lines were pushed in Turnagain this weekend by many, the internets is a crawling with eye popping photos. I got out to Pete's North and Lips on Friday and Saturday respectively spraying my share of feathery white "hero snow" all over the place.
Saturday was especially epic with a nice run down a not too aggressive though still pretty sweet couloir. I was so focused on the descent when I reached the transition spot I found I was breathing about as hard as I would if I'd been wading waist deep in the snow.
I skied with Jack make sure to stop over to his blog for more excellent photos from both days including two very nice shots of your truly.

Here's a few selected shots from Pete's:
Jack. (Click to enlarge).


The ridge traverse of Pete's was narrow and covered in slippery hoar frost.


Jack and I viewed this couloir on Lips from Pete's. The next day we both added our signature to it as well.


(CTE).








(CTE).


(CTE).

On Saturday, Jack and I were joined by Ethan and Pete B, not to be confused with tele Pete.



On the second run Jack and I decided to ski the couloir.

Jack. (CTE).


Headed -- down.

I signed my line to the looker right near the rib while Jack started from the left then crossed over scooted across the rib and made his own line between the rocks. (CTE).

And headed up.


Ethan and Pete. (CTE).





Pete's North saw a lot of action on Saturday though I can't say there seemed to be much untracked snow left by the time Jack and I got done with it the day before. I'm sure these two and the other four we saw still found some terrain but I was happy we went to Lips and saw no one until the end of the day.

Ethan. (CTE).

Jack. (CTE).

Hero shot on a hero snow day. (CTE).


Also, my astute readers will probably realize I had no Thursday post, and thus still no promised vacation photos. I swear I'm working on it, but this past week was unusually busy and unfortunately I anticipate the same from this week but I'll do my best.