Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Vermont, so far...

...so good.

The one thing to be counted on when it comes to Yankee winter times is that there's not always much to be counted upon, at least for snow.
This year, New England, and much of the northeast, has had a wintry holiday, thankfully, and while there's lots of travelers who probably don't agree with me, I can't complain.

After 12 or so hours in the air or in line on trip that departed somewhere in the nether hours between Wednesday and Thursday in frigid Anchorage, I landed in New Jersey on Thursday afternoon.
A delicious dinner was waiting with Rachel's family though, and all's well that ends well, even when it comes to holiday travel.
Rach and I awoke Christmas Eve day and hit the road north to East Middlebury.
New Jersey was still looking rather brown when we left, and actually some yards even still had a green-ish lawns, but as we headed up the Northway, we started seeing more and more signs of winter.

We made sure to stop off in Saratoga to have lunch with Scott and make a drive-by of campus before heading on our way.

Right around the Vermont border, as usual and I'll say confidently to no surprise of my own, snow started to cover the ground - thinly - but consistently.

Anyone want some alpacas? I didn't even notice the sign when I snapped the picture, but now that I have, I couldn't resist posting. I hear they make great house pets.

Quintessential red barns in snowy fields with snowy mountains in the backdrop.

On Christmas Day, itching to ski like a kids with chicken pox, Rachel and I went to the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, which was closed for the day, to ski: yours truly on skates and Rachel booting up for some alpine turns.

I forgot to grab the camera, but Rachel skied one full plus two half laps down the Lang through the solstice Vermont dusk, while I skated halfway up three times. I forgot that going backwards up ski hills, no matter how small or easy the trail may be, is still pretty gruelling work.

On the 27th, I met up with Amy and pup, Cassie, to do a tour in the foot of snow that had fallen the night before on trails in Ripton.
Trail breaker.

Snowy roads.

Amy skis on by on the way back down to the car. Cassie, in tow, spend much of the day breaking trail for us, leaping through the drifts that sometimes were knee deep.

Lead dog.

Mom and I had a sunny ski at Breadloaf on the 28th

Vermont trails.

They're pretty great.

I'll be back in AK on the 2nd, with a follow up post next week.
See ya next year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tis the season

It's that time of year again. My sympathy for store cashiers who have to listen to those same Christmas tunes all day is at an all-time high, it's darker than night most of the day, colder outside than the North Pole, and the snow is sugary sweet.
This and next weekend will be the two shortest of the year, but I sure didn't let this one get away.
I headed to Lips in Turnagain Pass with Josh D, "Denny Laine" and Brian on Saturday. We were met up by Keith and Mike who brought a Peninsula Posse along.
The lower reaches of Lips was an alder-hell, we need another big storm to knock things down, but once we made it a couple hundred feet above the highway elevation it opened up. We ended up spending most of the day in the alpine on Lip's south face, making three runs in snow that varied from sweet to scritchy. On the way out we found excellent snow on the low angle terrain in the alders, though the eventual exit was pretty tough trying to work through the alder prison. No photo evidence from this adventure, I forgot to grab a fresh battery.

Sunday I met up with Pete and Kasilof Karl under the the slopes of Colorado Peak in Summit Pass. We were joined again by Keith and Mike as well as Steve and Greg.
With a strong inversion in place, a thick layer of fog had formed at the pass, and for the first 45 minutes we broke trail in surprisingly deep dry fine summit powder wandering through the cold mist.

When we finally broke out we were treated to a fine view.

I don't know what caused Karl to make this funny face, but I love it. This and the next picture sum up the whole day.

I know why he was making this face.

Pete. While the northerly gully Jack and I skied (LINK) last February looked good, sun is a rare thing this time of year, so we proceeded to do our best to track out the main face from the hemlock line (apx. 2,800') down. The aforementioned elevation was where the snow went from good to variable to tundra in less than 100' vert. Interestingly enough, on my second run, I came across a skier wearing all read (not Pete), who no one else saw. When I told Karl and Pete about this mysterious figure in red, Karl wanted to know if maybe he was being led by a red nosed reindeer and had a sack over his shoulder. Now I'm not one to believe in miracles, but on the next climb we saw ski tracks heading into the northerly gully, and about five minutes after passing by it's entrance, we heard a bellowing "HO-HO-HO" coming from down the mountain.
True story, and said gully has since been officially named, "Santa Claus Gully.

One another note, we missed a National Geographic photographers dream scene when we found the site of a face-off between a lynx and a wolverine on the backside of the prominent knoll on Colorado's main face slope. It appeared that the two found each other, exchanged fighting words, pranced around making two large circles in the snow, before they each went their own separate ways. I can only imagine what that would have looked like with the moonlight reflecting off of the white peaks and snow clad pines in the background while the two predators sized eachother up, snarling and gnashing their teeth.

Pete again.

Pete, again, with the same smile. Must have been really good snow.

Spirit Walker Mountain, Lower Summit Lake below.

Hale Bop towering above Raven's Ridge (LINK perspective shot, standing under Hale Bop last May).

Summit Pass-north in the shadow of Fresno Ridge. Everyone was feeling it after run three, and while the rest of the crew bid their farewells and headed downward, Pete made his puppy dog eyes to Karl, pleading that we make a half ascent to top out for a longer exit run in the waning twilight. Karl, exhausted as he was, couldn't say no, and up we went, for a twilight exit.

Moon rising over Hale Bop.

Past sunset.

People from other places ask, "How do we survive the long winters in this place?" Funny thing is, I wonder the same thing about them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Front range frustration leads to summit success

Jack and I ventured to the South Fork area in Eagle River just north of the city on Saturday in the hopes of finding front range goods.
Jack welcomed me to my first front range adventure in what he said were rather typical conditions for the wind hammered mountains that tower over Anchorage.
We found a scant few inches of dust on top of a bullet proof crust from the Thanksgiving rain event.
We climbed through a low saddle into a bowl that I wouldn't feel comfortable identifying here for fear of calling it the wrong name, and ventured to a summit above.
The first dozen or so turns from the top were not too bad, but then the crust become too prevalent and unsupportable, making the rest of the steeper part of the bowl pretty terrible. The low-angle terrain in the basin however, was not too bad, though was scary thin.
It was powder mining, make a few turns on a vein of powder that had been deposited in a minor depression, make a few scritchy turns on the crust to the next vein, and so on.
We did two laps in the aspect before venturing back through the saddle and down the otherside.
It was a bit of a throwback to east coast turns, between the thin cover, bipolar puckerfactor-to-bliss-to-puckerfactor decent.On the final run out we we hugged the alders and the gullys, running over blueberry bushes just like I used to in the blueberry meadow on little Hogback Mountain in Goshen Vt.
Knuckledragging down a hiking trail back to the parking lot, hopping and jumping to avoid rocks, I swore I'd find green mountain licence plates on the cars.

Jack about to descend into the bowl. The South Fork of Eagle River Valley is over the ridge. We came through the saddle in the center and out run ended just about where the photos does in the gully below.

Views of Anchorage to the west.

Jack, silhouetted across the bowl. On the second climb up the bowl Jack and I attacked different sides of the climb, though we topped out at the same time.

After two weeks with no turns, even in the not-so-great conditions it felt to get out and carve.

On Sunday Jack and I headed south to Summit Pass, meeting up with Michael and George in Girdwood, and redevousing with Josh O at the Fresno Ridge lot.
Down low we found significantly more of the supper light dry snow deposited on the same crust.





George, Michael and Josh were feeling the burn after the second run and the three decided to descend out. I might have been feeling it a lot more too and join them, however, my skins started loosing sticktion on the second climb and I was forced to stop and try and rejuvenate them, ultimately taping the tails to keep them from peeling back. The near TSF saved me from grueling trail-breaking while the other four plowed through putting in a new uptrack.
Jack and I made a third run, not leaving too much daylight on the table.

Is it next weekend yet?
(No Thursday blog since this one came so late in the week. Check back Tuesday morning.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Right, it's Thursday, blog day

As I was munching on my dinner, feeling content in the wake of my debut after work ski here in Los Anchorage, I realized that today is Thursday, and I normally post to this here blog on Thursdays.
The change to a Monday-Friday schedule may take some getting used to, and perhaps the blog will have to adapt as well. Time will tell.

The past week and a half has basically been lots of just that actually, adapting that is.
I was being introduced to some new coworkers a few days ago and someone made a comment about how I was adjusting to the move, sort of in jest. Most of the other recent hires have been brought up from Outside and are learning to adapt to short daylight, sub-zero cold and half-ton ungulates mulling about in major intersections in the middle of the day.
While I've seen all those things before and then some, Anchorage is a far different world from the central Pen. My new drive to work for example, is but 10 miles, not even half what I used to commute, yet takes about as much time on the way home as the former. I spend most if it in bumper to bumper traffic surrounded on all sides by tall (relatively speaking) buildings and flashing lights.
Right, then there's the job, which, though familiar, involves all new processes and systems in languages of code or organization it will take time to learn.
If that sounds scary, or intimidating, it is; but it's exciting too, and feels better by the day.

Last Wednesday I headed back down to the Peninsula borrowing Joe's truck to haul up the rest of my stuff with and enjoy a holiday and long weekend with friends.

My humble contribution of a salad to compliment an excellent meal prepared by Keith, Edie and John at Kieth and Edie's new place on Kalifonsky Beach.

On Friday morning Keith and I took their dog Maya for a walk down the beach where we enjoyed some great views of Redoubt.

Then the fun began. We set up Keith's new trap thrower, compliments of John, on the bluff in the backyard. It took a while to get a handle on the skeet, and with a couple different guns, each one shot a little different. Once I got a handle on one though, it was a blast, no pun intended.

Christmas card material.

We were soon joined by others including Kyle and Emily, who brought a second thrower.

We couldn't have asked for a better day.

Despite only a supply of wet fuel, Kyle got a blaze going in the fire pit.

A pretty good day. We shot off 200 some odd rounds.