Thursday, April 7, 2011
Turns on Peak 3 After 3
For the last three years I've enjoyed the later half of the year's bountiful daylight to do long bike rides, twilight skate skis, and even late evening hikes after work. One activity has managed to slip from that list season after season though, carving powder, or corn, or really any snow at all. Visible daylight currently stretches until about 9:30 at the moment, at least on clear days, which is more than enough time to get in a lap or two if you can hit the sloped early enough. I've made an effort in the past to make this happen. Last season I planned out an afterwork corn harvest in the Mystery Hills off of the Skyline Trail. My hope was that I would be able to leave work early, and with gear packed, blitz for the hills and scurry to treeline. The problem was that last year, work was an hour drive from the trail head. From there it was about a 45 minute hike, hauling the snowboard on my pack, to the col at the top of the Skyline Trail. Because the area is so steep, gets little snow, and the trip would occur in mid-April, skinning from the road wouldn't be possible at all. Doing the math, if I left work at 4, I could have theoretically be skinning by 6, and summitted by about 7, best case scenario. Depending on the days temps, I could have then put in up to two runs before I would have had to hive back down. Bottom line, not really worth it. unless you can break at noon. Those dynamics have changed. On Wednesday morning we picked up a few fresh inches on top of some recent snowfall over the previous few days. By the afternoon it had cleared into a blue bird day, and with nothing much going on at work, I took off at 4. At first I had considered spinning the skinny wheels on asphalt for the first time of the season, but when I finally caught a glimpse of the mountains wearing their rebuffed white coats, another set of wheels got spinning. Luckily most of my backcountry gear was already packed. I called up an unnamed source for directions on where to go, and he wisely pointed me to Peak 3, an easily accessible sub-summit and well-known Front Range hot spot. The summit of Peak 3 rises to about 3,900,' which is about 2,000' of vert from the tiny parking area at the end of Canyon Road. The skinning begins a less than 20 minute drive from my house. That's pretty sweet! Peak 3 is the back peak. Though heavily skied, there were fresh turns to be found on both sides of the major ski field. Down low the snow was soggy and lumpy. At just about the hemlock line (3,000'), however, the consistency markedly improved. South-facing aspects were notably cooked by the sun, but just a few degrees more exposure to the west protected the snow and kept it skiable all day. An unnamed skier throws up a few face shots near the summit. Peak 2 in the foreground, and Anchorage's favorite day hike past that, Flat Top. Denali and Foraker poke out above the clouds. Anchorage's favorite glacial valley (Powerline Pass). At the bottom of my first lap clouds from the incoming"mega storm" (LINK) rolled in chilling the air but also preventing the sun from cooking any more snow. Sunset over Anchorage. I'm more used to looking up when I hear a plane, not so much off to the side! They seem awfully low when they come in over the Chugach, but maybe they were just checking out the snow conditions because they planned to ski after work too?