Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cops and Robbers

In a winter where clear windows and stable conditions seem predictably unpredictable, this weekend was a bit of a robbery, and we won.
After a week of storming, the double-hungs made their screechy opening over Turnagain Pass on Friday. Colin, Nathan, Mike and I jumped in, and headed up Corn Biscuit.
Morning sun, storm on the horizon.
Though we had intended to target the Biscuit's north chutes, the sun and fresh sparkling snow on the south side beckoned. We headed a ways back along the ridge and notched a run.

On the south faces, the fresh snow was reactive. We all kicked off sloughs that ran about 10 inches deep at distances ranging from a few yards to hundreds of feet into an adjacent gully. It was fun and interesting to watch the sloughs from a safe distance as they gathered up speed coming down the gully before eventually petering out a little farther down than the previous.

Though grainy, a slough is visible kicking up a small powder cloud in the gully.
Back up on the ridge, we noticed a party had put in a skin track on Magnum. Having broke two trails already for the day, we were happy to take advantage of someone elses labors and do the Corn Biscuit-Magnum tour. We dove over into a north chute where we found less vis but deep and very stable snow.

Sizing up a run on magnum

Looking over Taylor Creek Pass.
We were able to notch two runs on Magnum's south side as the light continued to fade and the storm pressed in. By the time we left the winds were howling and the window was again slamming shut.

Stoked from stacking up a hefty amount of vert on some very fun lines, Nathan and I headed north on Saturday, feeling that we would be content to scratch out a few runs in the gray light and call it good. Turnagain was socked in and storming, and we assumed Hatcher Pass would be gray but not as burly. At the base of Hatcher we met up with Liz, and after some discussion, decided to head for the 4068 area.
4068 has been a reliable go-to when things are rough to the south. Like the rest of Hatcher, it offers little in the way of help when vis is limited, but its not particularly steep, and relatively sheltered from pounding east and southeast winds.
As we began the long approach, breaks of blue began to appear overhead. We tried to ignore them, for fear that clouds would roll back in.
By the time we hit the top of 4068, there was no denying it, the sun was out and no one else was around. We had scored.

Strange bright orb.

I will always favor Turnagain and Summit passes, but there is no beating the views in the Talkeetnas.
The ridge line was wind hammered for all of about two vertical turns. From there, the snow was "plump," and more closely resembled a maritime pack.
The 4068 bowl is not steep, but it is playful, especially when the light is out. The dense snow had formed soft wind spines, and when mixed with terrain features, made for carving some interesting lines.
One of the fun things about skiing with Nathan, is that unlike the rest of my partners, he too is a splitboarder. This makes it easy to ride parallel tracks, figure 8s, and or just go after similar lines based on our mono-board's strengths. It's also nice on the skin track to have someone to geek out with on gear.

Liz busts an uptrack across the bowl to the saddle in a welcome sun.

Dusty view.

Near the ridge the winds, were moving snow, however, much less than one would have expected given their strength. I've storm skied 4068 on days where each run the wind decimated more and more of the slope. In this case, the dense snow that we found wasn't giving in as easily as more typical Hatcher snow might have.
Busted cornice.
Despite planning to have an easy day, we ended up putting in some long runs, and skied until the sun dipped behind Government Peak and we began to lose our vis. That's when Liz suggested beer and a hot tub. What a perfect way to end a great day!

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