Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tincan Crust Ski (Hurra for 17. mai)

Tincan Valley Crust Ski, May 17th, 2009
with Adam Verrier

Despite being tired after skiing Center ridge and Tincan valley yesterday, I couldn't resist an encore today. Adam Verrier and I headed to Turnagain Pass early Sunday, May 17th, for one more day of crust skiing. Yesterday, I headed up Lyon Creek and up onto Center Ridge. This involved a bit of alder bush-whacking, so today we decided to access the valley from the Tincan pullout about 1 mile north of the Turnagain Pass. We started at 7:30 am and skied until about 11 am. The crust held up quite well the whole time, even down low by the main road.

I had for a while been eyeing the saddle between Tincan Peak and Kickstep Mountain and today we got all the way up to the saddle and had a great view of Placer Valley and Spencer Glacier. The weather was so nice that we sat around for half an hour in t-shirts - there was not a breath of wind. Even for Alaska it is uncommen to have this nice and warm weather at 4000 ft at 9:30 in the morning on May 17th.

The skiing back down the valley provided varied crust skiing, from fairly icy conditions up high to awsome corn snow lower in the valley. What a way to spend May 17th (Norwegian Independence Day)!

This first photo is of Turnagain Pass on May 16th after skiing Center Ridge and Tincan Valley (about 10 am). The snow is disappearing fast and the alders made for interesting bush-whacking to access Center Ridge.
Adam traversing off of the Tincan ridge into the Tincan Valley.
Any doubts about the snow depth in the Tinan Valley on May 17th? Here it must be 10 ft!
Heading up the upper Tincan Valley.
Adam showing great skate form, both uphill ...
and downhill (making slalom turns on hard crust with old skate skis with severly rounded edges is a little different than normal downhill skiing).
Heading up towards the Placer Vewlley overlook.
Adam on the last pitch. Tincan Peak in the background.
On the Placer Valley overlook. On the east-facing slopes there was no snow at all.
Spencer Glacier across the Placer Valley.
Looking back the Tincan Valley. The upper parts of the decent was quite steep (30-40 degrees) and a little icy ... a challenge on skate skies with a bum knee (I recently tore the MCL and miniscus in my left knee ... but I couldn't let that stop me from enjoying this great spring skiing).
Adam coming down from the Placer Valley overlook back into the Tincan Valley.
Tincan Valley and Tincan Peak (~4300 ft).
Adam carving turns on perfect corn snow.
Eastward looking panorama overlooking Placer Valley and the Spencer glacier.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Spencer Glacier Crust Ski

Spencer Glacier Crust Ski, May 2nd, 2009
Round trip Portage to Spencer Glacier, ~24 miles
7:30 - 10:30 am.

Another cold and clear night prompted another crust ski up the Placer Valley. This would be my fourth time up the Placer Valley this spring. On previous occasions I has either started too late or had to return early (stupid work commitments). This time I was determined to start early and try to make it to the Spencer Glacier before the crust started breaking down. 30 degrees and clear skies at the starting point indicated that it would be a great day for crust skiing.

Pulling my skis out of the car at the little known access point for late spring Placer Valley crust skiing, I am surprised to see Rachel Steer pull up with the same plan as me. We both enjoyed the superb crust conditions all the way to the Spencer glacier. Especially on the way back down the Placer Valley did we catch some awesome corn snow as the top layer of the crust was just starting to melt.

Spencer Glacier seen across the lake at the terminus of the glacier. Observe the icebergs frozen into the lake ice.
We could safely skate across the lake and all the way up to the toe of the glacier.
Interesting ice-formations at the toe of the glacier.
Rachel catching some rays.
Looking back across the lake at the broken up terminus of the glacier.
Crust skiing past icebergs.
Great corn snow on the return down the Placer Valley.
We got back to the trail head around 10:30 am, just as the crust was starting to break down. It was quite warm - it must have been in the low 50's already.
Panorama across the terminus of the Spencer Glacier.