Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spencer Glacier Crust Ski

Placer Valley to Spencer Glacier
April 27th, 2013
44 kms (28 miles); 3 hrs 10 min.

For me this is a "Must Do" trip every year.  I had been watching the conditions for a while and Saturday, April 27th, promised the right conditions and great weather.  I started out at about 8:20 am.  The temperature was around 28 F (-2 C) and the crust had set up nicely.

The first few miles up the Placer Valley were hampered by heavy snow machine traffic earlier in the year.  But once I got past Skookum Creek, the conditions improved.  The conditions up valley did not disappoint, and the farther I went, the better the crust got.  Spencer Glacier was in great condition.  I was able to ski 2 miles up the glacier.  With a small detour I would have been able to gain the upper snowfield, but the time was getting late and I decided to turn around and get back to the car before the snow got too soft.

I got back at noon which was perfect timing because the crust was just beginning to break down.  On the return, I stayed on the west side of the railroad tracks all the way down to Skookum Creek.  The crust and snow conditions were better on the west side, and there were also fewer snow machine tracks to deal with on this side.

Once again the Placer Valley delivered a great crust ski opportunity. 

One of these years, I will start early enough to gain the main snow/ice-field and look down onto the Blackstone Glacier and Blackstone Bay.


8 am start from the Portage Hwy.  Still plenty of snow.

"No snow machine" signs don't seem to deter the snow machiners.
Looking down the Placer Valley with Blueberry Hill and Kinnikinnick Mnt in the center background.
Spencer Glacier.  The mountains in the background are unnamed.  They reach about 5200 ft elevation.  The snowfield in the mid-distance is at 1500-2500 ft. My turnaround point was just short of the far "ice-fall" at 1500 ft.

Lots of ice-blue lakes on the glacier

Crust-skiable glacier - not your everyday occurrence!  Coming back down, the crust surface was just starting to melt, allowing me to carve S-turns down the glacier ridges.

At the turn-around point.

Spencer Glacier terminus.
East to South panorama of the Spencer Glacier and surrounding (unnamed) mountains.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Anchorage State Coastal Wildlife Refuge: Potter to Kincaid

Potter to Kincaid roundtrip along the Anchorage Coastal State Wildlife Refuge
39 kilometers (24  miles), 2 1/2 hours
Crust ski with Trond Flagstad, Brad Cruz, Matias Saari, Lasse Moelgaard - Nielsen & Davis Dunlap
We started out at 7:15 am from the Potter Marsh parking lot and was done before 10 am.  The crust was best right up against the bluff as well as close to the high tide mark.  In between it was punchy and inconsistent.
Note:  If you decide to ski below the Rabbit Creek shooting range, make sure you are long gone before the range opens.  Official hours are from 10 am to 5:45 pm, Wednesday through Sunday.
River crossings were easiest towards the high tide mark rather than closer to the bluff.
Wildlife: Canada geese, Snow geese, Coyotees, Moose, Mallards, Bald Eagles
Sunrise over the Chugach mountains

 Brad cruising westbound with Oceanview in the background

Crossing of Campbell Creek requires unclipping and balancing across on frozen mud and ice

Always a good sign of spring: the arrival of the geese

The crossing of Rabbit Creek

Crust cruising with Chugach mnts (left) and Kenai mnts (right) in the background

 Towards Pt. ampbell only a narrow tongue of snow remains between the bluff and the frozen mud and ice

Watch Lasse's youtube video:

Trond Flagstad cruising between the icebergs

Matias and Trond F below the bluff by Kincaid

Heading back towards Potter Marsh railroad depot

Done for today:  Crossing the Seward Hgwy at Potter Marsh

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nancy Lakes Snowmachine Trail Ski

Nancy Lakes Snowmachine Trail Ski with Brad Cruz, April 14th
52 kilometers (33 miles)

With crust ski conditions still not in season, Brad Cruz and I decided to head up to Nancy Lakes to ski some of the snow machine trails.  We started from mile 2.5 at the Nancy Lakes highway and skied in to South Rolly Lake campground along the road.  From we skied south across Red Shirt Lake and Cow Lake.  We then took a small detour to check out the conditions along the Iron Dog trail.  This trail was in great shape and would be excellent for a longer ski.  We headed back to the Cow Lake trail (single track) which we double poled over to the East Butterfly lake.  From there we headed north along the Nancy Lakes canoe trail across Buckley Lake #1, Candle Stick lake, Echo Ponds, Lynx Lake, Charr Lake, Owl Lake, James Lake, Chicken Lake, Big and Little Noluck Lakes, and finally Tanaina Lake.

Conditions were great on the way out; hardpacked and wide snow machine trails.  The conditions were not so good on the way back.  Only narrow and old snow machine trails made for a lot of double poling.

 Nancy Lakes hgwy trailhead.  It promises to be a glorious day
 On the Big Lake Snowmachine Trail system.  The trails are well marked

Trond on the Iron Dog trail with Mt Susitna in the background
 Iron Dog trail panorama
Done!  Tanaina lake in the background.