Friday, May 8, 2009

Valdez 4 (April 18)

Lars, Dylan, Garret and myself headed to 30 mile for our final day in the Valdez/Thompson Pass area.  The plan was to bribe some snow-machiners to haul us up a couple thousand vert.  $20 got us to just below Peak 5500 between Girls and Skatepark.  There is a small steep NE facing cirque off of 5500.  The short booter from the drop off brings you to a ridge that has a half dozen obvious shots all in the upper 30s.  There is plenty of gnar between the shots for anyone looking for some billy goat, salt and pepper lines.  I wasn't interested but my companions were.

Valdez is a place that attracts skiers from all over the world.  In our short time there we met folks from the Alps, South America, New Zealand, US, and Canada.  Many of them have skied the world searching for the best terrain and snow.  Their search ended in Valdez.  And on a bluebird day, I wasn't arguing.  The cirque is commonly referred to as "Bro Bowl."  The runout intersects a snow-machiner highway.  These are definitely stadium shots with sled necks gathering to gawk whenever they smelled blood.  The lines Dylan, Lars, and Garret were putting up attracted the whole herd.   They sent technical lines with big air, big exposure, and big consequences.  The herd moved on disappointed and hungry.

However, there were some straglers that were truly impressed with what they witnessed and were happy to ferry us back to the booter.  We rode doubles or were towed (up to 3 of us at once).  "Do you know how to ride Canadian?"  "Sure," I said not wanting jeopardize a ride.  This style puts one rider on the left and one on the right.  Each gets a knee on the seat and a hand on the bars and you hold on.  Tight.  Real tight.  Vibram was my friend that day.

We got 4 runs (1 we had to skin).   Each run featured epic snow but the run out had developed a slight funky layer that became more pronounced as the day wore on.  You only noticed this layer if you turned.  I noticed it; Dylan, Lars, and Garret not so much.

After the final run we booted up to the Skatepark (aka Little Girls) for a more direct line to the road.  This skiing sucked from the 1st turn and deteriorated as we descended.  45 minutes later and we were at the road.   We headed back to Anchorage the next morning and decided to hit Hatcher Pass on the way through Palmer.  Hopes were high and there were a few shots off Marmot I wanted.  I knew the snow would be safe if the ash remained buried.  It wasn't and for about the 10th time in a month, I was Redoubt's Bitch.

After reflecting for a few weeks about this trip, I have developed new appreciation for Thompson Pass.  This place is so big it can accommodate heli operations, snow machiners, and ski tourers.  And given enough time, you can approach all of the classic Valdez ski movie lines with just skins.  Better yet, snow machine and skins. The snow is excellent and there is plenty for everyone.   Check out, "Alaska Backcountry Skiing: Valdez and Thompson Pass," by Matt Kinney.  This book will get you to all the big lines that are serviced by the heli outfits.  This guide neglects "The Books" but this area can be approach from 18 mile at the Valdez Heli Camps staging area.  There is a snowmachine trail that is well maintained that eliminates the bushwhack.

Lars and the Real Boy

Top of the booter up Peak 5500

Snow machiners getting fired up after Lars sends the line of the day

Dylan tries to line Lars up in Bro Bowl

No comments:

Post a Comment