Friday, September 24, 2010

September 23: Byron Glacier

In '07 and '08 late September brought piles of new snow. The early snow stacks up quick on glaciers, and the Lane Glacier is the place to be. Last year late September brought only about 8" of snow and the skiing was rough, dangerous actually. I figured 2009 was the odd-ball and September 2010 would return to form, but this was not the case.

Indian summer persists and is forecasted to stick around into October. This stretch of weather has been incredible: no wind, no clouds, cool nights, and warm days. The hiking has been great, but I had a streak to think about. August was month #34 and I wanted to keep it going.

A few weeks back I was hiking in Portage and noticed some small aprons of snow not too far from the road near the toe of the Byron Glacier. I needed to make a Girdwood run Thursday after work for some boot repair. Since I was going to be in the area, it would be a good opportunity to check out those small aprons. Hopefuuly there would be something worthy higher up on the Byron, but the aprons made for a good plan B.

From the trailhead the glacier and aprons are clearly visible. Byron was scantily clad and not very appealing, but the aprons were looking better than expected. The largest apron still had a 10' thick snow bridge over the creek.

"Ah, what the hell, I'll boot that."

The tops of the sun cups were pretty soft, but the bottoms were still firm. This might be fun. After 350' vert, I had topped out. That's bigger than some of the resorts I skied back in the Eastern Masatch. It took about 15 minutes to kick in a suitable flat spot to click in. The turns were about as good as expected and I was quickly at the bottom.

The booter was in so, "Ah, what the hell, I'll boot that again."

This time I cleared the route of rocks, hucking them to the side. Click, click, and down. It was starting to get better, smoother, softer.

"Ah, what the hell, I'll boot that again."

Not so bad.

"Ah, what the hell, I'll boot that again."

I was getting used to the snow and actually curved some turns and making nice transitions.

"Ah, what the hell, I'll boot that again."

This time I shouldered my skis in honor of the one that shoulders his skis. The turns were good, but this was getting silly. The alpenglow was peaking and dark would be creeping in soon, so it was back to Anchorage to prepare for another day in the cube. Who knows maybe I'll be back tomorrow.

- Black Larsen

The Byron Glacier with the Offending Apron in the Foreground

From the Top of the Apron Looking Towards Begich Peak and Portage Lake

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