Friday, August 5, 2011

Ptarmigan Couloir: August 4

It was one of those "come Hell or high water days." Common sense and weather forecasts be damned. I wanted my August and today was going to be the day. The destination is that most august of couloirs: Ptarmigan, a.k.a. the "S", a.k.a. the North drainage of Ptarmigan Peak.

In past years ('09 & '10), this has been my go to August ski. I knew what I was getting into so expectations were low. A strong wind head wind made for an exhausting peddle up the drainage. Intense gusts grabbed my skis and tried to wrest me from the saddle. Squirrelly. Once under the shot, I hucked my bike into a bush, upgraded my footwear to approach shoes, and started up the slick mud and loose scree.

80 minutes after leaving the car-pack, it was time to upgrade again to AT boots and clamp-ons. The snow was softer then in previous years and there was less of it. Anchorage was in the midst of a 4 day rain storm which had tenderized the snow into manky mess, but the going was quick. After about 1,000' vert my journey had come to an abrupt end.

Cruxed Out

The bad news was I couldn't go any higher, the good news: schuss time! Ledge: kicked in; boots clicked in. The temp and the pitch were both around 40°. The driving rain made one seem higher and other lower. But in spite of the weather and snow conditions, I was having multiple funs.

Looking Down

The turns were nice and carvy, but littered with rocks. I worked the slarve hard. Several times a strong uphill gust would align perfectly with my turn to send my spray rocketing into my face. It felt like someone was whipping rock salt into my face, but faceshots is faceshots even if they draw blood.

The Aftermath
(Went Left at the "Y" to where it Goes Black)

It was over all too soon or not soon enough. Hung jury on that one. Descending the scree/mud was much easier than the ascent, and the head-wind that fought me the entire ride was now a great ally. The ride was swift and chilly, but with the beer in site, a grin slowly appeared and worked its way into a disturbing cackle.

"Master! Master, you have driven him to the brink of insanity!"

And a swift back-hand instantly wiped that idiotic smirk off WAC's face.

- Rhett Butler

1 comment:

  1. "clamp-ons" "having multiple funs" I love it. Good work!!