Saturday, May 14, 2011

Korohusk Couloirs: May 14

I had an objective in mind but no one to ski with. Finally the Noodler relented. Yes!! 2 hours later he called back and expressed his concern regarding the glacier travel necessary for this objective. I told him to close his eyes and repeat 3 times: "Nothing's gonna happen." Apparently this glacial travel technique is not acceptable to new parents.

I spouted off my other objectives and The Noodler's interest was piqued with "Korohusk." There is a scary chute of the North side that I wanted. The Noodler told me that there was also a second, sneekier, scarier couloir as well. He also had some good beta from buddies that had schussed 'em earlier in this season

There was a solid refreeze at the trailhead when we began hiking at 7:15 AM and the skins were on by 8. Travel was efficient on the refrozen corn and soon The Noodler was pointing at an improbable sliver of snow coming off the ridge. As we rounded the bend, it looked doable, but not really.

Korohusk the 1st

I've never seen anything like this couloir. It splits a buttress and has no slopes above or beside it that will slough into the shot. It is relentlessly steep and narrow and there is almost no apron. The Noodler set the booter / clamp-on-er. The snow was "recycled pow", 8" of blower, wintery goodness. We knew it would be good. Each turn sloughed and quickly the surface of 10' wide chute was moving with the skier. Every so often, I'd pull over and let it go on by before it became a hazard.

The Noodler from the Top

After a 5 minute break at the bottom, we moved towards Korohusk the 2nd. This is the shot I had been thinking of: much wider, not as much vert. This line wanted to be my friend, but this too was a trap.

The Noodler and the 2nd

The chute started as advertised, but it doglegged about 700' off the deck. Cramp-ons came out again. It narrowed and got steep. What looked like a relaxing run from below was feeling very similar to the 1st run.

From the Top of the 2nd

"#34, The Noodler, Nashoba Valley, dropping..."

The snow was great, but not as good as the 1st. I navigated the narrows and steeps above the dogleg conservatively, but was able to link turns through most of the top 1/2. The bottom half relaxed a bit, and I felt better. My whipping jacket drowned all other sounds.

A Scary View of the 1st

In AK, you have to be flexible. Years can pass before conditions, weather, and the right partner align to even attempt a line. Today everything converged and the result was easily the best day of the season. That is, until tomorrow.

- Coemul

Monday, May 9, 2011

3 Ranges, 3 Days: May 6-8, 2011

I busted out of my cube at 3:30 and headed straight for Turnagain. Typically the West side of the pass is snow-machine central, but the last day for motorized access was April 30th. Objectives on "Sunny Side" had become much more appealing since silence returned to dominate the soundscape.

Sunny Side Parking Area

Big Chief has haunted me for years and I thought today could finally be the day. I started up a SE aspect at 5:00 PM. There had been some wet slide activity earlier in the day, but the sun was off the route and a stiff wind would provide some evaporative cooling. My route crossed a couple of creeks and ascended a steep gully with consolidated slide debris.

Despite my bullet-proof theories regarding snow safety, slow moving wet slides were laboring down the gully on the regular. Spooky. I traversed out of the gully onto a dry ridge and continued up. The dry ridge eventually ended. A short 50' traverse would get me to another dry sub-ridge but it would be through waste deep slush across a 40° slope. The right decision was obvious but it held no appeal. Shit!

From the tundra, I leaned over and with one hand pushed the top foot of snow down the hill to see what would happen. It started slow, but it got a good head a steam on a roll-over. It was fanning out creating a larger and larger slice of pie. And then it stepped to the ground. Other large pieces pulled out joining the party. The river of snow was now a couple 100 yards wide and wiping out small trees. It ran the full length of the slide path and the sound of moving slush continued for about 10 minutes. I decided beer was now more important than glory. Conservative skiing and driving segued nicely into aggressive drinking.

Touring with a large fun group seemed like a better idea for Saturday. I theorized that high, north-facing aspects would provide the best snow, but having completely botched my snow prediction the day before, I kept my mouth shut. As fate would have it, the group decided to ski April Bowl: high and North facing.

The sun was in and out all morning and clouds began to thicken. From the summit, sucker holes gave us hope for a well lit descent. A cold wind was trying our patience and Dean dropped in under flat light. Kelley, then Heather, then Selene, and then the sun made an brief appearance. Bill and I lucked into some great visibility. The snow was fantastic: 6" of wintery, creamy sender! A second lap was a no brainer, and another sucker hole illuminated the descent. Tonight's aggressive drinking would be the inspired by great snow and great people.

The Team

April Bowl

Sunday dawned sunny, but the urge to hibernate in a deep dark cave surrounded by gatorade, soft music, and pizza was powerful. But, I knew Hiland would be great so I worked myself into a frenzy with a series of air punches and self-affirming thoughts. The South Fork Trail is about 50% melted out and didn't really lend itself to either hiking or skiing. After 1.5 miles, I angled West towards the "2nd Notch." From the summit just South of the notch, I "sent the shit" out of a mellow face towards Ship Creek. Excellent corn made for effortless skiing. Run 2 began from the same summit, but this time the NW face called. Again, smooth corn in the sun is tough to beat. I wanted a third, but dehydration was dominating my skull. The only wise option at this point was to locate the mythical electrolyte cave.

- James Dalton