Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mountain Penguin Peak: May 4, 2012

Work had sent me out of town for the second week in a row depriving me of the excellent early May skiing Anchorage has been blessed with.  I knew my flight would be landing around 1:30 PM, so I loaded the truck with the requisite ski gear before going to the airport.  

The flight back took me over the heart of the Chugach: huge peaks, tidewater glaciers, infinity ski runs.  I was amped and ran from the terminal to long term parking and headed South down the Seward Highway.  I wanted mine.  

The Noodler had been keen on Penguin Peak for the last week or so.  Penguin is often overlooked but highly visible from the highway.

Penguin and the Turnagain Arm
Anchorage had a record snow year, so I there has been no need to drive very far to get the schuss.   This has meant mostly skiing the Chugach State Park.  The park is huge extending roughly 40 miles North, South, and East from Anchorage.  There are dozens of trailheads.  Some are official, most are not.  The route up Penguin happens to start at one of the official entrances.

The run climbs a 3,000' slide-path that averages in the low 30s.  Evidence of large slides are everywhere.  The slides originate from the climbers right hand side from a large steep ridge. Fortunately today is a corn mission and the snow is still very firm. Eventually the main run rolls over to reveal a mellow bowl towards the summit.  The approach is super mellow; maybe 3 switchbacks.  

The Upper Bowl
From the head of the drainage, there is 3,900' of excellent continuous skiing with the cold grey Pacific in your lap.  But the head is a false summit of Mountain Penguin Peak.  The schuss will have to wait.

The Summit Ridge from the False Summit
The ridge is straight forward but firm.  I didn't have a self arrest device, so I opted to boot the 200 yards to the top.  After the short detour, it was time to ski.  

4,100' to the Turnagain Arm looking towards Anchor Town
The top hadn't softened, but that was OK.  A recent squall had placed 2" of new on the top half. The frozen corn underneath was super smooth, so this made for some super fun, high speed turning. The recent snow transformed seamlessly into perfect 2" deep corn around 2,500'  The snow lost the bright white appearance around 1,000' and got a bit punchy and considerably slower, but it was continuous to the parking lot.

It's good, I will return.

 - U.K.

P.S.  Hit it again on 5/8 - still skiable to the lot

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