Saturday, April 21, 2012

Seward Highway Couloir: April 19

Such a beautiful shot: 3,500' of sustained bliss. Whether corn, or powder, or frozen basketballs, this line always delivers.

Anchorage's record winter has transformed into an aggressive spring. In early March, we were just a few inches shy of the all time record in town. In took over a month to limp to the finish; we did not finish strong. March and early April are typically the work horse of the base building season, but not this year. Down, down, down, but there is still plenty of snow.

Taken April 2011

Wednesday morning left a frost on the vehicle, so I knew I'd be skipping out of work a bit early to take a quick shot at her before the sun scorched it. I hustled to the trailhead and started up. As expected, the recent warm weather had left debris aplenty in the lower portion, but the midday heat has soften the chucks considerably and furry woodland critters were beginning to melt out.

Sheep or Goat?

The First 1,800'

The bottom half is straight forward. You can even skin to about 1,200', but then it is booter city. The second half is fun too, but the link between the two is definitely the toughest part. Just before the crux, my non-ironic flip-phone starting playing Axel F: it was the Noodler. He recognized my vehicle and gave me a call. He was hot on my tail with a couple of buddies.

I relayed the 4:45 snow report, closed my phone, and booted up and around the corner. The crux is in the mid 40s and our relentless Spring has taken its toll. Today, it was plenty wide (6') but only 1-2' deep and rotten to the rock.

Above the Crux

Above the snow was getting pretty mushy. The sun had beaten me. "Push-alanche" skiing would be likely. If I topped-out Noodler & Co. could be exposed to anything I kicked off. I felt this was unlikely, but it wasn't worth the risk.

I flipped my phone to "open" and used the number keys to get to the N's.


Being solo and above the crux was giving me distress. I cut the slope and it wanted to go, but didn't. Not real helpful; it was right on the verge. I got a good side-slip going to try and clear out the mank, and this worked pretty well. It was slow going to the crux, but after a quick straight line, I was through.

The bottom was great: carvy snow and slip-able debris. I saw the team lower and schussed up to them and recited the 5:30 snow report.

Not too long ago, missing out on the top 1,500' would have bothered me, but this a been a winter of shifting perspectives. Today I was more than content: 2,000' to the ocean in the sun with excellent snow is a great silver medal. Ah yes, new found perspective and knowing that it was much better when we hit in February.

- U.K.