Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ptarmigan Couloir, AK: August 3

Shut down this ash laden junkshow.  Was August good?  No. Absolutely not. Was it worth it? Debatable.  08/09 is over.  12 consecutive months of meadow skipping, face shots, core shots, slides, sloughs, bad ideas, planes, trains, and automobiles. Board it up,  put up the "No Trespassing" signs, put a padlock on the door.

The warm sunny summer combined with Reboubt's hiccups has certainly melted any snow that has fallen in the last year.  What is left is old snow. How old?  2 years? A decade?  I don't know, but what remains is garbage.  I knew this going in.  The only question was: How bad? 

I rolled into the Glen Alps Trailhead above Anchorage just before noon.   The plan was to bike 5 miles of dirt road (The Power Line Trail), stash the bike, and hike the 1,000' or so vert to the bottom of the snow.   Temps were in the high 60's and rising.  No clouds, no wind.  A perfect day for a bad idea. 

Glen Alps is the most popular trailhead in the state and there was no shortage of fanny packers shooting me strange looks as I started unloading all the gear necessary for this ill conceived triathlon.    "Are you going skiing?"  "Is there any snow?"  All fair questions given the circumstances.  But I had the inside track.  From the baseball field near my house I could just barely make out one solitary sliver of snow in the entire front range.  It looked continuous.  It was worth a shot.  Biking the Power Line Trail along the South Fork of Campbell Creek the sliver came into view.  Ashy and thin, but doable.  With the bike stashed, I climbed the steep slope to the bottom of the snow.  As I climbed Foraker came into view, then Hunter and Denali. 

The Alaska Range over Anchorage

The snow made for easy booting.  I felt comfortable only kicking in about 1".  As I climbed the couloir steepened and the snow became more firm.   I felt stupid for leaving the ax at home. Eventually the snow petered out roughly 200' vert below the ridge.  Good enough.  Let's get this over.  Click.  Click.  

"Good afternoon snow enthusiasts .   Today in the Ptarmigan Couloir you will find excellent skiing and riding with a 0 to 72" base.  Today's snow conditions are mostly bullet proof decades old snow with large sun cups and inverted ice runnels.  Watch out for rocks that have been falling into this gully since the last ice age.  Use extra caution because the 1/2" of ash mud makes detecting these rocks impossible.  So come on up and enjoy the best skiing in the Anchorage bowl."

So with the question of "How bad" finally answered and August in my back pocket I can take 08/09 out back and give it the mercy killing it deserves.  

El Guapo

P.S.  I got a job working as a Corrosion Engineer for the state.