Monday, November 1, 2010

Snowbird Glacier: October 30-31

The report said they had groomed the Nordic area at Hatcher Pass. I assumed that this meant there was enough snow to ski and made the drive up to the Talkeetna Mountains with plans to suss out the new Snowbird Hut.

There was only about 2" of snow at the turn-off for Archangel Road and I was surprised to see that the gate was still open. I started hiking from the Reed Lakes Trail Head. After about 1.5 miles you come to a dilapidated cabin. Here you turn left and begin the 2500' climb to the pass. There wasn't enough snow to skin but enough to make every step a surprise. There was 18" of snow at the pass; more than enough to ski this glacier.

The American Alpine Club built a brand new hut with donations and volunteer labor. I attended a kegger/fundraiser in the Fall and knew I had to see it for myself. The hut is perched on the lateral moraine on the skiers' right. The old hut is still in place and is usable for this winter. There are plans to remove it next summer.

The Huts

View from the New Hut

New Kitchen

New Bunks

There is plenty of gear stashed in the hut. No need for a sleeping pad or a stove. There are nice well-used sleeping bags and booties, but I was glad that I had my own. The cook stove runs on white gas and the heater runs on diesel/kerosene.

After getting situated in the Hut, it was time to kick off my 36th consecutive month/36th season. The glacier is really a wide ass "blue square" run, but starts getting steep as you approach the 6,000' ridge. I wanted to gain the ridge to see if it was possible to link up with the Lane Glacier for a potentially easier way back to the car. The route was marked with small crevasses so I opted to stay close to the rocks. I couldn't tell if I was on glacier, solid ground, or hanging out over the moat. Pole probing revealed that there was solid ground/ice under me and I turned my attention to snow stability.

There is 36" with 1/4" surface crust at all elevations/aspects with hoar frost developing. From a safe spot, I stomped the snow with a ski. Whooooph. Shooting cracks and sympathetic cracks 15-20' below me. Steeps are touchy. Copy.

From my aerie, I de-skinned at got the Hell out of there; back to the hut, back to the beer.

The next day I got in some nice low angle love. The crust was catching the wind and attacking my face. The skiing was decent, but the scenery was amazing. Thanks to all the volunteers and donors for providing such a comfortable place in this spectacular location.