Friday, February 3, 2012

Seward Highway Couloir: January 26

The Noodler has sworn me to secrecy as to the location of this ski run. Although I don't think it is really that secret of a trail, I shall honor his wish.

Just a few iphotos from The Noodler's solo mission to this 3,300' shot which hides in plain sight.

Nice work!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Late January Update: Alaska

For better or worse the "reset button" has been depressed. Probably better at Hatcher where 20" of blower just fell on a semi-breakable crust. Probably for worse at Turnagain where there have 100+ mph gusts and 1.6 SWE has fallen today.

Last week Hubert motivated me down to Turnagain. 30" had come in Sunday-Monday and there were green light conditions. 4-day old snow stayed light and fluffy with below zero temps.

Driving up to the Pass

We climbed Magnum from the Sunburst lot and hit a South facing shot between PMS and Super Bowl. Effortless blower pow and face shots escorted us from the sunny ridge into the shadowy valley. We rallied back up just as the sun rounded the corner to illuminate the West Face of Magnum. Hubert was off and out of sight as the slope rolled over, but he came back into view as the pitch mellowed. I leaned into the slope staying near Hubert's tracks. At the roll-over it became obvious all that beautiful powder had sloughed off. Shit! Better point and hold on! It was over in a flash. I focused on enjoying the snow at a much more reasonable pace for the balance of the descent.

Saturday and Sunday were shaping up to be all time at Turnagain, but I had already committed to participating in the Inter-Agency Drill at Hatcher Pass. It was no secret that the snow would be ass and the temps would be low.

The Inter-Agency gathers a multitude of groups (SAR, State Parks, Ski Patrols, Avi Forecasters, K9 units, State Police) who would be responding in the event of a large scale avalanche disaster. The groups learn to work together. Skills are honed whether in the field or in managing resources.

My probing skills are much improved as is my digging, RECCO, magnetometer, and hollering. Day 1 scenarios typically included multiple burials with and without beacons.

Stayed at the Independence Mine Visitor Center Saturday Night

Day 2 was a larger scenario. Group B had 4 caught in an avalanche with no beacons, 3 buried. The unburied person was "injured" and was higher up in the rocks. Dogs were quick to narrow the search area as were visual clues. Spot probing around dog hits and RECCO hits found 2 victims quickly. The third required a probe line.

Epic Probing

Lowering the Injured Subject

It was a great weekend of practice and I was able to improve my skills in several areas. But these type of events tend to have much standing around. A for a person like me, standing around surrounded by couloirs, faces, and cirques on a blue bird day with good stability is too much. I was able to sign out at 2:30 and made a B-line for the lousy snow that I had been staring at for 2 days. Quality did not matter, the joy of being in the mountains was more than enough.

Away from the din of the snow machines, megaphones, helicopters, and blowhards of the drill. They all served their purpose nobly, but it was time for unstructured fun. I headed down to the snow-machiners' lot and climbed Little Marmot as quickly as I could and then sent it down the double punch crust in the sun.

The wrap-up meeting was about to begin at the A-Frame but the skins were already back on.

Heading Back Up

- U.K.