Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Early Summer Round Up: AK and UT

The Noodler is still charging the Front Range above Anchorage.  He sent this quick dispatch from the field for a recent bike-hike-ski of the Ptarmigan Couloir ("S" Couloir):

Sun cups were small and soft.
2" ski penetration.
The lower half was peppered with small surface rocks.
3 small portages to ski to the bikes.
7 short portages with the bikes over snow.
Super fun.
Aim to ski after 11pm for maximum sun exposure.
I want to go back ASAP.
"S" Couloir at Night

Gremmie and at least one Brefan have been out climbing around Utah.  Check out the climbing in Lone Peak Cirque above SLC and some desert towers: click here

Over the weekend I made the drive to Hope, AK for some skiing and live music.  The recent weather has been unbeatable with endless daylight under cloudless skies.  The drive along the Turnagain Arm never gets old.

Pyramid Peak from the Seward Highway

Explorer Glacier and Carpathian Peak above the Turnagain Arm
I skied Palmer Creek a few years ago and have been itching to return ever since.  Access is simple: drive up the Palmer Creek Road in Hope until you see something you want to ski.  You can drive about 9.5 miles up right now, but it is a good idea to check conditions with the Seward Ranger District before heading out. The road is well maintained up to mile 7: site of the free forest service campground.  Beyond here the road gets a bit rougher but nothing a Subaru can't handle.  On Sunday snow drifts ended the drive around mile 9.5. A snow-free road gets you to about mile 10 where there is a perma-closed gate.

Lower Palmer Creek (6/23)

The drive is a buffet of awesome skiable gullies on either side of the road; the road is bridged across the creek in two places so there is really no need to ford the creek if you see something you like: just keep driving / walking until you are on the "right" side of the creek.  

Upper Palmer Creek (6/24)
The upper drainage holds many options for exploration. We poked around for a few hours just to get a feel for the area. The head of the drainage has a small glacier, but due to poor vis in the upper cirque, we elected to turn around before the ice.

At the Mile 10 gate there is a parking area could hold about 8 vehicles and is just above tree line so cruising around up here is easy no matter the season.  There are also several mining roads and trails that can get you up to some nice lakes and higher valleys. 

Cruising Out
There is still plenty of snow, especially in the higher cirques. The snow we enountered has completed the transformation to summer snow with the sun cups getting smaller and firmer higher up. The drifts that blocked the last half mile of the road could be gone by the weekend, but there will be skiable snow up high for weeks to come. 

I hope your summer is off to a great start and that all of your wildest dreams come true!

 - U.K.