Friday, October 25, 2013

Crow Pass: October 2013

Previous Octobers have delivered some of the lightest snow of the year.  Previous Octobers have built on the base of late September storms.  Previous Octobers have delivered mid-winter conditions down to the highway. But previous Octobers have also left us high and dry forcing long marches to ski crappy snow on a thin snow pack. October '013 resembles the latter.
When I first moved to AK, the Lane Glacier was the place to be for early season skiing. Then the Lane melted back into 2 lobes - The Fast Lane and The Slow Lane. The rapid retreat continued and now both Lanes are gone - there's probably still some ice up there, but it is buried by rubble. The Snowbird is still a great option, but with Archangel Road closed for the winter, the longer approach is enough to deter me.
The Jewell Glacier, named after Alaska's favorite singer / songwriter / poet, is another popular option for the impatient skier, but this glacier too is undergoing significant change.  In the 7 years since my first visit, the Jewell has split into 2 lobes.  A September recon / schuss mission revealed a decrepit naked dying glacier.
There was a frail, withered body
perhaps not long for this world,
as beautiful and vulnerable
as any of God's creatures
The climbers' right lobe is all but gone - a dim shadow of the mass depicted on the USGS map.  The left lobe still is wide, but the shrund to toe distance continues to shrink. 
Last week there was 2 feet of snow in the glacier zone. Clothed, the glacier appears much happier.  A smile grew across my face as I greeted my dying friend - the snow hiding the grim truth.  We embrace warmly and quickly catch up - reliving the good times while forging new memories. Although I want to linger, the moment is fleeting. Life is calling. I promise to visit soon, but there is little substance in that vow. 


Mid October brought wind and rain to the higher elevations of Crow Pass. Last Friday the snow from the Crow Pass trail to the glacier zone had a non-supportable crust (evaporative cooling?) with saturated snow to the ground / ice. The glacier zone had a semi-supportable crust.  Surface conditions varied from "son of a bitch" to "you've got to be fucking kidding me." 
Colder temps on Saturday froze things solid. Sunday's crust was very firm but supportable all the way down to the Crow Pass trail but there were spots where you would punch through when least expected. 
The last mile of the Crow Pass Road closed on Monday, but according to FB it has since reopened. 
 - U.K.