Thursday, May 21, 2009

Andrew & Steve making their way past the bergschrund on the way up Mt Dimond

Alaska Part II

There is nothing quite as disturbing as watching your friends one by one leaving you standing on a glacier by yourself while watching a storm slowly rolling in.   I was sure I was going to have to spend a night or two solo on the glacier waiting for our next flyable weather window.   So, needless to say, I was quite psyched to see the Super Cub buzz the glacier and whisk me back to civilization.

The next destination was back to familiar territory and the world famous Thompson Pass and Valdez! We picked up our new home, a 30’ RV and made the trek in the wee hours of the night to the pass, arriving just in time to enjoy a small storm which refreshed the pass with 6”-10” of new snow! We started with an old favorite called “School Bus” on the flanks of Goodwill Peak.   We found stability better than expected although still a bit touchy and skied the line in possibly the best snow I have every experienced in AK.   The rest of the two weeks was spent skiing every line possible in a variety of conditions from blower pow to bullet-proof.   The trip also gave plenty of opportunities to dial my skills for my upcoming AMGA course.   We got to see a little bit of everything while hanging out in the pass.   The good—Mt. Diamond and Python Peak and their sweet couloirs, the bad-- the Valdez Mountain Man Hill Climb (which in a matter of days turns the quiet pass into Disney Land, with over 1500 sled-necks and their nitrous oxide-powered super sleds. It’s a sight to see and actually a really fun event, but everything, and I mean everything, gets tracked!) and the ugly-- a series of fatal avalanches and a warm front/high pressure system that hung with us for more than two weeks, keeping even overnight temps at or above freezing. With the entire snow pack going isothermal and volcanic ash melting snow at an alarming rate it was unclear what the conditions would be like in the coming weeks, but we managed and skied some of my new all-time favorite lines.   

We chose to descend the Cherry Couloir (the "s"shaped couloir from the summit) on Python Peak
Climbing Python Peak
Andrea, the "Rig" our home away from home and world famous Thompson Pass
Andrew Blessing shredding inside the ping pong ball

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