Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Hatcher nap followed by sun up high.

     So I headed to Hatcher to play at night with my new stove that supports winter conditions.  I headed up from the Mint TH to a possible low-angle ski run and parked it in the valley.  I was fortunate to get an early start and had camp set up by around 3pm.  I took Lucy with.  The primary objective was camping with skiing being a bonus.  I headed up, but it was too deep for Lucy on a fresh skin track and visibility was poor with the heavy snowfall so I turned it shortly after, not willing to gamble in unfamiliar terrain.  Nope.  No skiing.
     After a quick dinner I found myself falling asleep so I hopped in my bag and went to bed early thinking I would sleep until morning like last time (~15hrs), wake up and ski with better lighting, it was already getting dark and snowing pretty good.  Nope.  I woke up wide awake at 9:30PM, my body thinking I had just napped and would be up working a night shift.  The snow had stopped but clouds had not cleared enough for the full moon to light up the night. 
     I wasn't up for trying to sleep for another 12hrs, no skiing to be had in darkness, I packed up and skied it out which was the most pleasant ski-out yet:  a warm gentle breeze, downhill all the way, a fresh dusting, a pink city-lit sky and the only sound was the swish of me travelling on the snow.

     I had to get out and ski since I didn't last night.  I headed up early to Arctic Valley with the pleasant surprise of untracked road and sun up high.  I honestly chuckled as I was basking in it and looking down at socked-in Anchorage.  Conditions were still thin with tundra and rock poking through, or where it was deep enough it was dust-on-windboard.  Tally another core shot for me.  Never the less I skied a few good laps and called it a day after bonking from lack of food and water.  I might return tomorrow before work.

     I was at the peak of Gordon Lyon before the wind picked up, and skiing solo I thought I had picked a safe run with a low slope angle.  Nope. I pointed the planks one notch too soon.  Four turns in things went soft below me.  I saw a white-lightning crack split out to my left and I put it all together and immediately realized the gravity of the situation.  I tried to stop, that didn't work, I fell back and was riding the mass like I fell out of a white-water raft.  I knew I was screwed and it was all on me.  I could feel the bed and tried to dig in but the flow was too strong and was pushing me down and deeper.  I knew I had to get out or get buried at the gully bottom.   I saw I was somewhat close to the edge and could sort of steer with the flow so I tried, and successfully rode the back-seat of my skis out to the edge.  I watched the avalanche complete itself and sat in silence for a few minutes thinking about how close I just came.  Lucy was lagging on the ridge so she wasn't in it.  A few minutes before starting the run I had decided I best go a few notches lower for whatever reason, and glad I did as it was less of a terrain trap than my initial plan. 

Sun and wind rid the sky of clouds and fog. 

The end result: sun up high and clouds down low.

A raindbow, in JANUARY!


  1. What is the last picture with the orange lines all about?

  2. My guess is it's his the route he took from his GPS super-imposed over the photo...something like that!

  3. The orange lines notate the crown, stuanchwall and sides of the avalanche path. Along with sympathetic releases below the initial slide.

    Super close call with a nasty result at the bottom. Yikes

  4. Is this on the east side or west side of summit lake? I usually ski over by the mine, on the west side, but I am considering trying out the pass way west over by Mint Hut.

    1. the "the hatcher nap" took place a 3-4 miles up the main trail from the Gold Mint trailhead in Hatcher pass.

      the "sun up high" where the avalanche was is on the NW side of Mt Gordon Lyon up Arctic Valley here in Anchorage.