- Aesthetic Lines. The ski descents themselves are even more impressive than the summits.
- The Country. Chile is a land of otherworldly landscapes, interesting culture, and incredibly friendly people.
- The Corn. There’s something about Southern Hemisphere corn that’s extra buttery (corn snow that is).
- Light Backpacks. Most international expeditions involve hauling heavy loads. Not really the case on this trip. Three out of four of these peaks we ski with day packs.
- The Proximity. The relative spacing of these four mountains could not be more perfect. Less car time, more skiing.
- 4 Volcanoes in 10 Days. Many expeditions are lucky to climb one mountain in 10 days.
- Young Volcanoes. Villarica’s summit crater is a boiling cauldron. Llaima last erupted in…2009!
- Araucarias (Monkey Puzzle Trees). Combined with the volcanic lunar landscapes, these add to the prehistoric nature of the subalpine landscapes, and you get the sensation you might run into dinosaurs at any moment.
- Pisco Sours. The perfect cap on any ski day.
- The Timing. September is an amazing time to be skiing, and a healthy dose does wonders for your patience level, awaiting the Northern Hemisphere winter.
We still have a few spots left on our Sept 20-Oct 1, 2014 program. Learn more here: Chile Volcanoes Ski Mountaineering Expedition
The NW Couloir on Mt. Johnson in The Needles first caught my eye three years ago from the Hurricane Ridge to Deer Park Traverse. With the level of certainty that a distant grainy photo has to offer, combined with a rapidly melting snowpack, expectations were low. My better half thought she might be getting sick on the approach which was confirmed by the next morning. So she kept it chill.It’s about an 800′ descent off the back of the col at the head of Surprise Basin, and a quick skin around the corner puts you at the base of the line. Looking up from the bottom it didn’t look obvious. Snow conditions were firm and aluminum crampons and a piolet were quite handy. Lots of front pointing later I was at the top of this amazing 1,200′ foot line. Two short sections would require down climbing due to a rapidly melting snowpack, but not much more coverage is needed for it to go cleanly.
The next morning I cruised to the summit of Mt. Deception via the NE Chute and was dropping in by 8:30am. The line was in bad shape with a monster garbage runnel down the middle (a 10′ foot deep trench) but still seemed skiable along the edge with a little precision required in the choke.
Partway down the upper section, into view came another party of skiers from Seattle and Portland booting up. I was surprised I hadn’t heard any yelling or cursing from them as I sent down wet sluff on the upper turns. Lucky timing. I assumed they’d gone up the normal route.
I hit the pause button my descent to let them cruise by. Out of the chute, the rest of the face provided great turns along the skiers right side.
Currently the trail into Royal Basin is pretty much snow free cruising in tennis shoes to the Lower Meadow. Things are melting fast up there but there’s definitely another couple weeks of spring skiing to be had.
After a hazy day in the clouds while approaching, the weather opened up and we were able to summit on May 21st. Mt. Baker was exceptionally clear with moderate winds. Thanks Mike for great climb! Some photos…
Check out photos from a May 12-21, 2014 Mt. Blackburn Ski Expedition with partner guide service Wild Alpine. Our team didn’t have the window to ski off the summit, partially due to weather and partially due to a low snow year, but we still managed to get in a significant amount of ski exploration in this zone from two different camps on the mountain. Another awesome mission to the Wrangells.
Despite the ridiculously warm temps, the Mt. Angeles north side tour was the perfect way to ring in the month of May: up to Victor Pass and the SE Ridge to the East Summit, down the prominent north side line, up to the col above Klahhane Bowl, a sweet long east facing run into the bowl, back up to Victor Pass and down to the road. Thanks Josh for a great day! A few photos…
Check out photos from another fantastic trip on the Wapta with Dennis, Terry, Marianne, and Katy. Winter snow conditions, a deeper snowpack, some incredible weather, some challenging weather and whiteout navigation (an important part of the Wapta experience), powder skiing, great hut chilling, heated poker games, and a summit of Mt. Gordon.
Hurricane Ridge to Rocky Peak and down the Dragon’s Tooth. A super worthy, somewhat involved springtime objective covering a lot of terrain. This might be a tricky one to onsight in a day without knowing the individual parts, especially the summit ridge of Mt. Angeles and the north face of Rocky Peak. But linking it all together makes for a very rewarding day in the mountains.
Start at the Hurricane Ridge ski area. Cruise to the top of the rope tow and rip skins. Zip across Sunrise ridge, transition, and skin towards Maggies, along the ridge, to the top of the Bowling Alley. Rip skins, ski to the col above Lost Bowl. Skin up and over King Dome to the west side of Mt. Angeles, up through the forest, switch to booting, traverse around to the SW Ridge and climb the final 4th class pitch to the west summit (so as to avoid any backtracking). Chill on the summit.
Traverse the summit ridge most the way to the east summit, ski partway down on the south side, walk over to the first narrow ribbon gully and ski this into the bowl.
Lots of ridge cruising out Klahhane with various ups and downs. Ski cool line above Rocky Peak col that you’ve looked at on multiple occasions.
Traverse below the north face to the secret ramp through the cliff bands. Climb the Broken Tooth.
Chill on the summit of Rocky Peak. Ski down the ridge towards the Dragon’s Tooth and run into a couple large goats. Hang out with the goats.
Ski the Dragon’s Tooth. Catch a ride back up the road with an old friend.
Andrew, Eli and I went in a few days early to get a handle on snow conditions. It hadn’t snowed in quite some time, but the combination of sunny days and cold nights had kept things well preserved. On our scouting days we “tested” north facing glaciers, a few steeper lines, and a couple unnamed peaks (all in the name of science).
Our crew arrived on April 30th and the laughter began. Three repeats from last year, three hilarious Italians, and a British expat bent on crushing vertical.
For the next five days the weather was perfect. We skied big runs, small runs, steep runs, mellow runs… Powder, recrystallized facets, corn, and the combination of all three, with the occasional turn that actually required effort.
Our third day we set our sights on Christina Peak in the Goat Glacier zone, skiing a big, exposed, sustained descent off the summit, rounding off the afternoon with another adjacent summit.
Similar to last year, day four was couloir day, and we celebrated this day in the land of couloirs (a top secret zone Andrew has code named ‘Slotterhouse’). We split into three smaller groups, each team headed for a different neck-craning couloir. The Italians and I set our sights on “The Cat’s Meow”, and up and up and up we went. Typically not the quietest group of guys, I knew by their uncharacteristic silence that they were in the midst of an eye opening experience (as was I).
Later that day we climbed another steep couloir, this time on the sunny side of the valley. This put us on a knife edge ridge, looking down a short 50° degree north facing ramp that would set us up for 4,000’ vertical feet of springy pow dancing, illuminated by early evening light, culminating in a glide right up to the planes, and a beautiful flight back to the lodge.
Heli skiing in Alaska is often considered the Holy Grail. The Wrangells are what lies beyond the Holy Grail: bigger, wilder, even more remote, and no helicopters.
The stats for Wilderness Ski Week 2014 came in at 29,520’ of human powered ascent, and with a little help from the Otter, 39,430’ of descent.
Learn more about Wilderness Ski Week here.
After the Wapta Traverse we met up with Jaeden and Trevin from Edmonton for 3 days at Rogers Pass. These guys were getting acquainted with their new splitboard setups, and progressed significantly over the course of 3 days, getting their touring legs under them. Rogers Pass approaches are very friendly to skiers, but a little less so to sideways riders… Good weather and great snow made for some very high quality turns.