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Wednesday
Dec302009

Midwinter Valdez 

Valdez in the middle of winter is cold, dark and lonely. But if you climb high onto south-facing slopes you may find sunlight, if it's clear. We got three hours of sun that was so intense we could almost feel it's warmth. The best part of midwinter in Valdez is the absence of heli-skiers. Over four days of touring we saw two helicopters–one was the Department of Transportation dropping bombs on avalanche slopes above the power poles, the other was Alyeska Pipeline Service Company flying the Pipeline looking for terrorists, or maybe just looking for Alaskans shooting holes in the pipe.

Our friend Max Kaufman from Fairbanks joined Cathy and I for powder and sun. Max and I first met in New Zealand in 1994 at the Plateau Hut on Mount Cook. We indulged ourselves on an alpine ice fiesta on the East Buttress of Mount Cook, the Right Icefields on Mount Hicks and Fyfe's Gut. Fifteen years later we play again.

Cathy and Max touring toward Girls Mountain (6,154'). Our turns off the summit were impeccable, 45-degree powder.

 

Max riding his granola sticks into the setting sun at 3:30 PM.

 

Or is it sunrise?