2015 Western Chugach #1

Anchorage skiers rarely hire guides. Instead, they tend to take courses to learn the skills to have adventures on their own, in their backyard. One course they do take though is a level one avalanche class with the Alaska Avalanche School. While teaching for AAS I get to meet hundreds of these adventurous Anchorage backcountry skiers. A couple winters ago I met Sam and Jessie. We stayed in touch and organized a Ski Mountaineering Course in the Western Chugach. 

Family. Jordan is Jessie's sister. Sam and Jessie are married. They all work at BP in Anchorage. 

Jessie and Jordan weighing packs in Girdwood. Our packs weighed 43 pounds each for the four-day tour. When not working, my pack weighs about 38 pounds. See my spreadsheet for camp-to-camp ski mountaineering gear weight

Jordan watches Martin—and Austrian pilot for Alpine Air—leave us on the high glaciers above Girdwood.

Jordan probing a crevasse bridge. The probe is your eyes inside the snowpack. To feel weak layers. To measure depth. To assess crevasse bridge thickness. 

One night we camped by this drift with a 55-degree face. We made anchors to rappel and belay the face. We practiced our steep skiing technique—sometimes falling to the base, sometimes pulling it off. Having a blast.  

Sam leading to the summit of Burger Slayer. 

Jordan skiing the lower slopes of Burger Slayer.  

Jessie and Sam were leading toward the col when massive blocks of rime ice fell from the sun-warmed wall above. They applied an important mountain skill that we practiced: turning around. Turning around is one of the best techniques for staying alive in the mountains.  

Jordan with his mountain food. Gummy worms don't meet my four calories per gram cutoff for mountain food. Despite my pre-trip food rant in Anchorage, Jordan snuck in the worms. Later, out on the glacier, Jordan loaned me some of the worms. They were real tasty, so I let him pass the course. 

Camp below the Raven Headwall—the snow slope below the pass. The Raven Headwall is the crux of the popular Eklutna Traverse ski trip. We descended the SE aspect at 1pm in perfect corn to this camp. 

Lounging around camp after a 5am start.  

Riding crust at 6am.  

Start early in spring! Start early in spring! Start early in spring! Much of the west face above the Crow Pass trail avalanched five feet deep the evening before. At 10am the next morning we rode creamy and supportable crust around the debris. We then went to Jack Sprat in Girdwood for burgers and steins of Hofbrau.

Thanks for a great trip Sam, Jessie and Jordan! Good luck and be safe on your own adventures. See you around town and in the local hills!