2015 Western Chugach #3

Evan lives in Anchorage. We've been in several avalanche classes together. He brought up a his buddies from Juneau for some Chugach skiing and mad ski mountaineering skills. We flew in and out from Girdwood and lived large on the glaciers, base camp style, with a few luxuries (beer).  

Connor O'Dea, Evan Patterson and Jason Fagel. Hydrating with frosty PBRs at our strategic camp with backyard skiing. 

Blind track-setting exercise. To set the perfect skin track try this: Stand below a snow slope that won't avalanche. Keep your heel lifters down. Cover your eyes and skin up the slope. Feel the pressure of the boot on your shins. Feel the torquing on your ankle. If it feels tough or uncomfortable, then angle off. From the top, look back at your track. It will be close to perfect. The trick is to set an equally good track with your eyes open. 

Is our camp in the runnout? No, but we checked! 

Brand new Hilleberg Keron 4. Breaking it in for an Arctic trip in June. Thanks Petra!

Big loop tour on day two. We left camp at 5am, with a wet avalanche hazard looming if we dawdled. We timed our transitions—transitions are where time disappears. We aimed for 15 minutes of rest/transition after an hour of moving. Strategic transitions take practice. At this transition Connor is giving Jason a seated waist belay up a crumbling rock slope to a pass. 

Skiing downhill while roped together poses additional danger from reduced speed (it's less efficient) and crashing while trying to manage the rope. But the rope is justified when crevasses pose the greatest danger. 

Riding ski crampons for a 2,000-foot ascent back to camp. 

The French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) described the decisive moment as the moment when the essence of an event is captured by the precise organization of forms that express that event. In the high mountains it feels like the decisive moment goes on for hours. The sharp light and people in a frozen landscape is perfection. But capturing the decisive moment takes a dedication to photography. We were dedicated to capturing the experience: climbing glaciers and passes, then ripping slopes.  

Pumping laps on perfect corn.  

Back to camp at the end of another long day of exploring with a great posse of skiers. This trip was my seventh fly-in ski trip in as many weeks. I was supposed to be burnt out: endless preparation, long guiding days, avalanche stress, worry about client expectations...but I'm not. The reason is the people. Ski mountaineers are the best people in the world. I am so lucky to spend time with this unique group. It's been an honor to ski with you all. Have a great summer you beautiful people. See you next winter!