Black Lake Chute

The chute mocked me from the Debarr Costco. I'd push around my huge cart, spend a fortune, and step back into the daylight and that damn chute would be looking down at me. Like a white thread tied to O'Malley's summit, hanging down the north face. So thin a breeze could blow it away. And the chute would say something like, "I might be gone tomorrow. And you're grocery shopping?" 

Attempt number one. Well-armed with the right tool–a Maddog–but the wrong season. We found the chute after searching the summit ridgeline, but it dripped with rotten snow and swallowed rockfall from both sides. 

Second attempt with John Sykes. Thirty feet later we retreated with our tails between our legs and red faces. 

Third time lucky with the The King of Stoke: Roger Strong. I watched his face when he first looked into the 55-degree entrance. He calmed and entered his world of alpinism. The right partner, at the right place, at the right time.

Second rap over a 20-foot cliff into the goods. This section was skiable, but the consequences were too high for our liking. 

Transition to ski mode! 

Forty-five degrees, four inches of duff on solid chalk. The stuff of dreams. But Roj wasn't yelling for joy like normal. The chute ended at the top of the 300-foot Black Lake Climb. He was still in alpinism mode. 

We skied between acres of vertical stone. If you live in Anchorage, this rock is called "splitter." If you live near granite, then you'd call this rock something inappropriate. 

Final turns to the top of the Black Lake Climbs.  

We traversed skiers right above the cliffs. Aluminum frontpoints in turf and January ice. Ignore the air below your feet and repeat: "You're on the ground. Breath. You're on the ground. Breath. You're on the ground." 

Roj rigging the third rap. Lou Dawson reminds us in Style Matters to "Use a rope occasionally to protect a skier, and you'll get a nod from the style council." We did 400 feet rappelling feet out of 2,400 vertical feet. Lou, do we get a nod?

Roj on the final rap. 

On the lower slopes to Black Lake. Roj was yelling for joy. 

Way better than Costco. Roj with the stoke of a ski alpinist: the alpinists relief of surviving the climb combined with the skiers thrill of speed and good snow. 

This was our third day skiing together. Each has been epic. Thank you Roger! We have many ski projects ahead.