Andreas Fransson says he is most proud of the runs he didn't take, because backing off is harder than dropping in. Considering that, my season has been easy. I've had eight play days to go for it. Where my schedule, the weather and the snowpack have aligned with great friends.
Day one. It's steep when Maddog hesitates. Fifty-five degrees with exposure on The Pinnacle at Hatcher Pass in the Talkeetna Mountains. After trying this summit twice last year, I cheated and brought Dana Drummond to lead the summit pitch of rotten snow over rock slab. More photos here.
Day two. Ryan Hokanson near the summit of Carpathian, way above Turnagain Arm. Like The Pinnacle is the most pointy of the Hatcher Peaks, Carpathian is the most pointy of the Portage Peaks. Over the years, Ryan has attempted this peak four times before this final success. More photos here.
Day three. Andy Newton skiing our fourth and final chute at Palmer Creek near Hope in the Kenai Mountains. Andy pulled me 13 miles with his Ski Do Summit 800 to the base of these beautiful 600-foot chutes.
Day four. Neighbor Tobey Carman near the summit of the Captain's Chair, moments after fog lifted for the first time all day. The Captain's Chair is a 45-degree powder face that looms above the Johnson Pass trailhead. In fog, our only way to find the face was by following fresh heli tracks.
Day five. Cody Arnold skinning the final pitch on Alpenglow, a route he's climbed and skied many times. When driving from Anchorage to Girdwood, Alpenglow is the most striking big ski face.
Cody starting down 4,800 vertical feet of powder from the summit of Alpenglow to the ocean. We then walked the beach back along the placid water of Turnagain Arm, until the bore tide ripped up the Arm and obliterated the beach and forced us back into the forest. We spent the next two hours hurdling deadfall to the car. A perfect nine-hour day of Alaska backcountry skiing.
Day six. Ryan Hokanson having a caffè macchiato in downtown Coulieville.
Ryan is thinking of moving to Coulieville.
Day seven. Roger Strong near the summit of Silvertip at Turnagain Pass. We booted the north face but found only smiles and windslab.
But on the other side of Silvertip we found 4,000 feet of smiles and powder, right into the pillowed gullet of Canyon Creek.
Day eight. John Sykes' after work special. We taught avalanche rescue for Exxon in the morning. In the afternoon we found this little spine plopping right down from the summit of Explorer Peak.
John and I had never skied together. The stoke was high, the face and spine were steep and the bergschrund agreeable. John and I found out we like skiing together.
Each mountain day I venture out looking for a reason to turn around. When no reason appears, then I get to drop in. Dropping in, with good friends, is always a great time.