Western Chugach Steeps

Todd Smith from Seattle and I had five epic days of skiing in the Western Chugach in late May. We skied seven steep north faces, thousands of feet of corn and roasted our noses. 

Alpine Air in Girdwood lifted us to the high glaciers above Girdwood. Everything becomes possible with a honed partner, stable snow and splitter weather. Thanks Todd for the awesome company!

First priority on day two: ski these faces. Todd sizing up Ski Peak I and II near the Eagle Glacier. 

 

Real deal slots. Although the regular crevasses were bridged with a fat layer of seasonal snow, the bergschrunds had thin bridges. These schrunds, and a heat-reactivated weak layer from 12 days earlier, were our major hazards of the trip.

 

Six runs and three steep north faces on day two. Todd hitting impeccable 50+ degree chalk on Ski Peak II. This was the last dry snow of the trip. Warm air temperatures crusted all aspects to 7,000 feet, which actually improved stability and opened options.

 

Negotiating crevasses on the Eagle Glacier on our way to Bunting Peak. While most buntings are small white and gray alpine birds, this Bunting had a ferocious beak and big talons.

 

Todd avoiding Bunting's 45+ degree hard-pecking beak. This face had been lightly crusted the day before but still had awesome steep skiing. We made two attempts on Bunting after a false alarm storm sent us bailing for shelter. 

 

Todd heading toward Hans Hut from the Eagle Glacier after skiing Bunting. Our route from Bunting to Hans crossed several high rocky cols where the 1993 1:63,360-scale map proved useless since the glacier dropped over 300 feet–bonus skiing!

 

In balmy, clear-skies weather we slept outside Hans Hut above the Whiteout Glacier. Our objective for the following morning, Whiteout Peak (7,135'), across the Whiteout Glacier. We skied near Whiteout's right skyline.

 

"Common Todd, do the REI salute for me. Pleeeeeze?" Todd near the summit of Whiteout Peak. Chugach and Kenai summits beyond. The 7,135-foot summit of Whiteout Peak is one of the highest mountains in the Western Chugach. The Western Chugach are east of Twenty Mile and Lake George. Whiteout is the first Western Chugach 7,000-footer I've skied.

 

Get some Todd! Belayed skiing on 45-degree crust above an ice cliff. This run continued on beautiful corn for 3,500-feet down the Eagle Glacier.

 

Petra Hilleberg and Todd waiting for night four on the Eagle Glacier nunatak. We'd been up since 3am to beat the heat and diurnal avalanche danger.

 

Day five. From our nunatak camp we crossed the 6,200-foot pass and skied a dramatic face (below sun) of 35-degree crust and avalanche chunder between berschrunds into the Raven Glacier. We traversed below an icefall to the Milk Glacier and down to the Crow Creek trailhead. Crow Creek local Ryan Davis gave us a lift to burgers and beer at Chair Five.