Posts Tagged ‘glacier’

Crust Ski To Twentymile Glacier

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

The Twentymile River valley has lots of great terrain for crust skiing, and a couple of cool lakes to explore.  But it can be finicky.  Often times, when enough melting has occurred to create crust, the alders have started popping up, or the section near the road has turned to swamp.  You need a lot of snow to get a good crust window.  So this year Twentymile, like most other crust destinations in Southcentral, was the best I’ve ever seen it.

Bill and I only had a few hours before work, so we made a quick out and back run straight to the glacier.

GPS Track here

Heading upriver Heading upriver
Hope you sharpened your edges Hope you sharpened your edges
Twentymile Glacier Twentymile Glacier
Twentymile Glacier Crust Ski - P4110026.JPG Twentymile Glacier Crust Ski - P4110026.JPG
There's white gold in them thar hills! There's white gold in them thar hills!
Twentymile Glacier Crust Ski - P4110029.JPG Twentymile Glacier Crust Ski - P4110029.JPG
Twentymile Glacier Crust Ski - P4110030.JPG Twentymile Glacier Crust Ski - P4110030.JPG
Twentymile Glacier Crust Ski - P4110035.JPG Twentymile Glacier Crust Ski - P4110035.JPG
Twentymile Glacier Crust Ski - P4110036.JPG Twentymile Glacier Crust Ski - P4110036.JPG
Cruising along the Glacier River Cruising along the Glacier River
Heading home Heading home
Yeehaw! Yeehaw!


Crust seekers: The next generation

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Portage Glacier, April 10, 2011. Thanks to Bruce Talbot for the photo

Portage Glacier

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Family trip to Portage Glacier this weekend.



Caines Head Alpine Trail

Monday, September 14th, 2009

I spent the Labor Day weekend camping with family and friends at Caines Head State Recreation Area, on Resurrection Bay south of Seward. On Sunday, we did a really cool hike up the Alpine Trail. Despite rave reviews in guidebooks and online trail guides, this hike is still relatively unknown. I think it ranks among the best trail hikes in Alaska.


The trail from Caines Head to above treeline is three miles (plus an additional 4.5 miles if you are starting from Seward instead of Caines Head or Derby Cove). Once you get above treeline, there are tons of cool glacial ridges and gullies to explore, a few small tarns, and spectacular views of Resurrection Bay and Callisto Peak.

photo: Jen Jolliff

At one of the tarns, the kids and moms stopped to wade in the water and scramble on the rocks, while Ian and I explored the southern flanks of Callisto Peak. Lots of amazing features to see up here. Gorges, glaciers, cliffs… and that’s before even raising your head to gawk at the views of Resurrection Bay.   Ian and I hiked up to the southern ridge of Callisto, where we were treated to a spectacular view of Bear Glacier and the gigantic icebergs floating in its glacial lake. For me, it was the “view of the summer” and one of the best glacier views I’ve ever seen. Unfortuantely, in our haste to drop our kid packs and start exploring, Ian and I both left our cameras behind. Damn! So I can’t share that view with you. The best I can do is show you a couple of pictures of what the view looks like in winter (thanks to Matt Faust). These pics are taken from the top of Callisto rather than the ridge, but you get the idea. Its even more dramatic in the summer with greenery and blue water to offset the white ice. 

I highly recommend checking out this hike if you are in the Seward area. The views are as good as Lost Lake or Exit Glacier/Harding Icefield, but with a lot less people. And if you do go, please send me a picture of the Bear Glacier view! I want that shot in my photo album. Maybe I’ll just have to go back. Sigh.

Packrafting: Startin ‘em early (and a bit later)

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Last month we introduced the kiddo to the wonderful world of packrafting.


And last week, we had three generations  out in the rafts, paddling among the ‘bergs.





A Quick Hit At Portage Lake

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

I should have known that one ski trip to Skookum Glacier wasn’t going to satiate my lust for crust this spring. Like any true addict, “just one” fix quickly leads to an overwhelming urge for another. My body may be injured, but my mind still craves copious amounts of sun and snow. No amount of bike riding was going to make the urge go away.

So yesterday I succumbed and headed to Portage Lake. With weekend temepratures hitting 70 degrees in Anchorage, I wasn’t sure the lake would still be skiable, so I had Turnagain Pass in mind as a back-up plan. When I arrived at the lake, it looked perfect. The crust was firm and smooth. There was a bustle of construction activity (lots of people and trucks) at the rock slide site, which led me to believe that there wouldn’t be any blasting anytime soon. So I geared up and headed across the lake.

Its about three miles to get back to the glacier. The first mile was great skiing. Fast and flat – perfect for my leg, which is still in the walking cast. After the first mile, though, the snow started getting punchy. At this point in the spring, the “snow” on the lake is really just a foot-thick layer of slush on top of ice. So each time I punched through, my foot dove into a soggy mess. For the next mile, I did my best to stay on top of the snow. But soon the crust was completely gone and I was trudging through slush. Bummer. At this point, making it to Portage Pass was out of the question, so I decided to trudge ahead until I could see the glacier, then turn around.

Proof that I made it. All 2.5 miles of it.

When returning to the car, I played around on the firmer crust on the north end of the lake a bit, watching the rock slide work. I finished skiing about 9:00 AM. When I got back to Anchorage, I found out that the blasting began a few hours after I left. I wish I’d been able to stay and watch! I found it amusing and slightly aggravating that the last time I was there, there were a bunch of warning signs even though the blasting wouldn’t take place for almost two weeks. Then yesterday, with the blasting only a few hours away, no signs at all!

Apres Ski

Even though the skiing wasn’t very good, it was great to be on skis again. And the trip was worth it for the drive alone – I saw a coyote, a fox, a moose and a bison along the way! (Okay, okay, the bison was at Big Game Alaska. But the others were legit.)

The Last Temptation of Crust

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Attention: Everyone who selected April 22 in their office pool for “the day that Cory finally ignores Doctor’s (and wife’s) orders and goes skiing,” please pick up your winnings at the front desk.

Monday of this week was the first day of excellent crust ski weather we’ve had so far this spring. Blinding sunshine, frozen snowpack. But I was a good patient and stayed home (well, at work actually).

Tuesday was also an epic crust day and I probably would have given in, except that my son was sick. I figured that if my wife had to stay home with vomiting toddler, I should probably go to work and contribute to the collective family good, rather than go play in the sun. I’m very sympathetic like that.

But when Wednesday morning dawned with clear skies and cold temperatures, well, I think we can all agree that no mortal man can be expected to resist that temptation three days in a row.

One reason I hadn’t been skiing (or doing anything mildly active) prior to today was that my ankle has continued to be swollen. Not good for healing. No matter how I try to baby it, the swelling doesn’t go down. But then yesterday, I had my first real physical therapy session. The therapist really stressed the ankle a lot more than I ever had in the past six weeks. At first, the tendon felt extremely tight and weak, but the more I worked it, the better it felt. And then, when I woke up this morning and saw that the ankle was less swollen than ever since the injury, a lightbulb went off in my head. Maybe a little bit of activity is exactly what I need to reduce the swelling, to get the blood flowing and flush out the ankle. That was all the excuse I needed to grab my skis.

So this morning I drove down to Portage Lake. I picked Portage because its a short, flat, easy ski with spectacular scenery. I could get my crust ski fix without pushing my Achilles too much. But when I got there, there were signs saying “DANGER! Blasting in area – Stay off ice.” The lake looked fine and it didn’t look like they were blasting today, so I thought about going anyway. But I was by myself with no one else around, and on a gimp leg, so I decided to play it safe. I drove down the road to the Placer River valley and headed towards Skookum Glacier instead.

The crust was near-perfect: rock hard with no volcanic ash. My technique was a little sloppy, and I fatigued quickly (did I really lose that much fitness in six weeks? Ouch.), but the ski was spectacular.

I knew I needed to be extra careful of my tendon while skiing. So it was fortunate that I had a pair of Salomon’s latest top-secret prototype boots to protect me. Currently I think there are only three pairs in existence. Mathias Fredriksson has a pair, Andy Gerlach had a pair, I have a pair. Check out my photos.


Skookum Glacier


The whole trip made me so happy. Early morning drive down Turnagain Arm, cruising on top of the firm snow while the crystals sparkled in the sun, feeling my blood pumping again, soaking up the sunshine, and even stopping for a snack at the Tesoro on the way home. It was great to be back in the spring routine again, if only for a day.

Turnagain Pass to Spencer Glacier Packrafting Hike

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Last summer, Ian and I tried to hike from Turnagain Pass to Spencer Glacier Lake, then packraft out the Placer River. I call this trip “Center2 Spencer” (Center to Spencer) because the route is Center Ridge to Center Creek to Spencer Glacier. Its as clever as I could get.

Unfortunately, we had to turn back at the pass near Tincan Peak, above Center Ridge. The cliff was a little too high and we didn’t have the right gear. So its been on my list to complete this summer. Friday was a nice day, so we jumped at the chance to do it again. We also took along Bastien, an orienteer who is visiting from France.

This time we made it. It was a great trip, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that some parts sucked. The bushwhack up to the top of Center Ridge wasn’t fun, but it was only half an hour. And after that, the walking on Center Ridge was great. Going over the pass was a challenge, but was made much more doable by good snow conditions and the fact that we had ice axes. The walking on the other side of the pass was easy-going with spectacular views, except for one steep bushwhacking section just before Center Creek Pass. And then, of course, the descent from Center Creek to Spencer Lake was awful. Some of the nastiest bushwhacking I’ve done. If they ever build the proposed whistle-stop trail down this slope, this could become a classic packraft trip. But not until then.

The trip took a total of 11 hours. We hiked quickly, but didn’t push the pace, and we stopped for a few snack breaks. We had a great time and made the most of a rare sunny day. Check out the photos for more details. Thanks to Bill for giving us info from his ski trip on this route in June.


Center 2 Spencer


The Other Bear Valley

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Bear Valley and Skookum Glacier


[Click the photo above to view this photo album]

In Anchorage, if you tell someone you went skiing in Bear Valley, they assume that you were up above Anchorage in the Bear Valley that leads towards McHugh Peak. But there is another, less known Bear Valley. If you’ve ever waited for the tunnel to Whittier, you’ve seen it off to the North. It doesn’t look like much – especially in summer when it is a tangled mess of brush and swamps. But in the winter, with plenty of snow, it makes for a fun place to crust ski. Nobody goes there, probably because it is across the street from Portage Lake, which is the mecca for southcentral crust skiing because of its spectacular scenery and easy access.

On Friday, fresh off our ski to Grandview, Tim, Benji and I were discussing other places that would be good crust skiing right now. The consensus was that the Portage area was the place to be for the weekend. Tim suggested Bear Valley as a good bet if I wanted to go some place new.

So on Sunday, Ian and I skied up Bear Valley. The route finding on the first part was tricky – the river was washed out so we had to navigate lots of brush. But eventually it opened up into some really sweet skiing and great views.

The entire ski took less than two hours, so after we were done, we decided to drive down the road to Placer and ski up to check out the ice cave at Skookum Glacier. I could not believe the crowd of people out in Placer on Sunday! We saw about 50 people – and we didn’t even go up towards Spencer Glacier! We had a hard time finding a parking spot. What were all these “lycra-clad NSAA skate skiers” doing out there? Didn’t they know that Hillside was groomed last night? (Full disclosure admission: I think I was the only NSAA skate skier who was actually wearing lycra out there. Guilty as charged.)

Is crust skiing joining the mainstream? It’s hard to see why it wouldn’t when we get perfect days like Sunday.

PWS Peakbagging In Jackpot Bay

Monday, August 13th, 2007

PWS Peakbagging In Jackpot Bay


Supposedly the three peaks we bagged had never been climbed before. But even so, whoever named this bay must have known how spectacular it is up on the peaks, because the views definitely hit the Jackpot!

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