From Haines Alaska — Glacier Camp Dispatch #2

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After the first sunny days of our ski mountaineering trip in the mountains of Glacier Bay, Alaska, our third day was forecasted to be stormy. According to all the Haines locals, however, you can’t really trust the weather forecast. So we woke early and headed out. There were clouds and fog covering the high peaks in the morning, but after a few hours it seemed to be clearing.

Skiinng early morning powder down a glacier to our objective for the day

Skiing early morning powder down a glacier to our objective for the day

On our flight in we had spied a tasty NE face on a big peak down the glacier from camp. Back then it had seemed like a far-out, lofty goal. But with the light, stable snow we’ve been encountering it now seemed more realistic. We climbed from camp to a low pass, and skied through the morning light down the low angled glacier on the other side. We arrived at the base of the peak, with a long 3,000 foot climb ahead.

The peak viewed from the plane on the way in. "We have GOT to ski that!" We skied the from the small col just lookers right of the summit, and down the obvious left trending line.

The peak viewed from the plane on the way in. "We have GOT to ski that!" We skied the from the small col just lookers right of the summit, and down the obvious left trending line. Click to enlarge.

Camp is the dot, lines mark what we've skied so far.

Here's a picture I took from the plane. The red dot is our camp, and the red lines are lines that we've skied so far. The far left one is the line in the photo above. To get back to camp we had to hike all the way up that flat glacier. It was pretty cool! Click to enlarge.

Skinning up the lower slopes.

Skinning up the lower slopes.

Tyler booting close to where we topped out, while the weather was still holding out. The huge glacier we walked up later that day is visible in the background.

Tyler booting close to where we topped out, while the weather was still holding out. The huge glacier we walked up later that day is visible in the background. We're pretty sure it's the Davidson Glacier.

Coop on the way up, note the foot enhancement.

Coop on the way up, note the foot enhancement.

We were able to skin the first half of the run, but had to start booting after a bit. The snow was deep so our ascent plates and Verts proved their worth once again. Even with the extra flotation we were still wallowing up to our thighs. We swapped trail breaking duties every few minutes. As we climbed, the clouds that had been hanging above us started moving in. Eager to get to the top, we pushed on, and eventually made it to a small col just below the summit. The last 100 feet was a steep, deep headwall, peppered with rocks poking through the snow. The climb ahead, combined with the thickening clouds, convinced us to turn around. We clicked in, and I started down first. Flat light made skiing a little tricky, but the snow was amazing, once again, and the 3,000 foot run was incredible. We coasted out onto the huge glacier, and stopped for lunch.

Me enjoying some blue sky and a view.

Me enjoying some blue sky and a view. The Dynafit Huascaran skis are working well for human powered backcountry skiing in this terrain. Light enough but big enough.

Russel enjoying some powder on the glacier below the peak.

Russel enjoying some powder on the glacier below the peak.

We opted to explore a new route back to camp, and skin up the huge glacier that we are camped near the top of. The skin through the worsening weather took over an hour; the glacier was immense. When we made it back to camp, the weather had fully moved in. The last few days have involved low clouds and light snow. The storm has been pretty mellow, without too much wind and pretty warm temps. We even got out on a little exploratory tour on Sunday during a break in the storm.

A close up view of our camp. Fly-in basecamping is pretty luxurious. Russel and Tyler are both in their own two-man tents, while Coop and I are sharing a big four-man Black Diamond Bombshelter tent. We also have a Megalight cooktent. That's right, 4 tents for 4 people!

A close up view of our camp. Fly-in basecamping is pretty luxurious. Russel and Tyler are both in their own two-man tents, while Coop and I are sharing a big four-man Black Diamond Bombshelter tent. We also have a Megalight cooktent. That's right, 4 tents for 4 people!

inside the cooktent where we've been spending a lot of time the past few days.

Inside the cooktent where we've been spending a lot of time the past few days. Coop, Tyler, and Russell (left to right)

Before the clouds moved in we were even treated to a little show from the northern lights. I've never seen them before, so even the short show was incredible.

Before the clouds moved in we were even treated to a little show from the northern lights. I've never seen them before, so even the short show was incredible.

I’m hoping the light winds and snow from this storm will supply some nice powder without increasing the avy danger. It seems the weather forecasts all contradict one another, but there might be a bit of clearing on Tuesday or Wednesday that might last a few days. I’m hoping the optomistic forecasts are right, but the few sunny days we have had have already made this trip more than worth it.

Map below shows our location at the green arrow. It appears we are on somewhat of an ice cap or field, with several valley glaciers flowing out of it. Again, from what we can tell the big glacier flowing easterly from us is the Davidson. It’s not named on our map but we’re told it is named on other maps. Whatever the case, always a special thing to be on the ice river.


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Comments

14 Responses to “From Haines Alaska — Glacier Camp Dispatch #2”

  1. Gregg Cronn April 2nd, 2013 8:06 am

    Great to read these Louie. I remember wallowing up Shuksan once and wished I had a pair of verts along. Stay safe and have fun!

  2. Brian April 2nd, 2013 9:30 am

    Hey, just some little helpful tidbits. I did a 24 day expedition just S of your current location a few years ago. The Davidson glacier is the glacier that flows to the lake. S-SW from where the ice starts on this map, is what I have heard called Doors 1, 2 and 3, being good runways for pilots making landings for glacier tours. If you were to travel W up the Davidson glacier, you would come to the Apex, which is the divider between Haines Borough, and Glacier Bay National Park. This is also the divider between the Davidson, and the Casement Glacier. I can tell you with certainty, that the peak just S of you, @ 0464840 6549480 is Carrot Top. The reason for this name is clear when viewed from the South. Freak and Geak are other peaks in your general vicinity although I can’t recognize from Google Earth. Good luck out there guys! I’m jealous. That area is super rad and one I’ve been hoping to go back ever since setting foot there!

  3. Brian April 2nd, 2013 9:39 am

    I see we have the Makers Mark on-board. Essential to all epic ski adventures, of course.

    4 tents for 4 guys: too comfy!!

  4. Lee Lau April 2nd, 2013 10:16 am

    weeeehhhaaaa — get after it boys. Beyond stoked you’re all up there safe, sound and slaying!

  5. Thomas April 2nd, 2013 11:01 am

    The Makers Mark was the first thing I noticed and almost full…maybe the second bottle?

  6. Greg S April 2nd, 2013 2:52 pm

    Loving these dispatches from the field!

    Strong work guys!

  7. Nick April 2nd, 2013 3:24 pm

    These pictures are amazing – what a beautiful zone. Enjoy the rest of the trip.

  8. Greg April 2nd, 2013 7:07 pm

    Louie: what boots are you using with the Huscaran? I am wondering if a TLT5 is big enough to drive that ski.

    Looks like a great trip. Thanks for the vicarious thrills.

  9. Terry April 2nd, 2013 8:16 pm

    Greg, re. the Huascarans and TLT5s… Trevor Hunt skis that combo on big steep lines like Mt. Atwell – he says, his “setup was Dynafit Huascaran skis 177cm, Dynafit Superlight bindings 185g DIN 10 (the best ski mountaineering binding ever . . . period), and Dynafit TLT5 Performance boots with the power straps and tongues removed of course”. – http://www.coaststeepskier.com/wphome/?p=19492

    I think its more a matter of the skier than the gear in some cases.

  10. Lou Dawson April 2nd, 2013 8:31 pm

    Louie has some Vulcans.

  11. Lisa April 2nd, 2013 10:18 pm

    Sooo beautiful…want to go there!

  12. Christian April 3rd, 2013 1:04 am

    Greg. Haven’t tried the Huascaran, but the Megawatt carbon with tlt5 performance. I expected the boots to be too soft, but it really wasn’t a problem. When it is hard and steep, the skis are the scary part – not the boots. (Also tried skis with Tecnica Bodacious – a stiff 130 flex boot…and there wasn’t that much difference. ) On narrower skis I find the forward flex of the tlt5p to bee too soft in some conditions -typically semi-steep hard snow with breakable layers that has to be powered through. As the wider skis float better, they really doesn’t have to be powered through the snow – so forwards flex isn’t that important.

  13. Jim Meldrum April 3rd, 2013 1:06 pm

    Nice work! Tyler! I have but one request of you. You oughtta know what it is. Beautiful photos, have fun and play safe.

  14. Jason Gregg April 3rd, 2013 3:04 pm

    I am really looking forward to the next dispatch. Haines is getting more sunny, cool weather for the next few days. With the length of the day now there, they should be able to have A LOT of fun.

    Glad Louie took the Vulcan’s, having both the TLT5P and recently purchasing the Vulcan I found it made a big difference for skiing with my Hi5′s. TLT5′s do just fine for the Manaslu, but for skis like Hi5 and bigger, the Vulcan is the way to go.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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