Glacier Bay 2015 — Skiing The Otherworld

Post by blogger | March 31, 2015      

Jason Davis

Hiking up the giant wind tunnel on climber's right of the glacier. These seracs are beautiful.

Hiking up the giant wind tunnel on climbers right of the glacier. These seracs are beautiful.

(Editor’s note: The boys jury rigged the solar system and got it working enough to send us this post. It’s from last week, their second day of skiing after arriving on the glacier.)

It’s hard to reconcile the incredible experiences and perfect weather of the first three days on the glacier with life stuck inside the storm saloon.

During the first couple days on Glacier Bay, we explored the terrain enough to gain some confidence in the snowpack. For our second day of skiing, we decided to aim for the low hanging fruit just west of our camp. The closest peak holds two enticing lines facing almost directly at camp. We skinned up the glacier on the south side of the peak. We hoped to find a way to access the top of the lines from the far side so we could climb up as much out of harm’s way as possible. After comparing the south face of the ridgeline with photos of the north side, we found a fairly straight forward way to boot to the top.

The south side of the slope that we booted up. The two red dots show our first (righthand), and second (lefthand) runs.

The south side of the slope that we booted up. The two red dots show our first (right hand), and second (left hand) runs.

Swapping skins for crampons, plates and axes, we climbed up the sun affected but mostly solid south face. We traversed onto a platform at the top and were relieved to find a skiable entrance to the line. We set up an anchor and Coop did a belayed cut and dug a pit. Satisfied with the results, he rode down and let us know that the snow was excellent below the top chute. We dug out the anchor and each dropped in turn, slowly scraping down the rimy top followed by awesome steep turns in soft snow.

Belaying the ski cut at the top of the first run.

Belaying the ski cut at the top of the first run.

Louie doing the icy sideslip into the entrance for the first run.

Louie doing the icy sideslip boogie into the entrance for the first run.

Jason ripping down the first run.

Jason ripping down the first run.

Zach dropping into the first run.

Zach dropping into the first run.

I cranked a few fast turns into the flats, taking in the otherworldly landscape at the bottom, hardly believing this could be real. After a quick lunch, the skins and ropes went back on. For the second lap, we opted to skirt the crevasses by moving up a giant wind tunnel on climber’s right.

Louie and Coop led the bootpack up. It was steeper than before and they traversed right to a notch in the ridge. Once there, they yelled back that it would be hard to access the line from that notch, so I led up and left hoping to find an opening in the ridge. A delicate traverse led to a tiny perch barely big enough for one person to chop out a platform to put on skis. Dropping in, the snow was again stable and soft. Every turn was a relief after feeling a little gripped on the climb.

We hope to get another day of skiing in before the impending storm. The heli’s were present in the distance during the clear days but haven’t bothered us since the initial encounter on the first ski day.

The north side of the ridge.

The north side of the ridge.

Coop booting up the south side of the ridge, with the beautiful glacier below.

Coop booting up the south side of the ridge, with the beautiful glacier below.

Coop ski cutting our first line of the day.

Coop ski cutting our first line of the day.

Hanging out at the top of our second run.

Hanging out at the top of our second run.

Cory heading down our second run, with Coop's board poised above the steep drop-in.

Cory heading down our second run, with Coop’s board poised above the steep drop-in.

(Guest blogger Jason Davis is a climber, kayaker and skier living in the Pacific North Wet. He works as a sea kayak guide for Discovery Sea Kayaks on San Juan Island, WA during the warmer months and searches for good views, aesthetic lines and soft snow while attempting to work as little as possible during the winter. His other hobbies include spaghetti western card games and enjoying vigorous legal debates with polite Canadian Border guards.)



15 Responses to “Glacier Bay 2015 — Skiing The Otherworld”

  1. Lisa Dawson March 31st, 2015 9:49 am

    Good read and stunning photos. Thanks boys! Be safe.

  2. Amber Ale March 31st, 2015 10:18 am

    Amazing photography! Thanks for keeping us up to date on your adventures. Looks like a weather window may be headed that way for the weekend!

  3. Lori kaufman March 31st, 2015 12:00 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous!

  4. Rick March 31st, 2015 12:03 pm

    Enjoy the serac’s and glaciers while you’re here in AK as they’re melting at a remarkable rate ..

  5. MJ Davis March 31st, 2015 1:29 pm


  6. Elijah Davis March 31st, 2015 5:24 pm

    Amazing stuff! Love the photos and got a hoot out of Jason’s description. Send it dudes!

  7. Teresa Piddington March 31st, 2015 5:38 pm

    You guys are so inspirational! I love following Jason’s adventures and amazing life. Thanks for posting pics & descriptions and allowing us to see what you are doing!!

  8. Kate March 31st, 2015 6:22 pm

    Those lines look pretty extreme. I’ve only seen terrain like that in ski movies, along with the big avalanches that happen there. That belay action looks pretty iffy. Can the guy at the top holding the rope really make a difference if a big avalanche rips out? Even if you have a back up anchor in the snow, will it hold? Looks scary and thrilling too. Watch your Qs and Ps.

  9. Lou Dawson 2 March 31st, 2015 6:27 pm

    Kate, I don’t know how they’re doing it in the photo, but that kind of situation usually calls for one of two options, either a bomber anchor that can stand up to nearly anything, or else you don’t tie the other end of the rope to anything, least of all the belayer, that way if indeed forces exceed the belay the belayer doesn’t get pulled off. Generally, the guys are going to use good judgement and only belay in situations where it’s not going to rip big, it’s more a final precaution than a “first line” of defense. These guys have an immense amount of experience now, I trust they’re using the best combination of safety techniques they’ve got at their disposal. Lou

  10. Dorothy Cooper March 31st, 2015 6:41 pm

    SO happy to hear all is going well and we are back in communication. The pictures are just too awesome and beyond words. Be safe and enjoy!!….and keep the pictures and bloggin’ comin’

  11. Kate March 31st, 2015 8:27 pm

    Lou, thank you. I’ll rest easier tonight. It is a wonderful adventure to be in those mountains for those young men. I realize they are experienced but one does wonder about the risk factor especially when you’re so excited to be there. Their experience along with the maritime snow must help with that.

  12. Aaron April 2nd, 2015 7:57 am

    Send it boys!

  13. Mendel April 2nd, 2015 12:46 pm

    Wow–what a gorgeous day and a fantastic adventure!

  14. Kevin Tarilton April 5th, 2015 9:40 pm

    . These guys are doing what so many of us just day-dream about. Beautiful pics!

  15. See April 6th, 2015 9:31 am

    I agree, Kevin, but just reading about their adventure and looking at the pictures inspires me to look for some snow on our mostly brown hills and go skiing.

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