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It is always a bittersweet day: That last day of ski mountaineering, or simply being on a glacier before the little airplane with big tires and skis comes to take you back to the land of asphalt.
Today was that day for us, and since we landed on the glacier, Riley and I have had our eyes on a little 1500 foot couloir right here next to camp. With Anton not feeling his best and Aaron less interested, Riley and I set off in hopes of getting up it before the snow got too wet.
Crossing the crevasse field that guards the bottom and skinning up and past the schrund at the bottom we unrope but continue skinning.
The snow is in perfect skinning condition. We switchback our way up nearly half way to the top before switching to crampons. Swapping leads we make relatively quick work of what remains and top out to a new view of our original objective, Mount Hayes. We don’t waste time with our transition and are ready to ski.
The first few turns are exciting and steep, probably in the 48-50 degree range but it quickly mellows to nice 40 degree pitch of pure enjoyment. I drop in first and make my way a few hundred feet down and turn to watch Riley make those first few turns, find his groove and ski right on by. We leap frog our way all the way out to the main glacier, both excited to have skied this line before our return to the lower 48.
The rest of the day is spent trying to finish off the 2 cases of PBR that have gone mostly untouched and packing up everything not necessary for tonight since our pilots plan to be here at 8 AM tomorrow which amounts to early and cold by glacier standards. Most of our packing done, we watch as that last bit of warmth fades behind the mountain and we slowly add layers as the temperature drops.
We are leaving tomorrow, and its always hard after the time and effort put into a trip like this to walk away without the goal accomplished, but coming home is mandatory and after last year in the Central Alaska Range, I count this trip a success as well given that we’ve had near perfect weather, good skiing, and we are all ready to head home safely. Everyone is in agreement that we will be back here again sooner rather than later. It really is a beautiful place.
Closing note from Aaron Diamond:
Well, its over. Anton is speeding across the Yukon in a white F250, Jordan and Riley are already back in Aspen and Im sitting in Anchorage getting ready for work on Denali. Its both easy and hard go count this trip as a success. We flew in under clear skies, spent 6 days camped in a beautiful alpine environment with blue skies and calm winds, we skied some good snow, climbed a bit of ice, ate well, and last but certainly not least came back alive and better than when we flew in.
The goal oriented side of my brain is disappointed. No matter how well prepared you might be going in sometimes you’re lucky and sometimes you’re not and thats just the way the mountains are unfortunately. The team already seems committed to return and for that I am both happy and excited. Sliding turns down the hanging face will just be that much sweeter for all of us. Hope you guys enjoyed coming along. Till next time!
Jordan White is a strong alpinist who finished skiing all 54 Colorado 14,000 foot peaks in 2009. He guides, tends bar, and lives the all-around perfect life in Aspen.