We just got back from what was supposed to be a 10 day mountaineering trip, however due to poor weather conditions and increasing snow pack instability we had to return on day 7. That being said the first 4 days were excellent, which allowed us to get a few things done. Here is the breakdown:
Day 1: The only objective for the day was to cross Portage Lake from the lodge with our heavy packs and set up a camp on the opposite side, below Burns glacier. The day went pretty straight forward, however we stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the masses of skate skiers. The highlight of the day was seeing a recently awoken black bear in the alpine crossing some gnarly looking avalanche paths. The down side was we had to rig up a bear hang and couldn't cook in the tents......suckage.
Day 2: Spent the day on our old friend Portage Pass running some classes on basic snow skills (i.e. crampon use, ice axe use, self arrest, etc.) Being a weekend we were once again an oddity, with numerous skate skiers and mountain bikers whizzing by. The afternoon temps produced some great ski conditions, which we had to take advantage of. It was our first time using the mountaineering boots while skiing, needless to say it was interesting but not as hard as we thought it would be. Wrapped the day up with a skate ski back to camp.
Day 3: Early start to avoid avalanche paths on our way up the Burns glacier. The glacier was still snow covered and had a pretty mellow angle which made travel a breeze. Nothing more to really say, we just did some reconnaissance and practiced some rope work. We made a ski decent down the snow covered moraines, across some snow bridges and down to camp. The afternoon was spent building and testing snow anchors.
Day 4: Pre-dawn start at 4 am to take advantage of the snow stability. We cruised up Portage Pass then ascended the convex rolls of Shakespeare's glacier to the col. below the summit of Shakespeare's shoulder. We roped up and started making a traverse, to avoid large cornices, to one of Shakespeare's Shoulder sub-summits. About halfway across the slope the snow stability became very questionable due to solar radiation, so we decided to descend 700ft to the Whittier glacier and traverse over to the Burns glacier. The decent down to Burns glacier was too dangerous to do with a rope or skins on, which we managed by unroping and shredding some gnarly turns down to the Burns and then all the way back to camp.
|Ascending Shakespeare's glacier|
Day 5: The big day before took it's toll on some of the group. Logan's old Achilles tendon injury started to flare up and Jono was wiped out after snow shoeing all day. This rest day also coincided with bad weather moving in and a serious of colds that were developing. We did take a little field trip up to a small knoll overlooking Portage glacier, which we planned on getting onto the next day. After we skied down we spent the rest of the day working on crevasse rescue techniques. Dan and I took a pretty scenic skate ski on the lake after supper, it was pretty awesome without a pack on.
Day 6: The weather finally started giving us issues. Large amounts of rain started dangerously affecting the snowpack making glacier travel unsafe. So we stayed around camp and worked on 2:1 and 6:1 crevasse rescue systems.
Day 7: With a giant low over us, gail force winds, and howling rain we decided to pull the plug and head back to the lodge before the lake started melting. Fortunately for us the wind was at our backs which allowed us to ditch the skins and let the wind push us back. The most dangerous part of the day was trying to stop on ice after gaining so much speed.
Tentative Plan: Given the large amount of rain over the past 4 days the snow stability has drastically decreased causing numerous class 3-4 wet slab avalanches. That being said we have decided to ditch our other trip down the Kenai Peninsula and onto the Sargent ice field. To escape the bad weather we have decided to drive around to the other side of the Chugach and walk up the Matanuska glacier to the Scandinavian peaks with a possibility of attempting Mt. Marcus Baker (the highest in the Chugach). We are still working on logistics but it will most likely be a 23-24 day trip.