Tuesday, November 10, 2009

peak 2: first tracks

went out today for some backcountry snowboarding. not too far backcountry; frontcountry is how i typically refer to it as it is the front range of the Chugach that frames the Anchorage bowl. we finally got snow in town this past weekend, Sunday night specifically, even though the mountains have been covered for a week now. snow in town means more up high and with what promised to be better coverage i figured that i could get some first tracks in at best, at worst do some conditioning for getting first tracks later in the season.

looking up from the pullout it didn't look super promising. decent drifts on the lower part of the slope but up high i could see a lot of exposed rocks. i started up in snowshoes anyway hoping for the best. as i climbed i watched for a line that would allow me to ride from the top of the peak. at about the 2/3 point though i considered ditching the board as all i could see on the top third of the peak were rocks. a little more climbing and i realized that i could connect the upper part of the peak two bowl with the deeper drifts i had been hiking up through, but the peak itself had little snow. i decided to tag the top anyway.
the view from the top of peak two looking south into the powerline valley is one of my favs. from left to right you can see The Ramp, The Wedge, Avalanche Peak, and Ptarmigan Peak. i had to downclimb from this point to connect to the open snow a little lower in the bowl.

Jackson (the dog) wasn't sure what was up as i unloaded my board and strapped in. he whined and paced nervously. i assured him everything would be fine, just not to run in front of me. we had an almost unfortunate event 2 winters ago the first time i took him backcountry riding. he had his paws almost sliced off when he abruptly stopped in front of me as i was going full throttle downhill. i ended up completely yard-saleing in an attempt to avoid him that time. this time however he heeded my warning and kept a good distance to one side or the other, only once cutting in front of me on a slower section.

the ride down was decent, not great for snow conditions but great to be getting a first run of the season in. as i picked my way down i attempted to connect the deeper drifted areas to make a continuous downhill run. it worked for the most part, i only heard my snowboard base scrape rocks a handful of times.
nothing like an early season run to get your blood pumping, legs aching, and beard freezing. made me appreciative of the mess of wiry hair matter blanketing my baby face. i would've had some serious wind/snow burn otherwise. thank heavens for no-shave November, and thank God for SNOW!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

a winter affair

it started innocently enough, just a casual visit to see what it was like. but i keep coming back. i'm drawn in by the beauty and just that it's different. i'm talking about the Wolverine Bowl.

my first couple runs after my recent injury were too familiar, a couple loops in the BLM, backside of Flat Top...say i'm taking it for granted but it's the same ol' thing. so last Tuesday when the snow hit the front range of the Chugach i hit the Prospect Heights trailhead.

it was so new and fresh. the combination of running again, new snow, and the non-familiar drew me back up on Saturday. i had searched online for new trails in the bowl, i found one and ran it with eager excitement. the Wolverine Bowl loop has become my new favorite quick run.

i was back for more today, tackling Wolverine Peak. i've been up before in the summer but it's a different world in the snow. i was making good time till i hit the spine that leads to the ridge. the higher i climbed, the more the wind howled. it got so bad that when a gust tore through i would put my back to it and hunker down. Jackson, who is always bounding ahead would cower behind me and whine when the gusts hit. i'm no expert on guaging wind but i would guess 60-70 mph easy. it got so bad that i had to turn around right below the main ridge, about 1 mile and 1000 feet shy of the summit.

when i made the turn Jackson took off down the spine like, "finally, Dad got some sense blown into him." it was funny to see him bound away through the snow. running down i felt like i was floating most of the way. i took short steps with rapid turnover, which is completely opposite of how i ran before the injury. what had taken 1:22 to get up took only :47 to get down.

great outing with no wind burn or frozen digits. i'm already planning my next rendezvous.