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  1. #1
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    Thumbs up MEGA TR: Time Spent Exploring the Neacola Range-AK



    The idea for this trip started soon after our trip to Haines in 2013. It had been a trip of a similar nature; however the weather window we got was rather short. We had great weather for 3 days and then had a tropical storm roll in and blast us with 6 feet of snow and 60mph winds for 4 days, shoveling for 8 hours on a couple of those days.

    The funny thing is that you easily forget the bad and just think about the amazing terrain and options you are presented with on a trip like this. Of course there is a lot of planning/logistics involved, but that’s part of the fun, at least for me. Got a couple partners interested in the idea and started planning.

    First we needed a location, we wanted more couloir skiing vs big spine walls. The Revelations were the first range that came to mind that had an abundance of beautiful couloirs lining the walls in every direction. I got in touch with Rob Jones, a hunting outfitter that has a cabin 12 miles off the main Revelation Glacier, and started working with him on logistics for getting us out there via bush plane. As the season progressed the reports of low snow across Alaska were coming in. I got some beta photos from Rob in December and it was the lowest snow he had seen in the Revs to date. Things can change quickly in Alaska, but we made the decision to refocus on some other zones.

    The Pika Glacier in the Central Alaska Range or the Tordrillos 85 miles west of Anchorage were now the main focus. The Tordrillos didn’t seem to have as much of the terrain we were looking for as the Pika
    zone. So I started gathering beta on that zone. We were planning on flying out of Anchorage with Joe Schuster of Sportsman’s Air, which was going to pose a problem. He doesn’t have a permit to land in Denali National Park, which I didn’t realize when switching objectives from the Revelations to the Pika.

    We could scrap our plans to fly out of Anchorage and fly out of Talkeetna instead to hit the Alaska Range or make a last minute call and look at yet another zone. I only realized this a week before our
    departure; so I got back to researching and found an article in the American Alpine Journal about a 2009 ski expedition to the Neacolas, which are ~120 miles SW of Anchorage. They mentioned a zone with numerous 3k-4k E-NE facing couloirs. Did a little more research via Google Earth and it looked like the spot. The Neacolas don’t seem to see a ton of traffic because of the cost and distance of the flight.

    The shot that sealed the deal


    We planned the trip from March 22-April 9, accounting for the weather days that were bound to occur. The week prior to arriving I was watching the weather models closely, Anchorage had been in a high pressure flow for the last week and it didn’t look like it was letting up. My friend Matt, who would give us weather updates while on the glacier via our Delorme Inreach, agreed that we should see good weather for the first half of the trip.

    Arrived in Anchorage late on the 22nd to clear skies and cold temps, snow should be holding up! We had a planned fly date of March 24th, weather looked like it was going to hold so we got to shopping the next day. Fuel, Groceries, Filling airbag tanks, check. We weren’t sure what the coverage was going to look like in the zone so we decided a scouting flight would be good in the Super Cub. We checked out some other zones in the Tordrillos as well since they were on the way.

    DAY ONE:
    John checking tire pressure, seems legit


    Denali and Foraker in the distance


    As we started getting deeper into the Tordrillos the snowpack started fattening up, lines everywhere.

    No signs of instability, getting stoked!




    The Tordrillos looked good, but had less zones with the big couloirs we were looking for. The pilot Ben let me know we were about to reach the zone for the coordinates I had provided. As we crested another ridge the zone came into view.

    Yes please




    I asked Ben to land so I could dig a pit on some N facing terrain, he set her down and we hopped out.



    Dug a pit and although the structure was shit, there wasn’t any energy to propagate upon failing. It had settled for a week already, would have to feel it out a little, but I was pretty confident we could get into the steeps. Might be tricky if we got a lot of snow though.

    Ben fueling up for the flight back


    Continued...

    What I didn't mention is that as we were flying into the zone I noticed a couple skin tracks at the bottom of the big couloirs, as we flew in closer we could see the remnants of a camp. At first I was a bit disappointed, but after looking through the shots I had taken in the air there was no doubt in my mind that tracks or not this was "the zone." Partners agreed as well.

    Day Two:
    The next morning we were at the airstrip at 9am unloading everything out of the rental car and into the Beaver.

    Stuffed her full I tell you. pc Adam


    Stoke was high as we taxied, took off, and headed SW toward the zone




    We decided to land next to the previous camp, turns out we could use the spot they dug out for our mid kitchen, and the platforms they had stomped out for our tents. More time for skiing!




    Before Joe left we decided on a pickup date of Monday April 7th, again planning that we would have some weather and down days. See you later Joe.


    Got camp setup around 2:30pm and decided to go for a ski. Couloirs everywhere, which one will it be? We decided to head east from camp and check out one of the biguns.


    Jongchrist and myself skinning out of camp in the afternoon shadow. pc Adam


    Thar she blows


    Adam smiling at the prospects


    To be continued...
    Last edited by JTrue; 06-24-2014 at 01:12 PM.

  2. #2
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    Didn't take too many shots on the ascent as we were trying to finish up before it got dark, but the conditions were perfect for booting. Névé with a couple inches on top. Everything in AK is foreshortened. It looks like you'll be there in 15 minutes, an hour later you're still skinning/booting. This first coulie was no exception, we could see the top the entire time. Took turns breaking, going at a steady pace. We topped out at about 6400ft, the couloir including the apron was 3100ft.

    Booting pc: Adam


    And more booting


    Happy to have topped out pc: Adam


    Upon topping out we were greeted with an amazing view of the toe end of the glacier. You can make out Mt. Redoubt, a volcano, on the far back right.


    I was stoked to be making some turns in the gut of this beast pc: Adam


    More turns... pc: Adam


    Jongchrist surfing the big wave heelside, axe in hand


    Adam making turns under the huge looming granite walls, this would be the theme for the trip


    We skinned back to camp as the light was fading, Tour was 6.7 miles total with 4000ft of ascent. I believe we cooked some red curry with chicken, peas, peppers, and potatoes. Garnished with some peanuts and extra sriracha. Listened to some music and got to sleep around 10.

    Parting shot


    Since it was clear it stayed cold at night, we would wake up around 9am to 0 degree temps as the sun crested to shed light on camp. Eat breakfast, melt water, and get touring by 10-11.

    DAY THREE:
    We woke up to clear skies and cold temps. Adam dug a shitter, and not just any shitter. The last trip we realized it sucked even having a pre-dug hole and relying on your shovel for rearward support. So we brought a piece of wood from home depot and used that as a seat. Worked perfectly. I'll spare you the pictures.

    We headed back to the same zone to try and ski another couloir, this one goes up straight for a bit then doglegs right before topping out. A couple thousand feet of exposure while booting the upper section.

    All smiles as we had an idea of what was in store


    Seen Here(2nd shot to the left with a snow field at the top)


    Again the booting was perfect, Adam taking his turn on the stairmaster


    Jongchrist booting up where it doglegged, shitty unconsolidated sugar wallowing was the case


    As we started booting up the upper snowfield we were a couple hundred feet from the summit. I had gone up and around the dogleg first to make sure it went, John and Adam followed after I called down that it looked good. As we continued to ascend the snow changed a bit and it felt a bit slabby. Thinking about the sugar we just wallowed through, even though it wasn't the same aspect. And the fact that any little slide here would mean death we pulled the plug and descended. Plus it was getting late in the day. I really wanted to top out, but just had a feeling this was the right call, Adam and John readily agreed.

    More turns in couloirs

    Myself pc Adam


    Adam


    John


    Skinner to booter, about 2/3 of the couloir in view


    Made it back to camp, had some ramen as an appetizer and Chicken Alfredo with sundried tomatoes and peas.
    Last edited by JTrue; 05-05-2014 at 07:32 PM.

  3. #3
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    DAY FOUR:

    Started like the other days, except as soon as I woke up John was unzipping my tent door and handing me a breakfast sandwich. Talk about 5 star service!

    Adam spied a cleft that looked like it would hide a west facing couloir. We hadn't been on anything west facing yet, but were all willing to check it out. It was pretty close to camp, before we knew it we were skinning up to the bottom of the shot and got our first look. Snow seemed like it would be firm, but manageable to get up/down. But there was a huge overhanging cornice at the top that had us a bit spooked upon topping out. I took lead and charged as fast as I could up and under it, limiting exposure. John and Adam followed suit.



    Upon topping out we were greeted with a mellow snow slope that lead up to a wide summit. Amazingly the low angle east facing slope held amazing snow. At this point in the year the sun was low enough in the sky that it didn't seem to hit some of the higher elevation lower angle slopes. We decided to skin up to the top and do a little sightseeing.

    Adam and John working their way up, glacier below


    Another shot of Mt. Redoubt with a lenticular sitting over the summit cone


    John on top, looking to the west, #couloirsfordayz


    Made some mellow turns down to the coulie pc Adam


    Then dropped in, keeping my speed up to get past the scary overhanging cornices that wanted to squash me pc Adam


    Snow by far was the most variable and sketchiest we skied, I took a little digger but popped back up without any ill effects pc Adam


    Adam


    John


    Got back to camp and decided to build an igloo in case the weather got bad. The mid works great most of the time, but if you start getting strong winds and heavy snow it can be tough to keep it standing. We figured this out last year in Haines when our mid collapsed mid-storm.


    Started dinner early, had Jambalaya with summer sausage and hit the tents to get a good nights sleep. We were planning to go big the next day.
    Last edited by JTrue; 04-18-2014 at 11:49 AM.

  4. #4
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    DAY FIVE:

    We woke up early feeling rested, cooked breakfast, melted snow and started out around 10am. It felt like it was colder than the other mornings, probably just earlier, and we all had numb toes. Only way to remedy is to go faster. Skies were blue with a smattering of cirrus clouds, creating a beautiful backdrop for the huge north facing alpine walls we were passing under.





    We walked for about 6 miles to the west, heading for a cirque that we thought might hold some nice lines


    It did not disappoint




    So far we hadn't had to pull out the ropes, but staring up at the intended line it was obviously steeper than our other objectives and had a big schrund at the bottom


    Roped up and moving up the slope towards the schrund


    Adam and I safely across, John pondering the airy moves to come


    Adam taking his turn


    Shit was steep, John contemplating his mid slope crampon application(soft boots), still smiling


    John went first making some turns then stopped to get his bearings above the schrund and sent it with no problem. I followed, rolling down the windows a bit as I took it bigger than I needed to. Adam came last, can see him making a turn above the schrund.


    Adam sending it, unfortunately his TLT-5 buckle slipped and we went into walk mode upon landing. It made a horrendous sound and sent him tomahawking. We nervously waited for the wave, luckily we got one, seemed like he was relatively ok. John and I were both relived.


    We contemplated hitting another line in the area, but with the amount of distance we had to cover back to camp we decided to start heading back. Had Chili Mac, with TVP, peas, and sundried tomatoes, then retired to the tents and warmth of our sleeping bags.
    Last edited by JTrue; 05-05-2014 at 07:34 PM.

  5. #5
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    DAY SIX:

    Not as much to report on day six, pretty mellow. We woke up late made a good breakfast and chatted about where we wanted to tour. There was an 1800 foot mellow glacier run to the N of camp, the snow looked surprisingly good considering it was S facing. We decided to go on a short tour and have a semi rest day. We would find that snow wasn't as aspect dependent as we originally thought. The sun was staying relatively low in the sky still so anything mellow wasn't getting a ton of heating throughout the day, once the angle kicked up the snow quality suffered a bit down low. Getting up higher in elevation this was less of an issue.

    As we ascended the mellow glacier run the tops of some high alpine spires came into view, mountains on top of mountains


    We knew for sure where we would be heading the following day


    Took some mellow turns down to camp with plenty of time to relax and dry out gear. So far the weather had been unbelievably good, bluebird every day. My friend Matt was feeding us weather updates through our Delorme Inreach, which we were all grateful for. He mentioned we might see some clouds come in over the next couple days, but clouds are pretty hard to forecast. We were hoping the high pressure held and the vis stayed good.

    DAY SEVEN:

    Dawned clear, which was starting to make us worried; we were getting it too good. Alaska weather is usually pretty fickle, but hey we weren't going to complain. Cooked some bagel spinners with cheese and summer sausage then started to get ready. We toured up the mellow glacier run and the big couloirs we spotted the day before came into view.



    This one looked especially nice, mmhmm


    Booting was nice and consistent, made for quick travel. We felt dwarfed with huge granite alpine walls rising up above us on either side


    Climbed through the crux, a rocky section with some deep sugar. Gotta love the wallow


    Coming back down was "fun"


    We all made some nice turns on the chalk covered neve


    Adam getting his


    Schlarped


    Got back to camp, had chicken alfredo and hit the tents


    More to come...
    Last edited by JTrue; 05-05-2014 at 07:37 PM.

  6. #6
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    DAY EIGHT:

    Woke up, same routine. Melt snow, drink water, coffee, and eat a good breakfast. We had decided the day before to head back up to the same zone. Just a bit further east to hit another coulie we had spotted. As with everything in Alaska it looked much closer than it was.

    Travel was quick though and before we knew it we were at the bottom. I was feeling good and kicked steps to the top.


    John making his way up



    We named this one Beelzebub, it had huge granite horns on either side of the entrance


    Velvet topped neve


    Decided on a little air, I took it conservative...


    John sent it off the prow, must've been a 30 footer, he didn't die


    Adam getting his


    On our way back to camp we stopped by the glacier ice factory and picked up some chunks for cocktails


    Would the weather hold? Matt was telling us we would probably see a storm move in over the next couple days. Should we fly out or risk staying and hitting a couple more objectives?

    DAY NINE:

    This weather is unbelieveable, another day of waking up to blue skies! Is it a dream, are we going to pay for the high pressure that's been lingering? I was hoping this weather would last until our pickup day, but Matt texted us on our Delorme Inreach to let us know we would see a weak disturbance hit over the next couple days. Adam decided to take a rest day, John and I decided go on a small tour up to the cirque that held the Twin Towers Couloir and Beelzebub. Thinking back we should of probably taken a rest day as well. We had been going for 8 days straight ascending between 3000-6000 vertical feet and walking 5-15 miles each day depending on the objective. We didn't take any pics on day nine.

    DAY TEN:
    We woke to light winds but clear skies, we could tell something was moving in, how soon we didn't know. Weather in a big city is an educated guess, but when it comes to forecasting weather in remote parts of Alaska there isn't much data to support a forecast one way or the other. It looks like Matt was correct that we might see deteriorating conditions.

    That being said, we wanted to take advantage of the time we had left with good weather. We ate a cold breakfast and got an early start. This was one of the coldest days so far, it took us all a couple hours to warm up. John had lost some feeling in his toes, but it didn't seem to be too serious. No discoloration or anything of that nature.

    The plan was to head west then ascend another glacier and get on the backside of the zone we had skied the two previous days. All being told it ended up being 5500 feet of ascending and 14.5 miles. We had planned to ski a bigger line, but John and I were both a bit tired, so we just took some mellow pow laps and toured up and over to the zone we were familiar with. That rest day would've come in handy. Even though we didn't get to ski a big couloir like the days past the views were worth it and wet our appetite for other objectives in the area.

    A NW facing zone I was salivating over


    Touring up to our high point to take some mellow pow laps, icefall as a backdrop


    On the way back we were in the shade and it got unbelievably cold, my skins didn't agree with that so they protested. I walked right out of them both at the same time. Couldn't help but laugh at the situation.


    DAY ELEVEN:
    John and I decided to take a rest day, we were beat from touring the last 10 days in a row. Adam was a bit fresher from his rest day on day 9, so he decided to do a long circumnavigation of the glacier we were camping on. It ended up being a 17 mile day with 2300 feet of vert for him, nice effort! John and I made a dinner of Chicken Alfredo and threw some in Adam's insulated mug, I'm sure he was happy to have dinner made when he rolled into camp.

    We had been in contact with Joe via our Delorme Inreach and set a pickup day for the next day as it looked like it might be our last chance to get out before a low energy storm came in.

    DAY TWELVE:
    Woke to low cloud cover and realized we probably wouldn't get out. Hopped in the igloo to cook some pancakes and sent Joe a text letting him know that the flying conditions weren't good. Spent most of the day reading and peering out the tent to see if the clouds had cleared.

    Best time for a selfie!


    Later in the day the clouds burnt off, but it was too late for a pickup. We ended up going on a short mellow tour. My skins glopped something horrible because of the couple inches of snow and cloud cover keeping heat in.


    Waxing skins didn't help




    Descending into the Abyss


    And heading back to camp


    DAY THIRTEEN:
    Again we woke to clouds, but they were a bit higher than the day before with some blue patches.


    It looked like we might have a weather window to get out if we were lucky. I texted Joe but didn't hear back, weird. We resigned ourselves to our tents wondering if we would be stuck on the glacier for the weekend. All of a sudden we heard the familiar drone of a Beaver flying low, it was Joe! We quickly packed up camp, threw our wet gear in the plane and got out of there. We couldn't have asked for a better weather window. People say this is a trip of a lifetime, but I know we'll be back!
    Last edited by JTrue; 05-28-2014 at 11:41 AM.

  7. #7
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    Holy shit already. Waiting.......

  8. #8
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    Love the Super Cub and ski tour stoke. Way to go!
    No longer stuck.

    Quote Originally Posted by stuckathuntermtn View Post
    Just an uneducated guess.

  9. #9
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    Can't wait to read the rest of this one. Love the epic TRs.

  10. #10
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    now this is the way you do a TR

  11. #11
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    Helluva tease.
    Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry - Mark Twain

  12. #12
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    you know, it's pretty easy to find 1-2k couloirs and just lap them a few times to make them longer. same difference, yeah? then you don't need bush planes n shit. or training























































    NOW GIVE US MOAR TO LOOK AT GODDAMMIT!!!!!

    rog

  13. #13
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    I have been waiting for this trip report since you got back from last years trip!
    Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield: Oh, I'm sorry. Did I break your concentration?

  14. #14
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    first upload looks awesome...looking forward to the rest!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by icelanticskier View Post
    NOW GIVE US MOAR TO LOOK AT GODDAMMIT!!!!!
    rog
    Added some more just for you roggie ol buddy ol pal.

  16. #16
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    This is sweet.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ernest_Hemingway View Post
    I realize there is not much hope for a bullfighting forum. I understand that most of you would prefer to discuss the ingredients of jacket fabrics than the ingredients of a brave man. I know nothing of the former. But the latter is made of courage, and skill, and grace in the presence of the possibility of death. If someone could make a jacket of those three things it would no doubt be the most popular and prized item in all of your closets.

  17. #17
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    If you have 5 more posts of stoke, that must have been one hell of a trip. Can't wait.
    I can't believe you are a rando racer because I look so much better in Lycra than you.

    People who don't think the Earth is flat haven't skied Vail.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by adimmen View Post
    If you have 5 more posts of stoke, that must have been one hell of a trip. Can't wait.
    Added to post 2. We lucked out with the amount of skiable days we got. More about that later.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by JTrue View Post
    Added some more just for you roggie ol buddy ol pal.
    Thanx brah! Awezum stuff!!!

    rog

  20. #20
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    Awesome. This is the shit I wish more of my friends were stoked about
    _______________________________________________
    I take pictures.
    UBC Freeride!

  21. #21
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    Awesome TR. Steep cookies never get old and the amount of effort to successfully pull this off is in itself worthy but the end result is pure gold. Well done. Great pics.

    Btw,

    As usual Rog tries to shit on someone's amazing experience because he has neither the skills nor the partners that would trust him anywhere in the bc. Ignore 're the stupid fuck. Its what he all do here.

    Sent from my SCH-I535 using TGR Forums
    The Passion is in the Risk

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynchdogger View Post
    Awesome TR. Steep cookies never get old and the amount of effort to successfully pull this off is in itself worthy but the end result is pure gold. Well done. Great pics.

    Btw,

    As usual Rog tries to shit on someone's amazing experience because he has neither the skills nor the partners that would trust him anywhere in the bc. Ignore 're the stupid fuck. Its what he all do here.

    Sent from my SCH-I535 using TGR Forums
    Thanks man, think rog was just being sarcastic.

  23. #23
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    Wow, when I saw your first photo, I though could it be? I spent 10 days here back in 2008. Awesomely huge place. I can appreciate the effort and logistics it took you to get back there.

    The first shot is the same couloirs in your first photo. Second photo is where we setup camp, right around where you were.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by greatjones View Post
    Wow, when I saw your first photo, I though could it be? I spent 10 days here back in 2008. Awesomely huge place. I can appreciate the effort and logistics it took you to get back there.

    The first shot is the same couloirs in your first photo. Second photo is where we setup camp, right around where you were.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Awesome! How'd you settle on that area? Such a great zone for ski touring, has everything from mellow to gnar.

  25. #25
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    You're like the Edward Snowden of ski porn, Jason. Not spilling it all at once; just a couple new pics and stories each day.

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