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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    No longer somewhere in Idaho
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    1,873

    Chugach Traverse/ AK Range Base Camp, April 23

    I had a terrific time in AK this spring; Ill dump a bunch of photos here and some details of what we got up to.

    The first leg of the trip was a rather aspirational attempt to traverse the Chugach from north to south; from the Matanuska Glacier at the Glenn Highway to Prince William Sound and hopping on a shrimp boat ride to Whittier. Ive got a few pals in Anchorage and this was mainly their plan and logisitcs- We all spent lots of time on maps though. We had several options including going over Mt Marcus Baker and Goode, or longer routes with less hazard if needed. The planned route was 75-80 miles, and we packed for 10 days. I arrived on April 8 and we started up the Mat on the 9th with a shaky forecast and fingers crossed for an improving trend. Click image for larger version. 

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    The north side of the Chugach had a very faceted, structureless snowpack and the first two days going up the Mat were slow, but the terrain and weather were inspiring and vast.
    We stopped for a night at the Scandanavian Hut and then continued towards Marcus Baker; we camped near the base of the climb on the third night. Distances proved harder to make than anticipated (never heard that about AK before, have you?). The thin snowpack and wind had set us up with lots of thinly bridged cracks on long convexities; everyone put their foot in cracks. I had one that left me with tips and tails touching, looking down into the crack and listening to the pieces of the bridge falling for a long time. At times we would probe each step for miles at a time, especially when whited out. An extendable pole with the basket removed makes a decent half probe thats easier to handle than an avy probe. Anyway, we made camp near Marcus in a ground blizzard and rode out 20-30mph winds all night. Our next piece of terrain wasnt much in good conditions, but wind and visibility urged us to be cautious. I took a pretty sizable ride in WA this year on a wind slab, so Im not too eager to go into bigger terrain right after wind events, and we were all feeling the exposure of being out there. We ended up returning to the Hut; we didnt have enough time to wait for the coming storm to pass. The forecast had deteriorated, at least south of Marcus Baker. Click image for larger version. 

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    We did a sweet day tour from the Hut and worked out an alternative plan to climb out the head of the Mat through a rather huge icefall, cross a high plateau and drop into the Powell Glacier and return to the Glenn Highway. New plan was between 90-100 mile total, but more managable terrain and kept us out of the tougher weather to the south. Click image for larger version. 

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    We used the storm day to travel up the Mat to the icefall, put in a nice camp and waited for the visibility to return. Click image for larger version. 

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    When we rose the next morning, there was a collective spike in concern; the icefall was nearly three miles wide, and looked challenging. We ended up finding a few dead ends but traveling safely and steadily; we only made 3 miles but gained our planned camp on Turtle Flats at 9300 ft. A striking locale, for sure. Maybe one of the biggest feeling places Ive spent a night. All the summits have beefy icecaps on them, and the views to the south over Marcus were a very satisfying sunset. Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    PNW
    Posts
    7,692


    wow, cool

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    No longer somewhere in Idaho
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    1,873

    Chugach Traverse/ AK Range Base Camp, April 23

    It was probably the coldest night of the trip too. The next morning we walked across to the pass into the Powell Glacier, and took a lovely lap down along a utterly massive wall of icefall/serac we called Dynamite Alley. Occasionally wed hear a sound like large aircraft, and a piece of the ice the size of an office building would be exploding on the edge of the valley and pumping a powder cloud a half mile. A terrific place to cruise through with clear skies. Click image for larger version. 

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    After the cruise, we arrived a hard left into an icefall, that thankfully had a gentle workaround that led into the best ski lap of the trip; cold low angle pow 4 deep that you could ski fast with confidence; a condition mostly lacking elsewhere on the traverse. Click image for larger version. 

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    The middle third of the Powell had a gorgeous selection of ski terrain, but we knew the weather was shutting back down the next day and wanted to make tracks out of there before we lost vis again. We ended up making 20 mile this day, and as we dropped signs of life began to show. We saw birds for the first time in a week, and wolverine tracks everywhere. The Powell treated us really well, with easy travel and a toe that proved simple to exit into the river valley. Click image for larger version. 

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    During our change of plans after turning back from Marcus and the south side of the range, my pal said theres one problem with this change of plans. Bears. He wasnt wrong; we saw tracks frequently after hitting valley bottom, but as a group of three we felt pretty decent and didnt see any in person. Moose tracks everywhere also. The track we were most stoked to find was a snowmachine track though- we had returned to the severely faceted snowpack of the low country near the Glenn Highway and without the snowmachine track, the final 15 miles would have probably taken two more days. Click image for larger version. 

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    We had good luck navigating the fringes of the river as spring began to complicate the travel plan. We arrived back to the Glenn Highway on day 9, with a 95 mile track behind us and lots of treasured memories and lots of respect for the Chugach! Next year were trying again, with a few food caches and perhaps 14 days to allow for more weather flexibility. This was one of the largest and most satisfying mountain journeys Ive had the pleasure of taking, and the guys were consistently excellent travel partners. Im grateful for the conservative decision making and good outcomes- these mountains demand respect.
    We had a pool on who would lose the first toenail; in the end nobody did! Leuko tape is incredible, get some. No blisters, no cold injuries, no dire moments beyond the thinly bridged cracks here and there.
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    Ill get back later to post up about the 8 days in the AK Range I did with WA pals following this outing.


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    Last edited by riff; 05-05-2023 at 11:30 AM.
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    No longer somewhere in Idaho
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    Well shoot, Ive got time to cover this one too. Its more about photos than storytelling; we flew into the AK Range and spent a week skiing excellent shaded/sheltered shallow pow. The solars werent ready yet, but there was plenty to do. Click image for larger version. 

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  5. #5
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    Sep 2006
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    Click image for larger version. 

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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Keep Tacoma Feared
    Posts
    5,266
    I was wondering why no riff PNW photos for awhile. He's gone to greener pastures. Way to get after it.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    No longer somewhere in Idaho
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    Its a special place up there! Im home now, waiting for freezing levels to moderate and polish up the corn for us. Blazing hot return from the north for sure.


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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    Ellensburg
    Posts
    1,064
    Just excellent!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Maine Coast
    Posts
    4,497
    Good old fashioned trip report. Most excellent on a Friday afternoon.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    6,421
    For real. Wow. Nice duders. FKNA

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    10,547
    Hells yeah - Great TR!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    inpdx
    Posts
    19,793
    Thanks for sharing that!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    814
    Wow. Outstanding work and documentation

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Where the climate suits my clothes.
    Posts
    5,601
    What a trip. Thanks for sharing!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Aspen
    Posts
    2,843
    Fucking choice across the board, my guy!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    cordova,AK
    Posts
    3,588
    Nice trip. Meekin's hunting camp at the toe of the Powell still have the vintage Playboy's
    off your knees Louie

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    81
    Really, really nice. Thanks for posting.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    601
    This is why I keep checking in on this place. Awesome work riff.

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