The ski down from backdoor gap was our first taste of surprisingly good snow. Five inches of recrystalized snow blanketed every slope approaching a northerly aspect. It wasn’t deep, but it skied fast and soft.
A quick skate at the floor of the valley let us to the Bomber Hut, and much roomier and lighter affair than the mint hut.
Here we spent two nights, sharing the first with a crew of three skiers from anchorage who were quiet, polite, and a great source of local skiing information.
After dropping off our heavy stuff at the hut, we headed up the Bomber glacier to find some turns. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the remains of the namesake B-29 superfortress were poking out of the late-winter snows. I knew that the wreck was up here, but I hadn’t been quite sure where and suspect that it’d be buried. It was definitely slightly chilling.
Beyond the bomber was the upper bomber glacier, which served up mile-long runs of low angle powder under the imposing face of Lynx peak.
Lynx looked like a tasty ski run indeed, but the recent weather had brought strong winds from the South, which ruled out any North-facing steep skiing. Though the North face of Lynx has been skied aplenty, it was garnished with a fat cornice that was a good reminder to stay away.
Still, that didn’t preclude finding some steeper skiing on its East face. The 45-degree run down to the 25 degree glacier typifies the skiing in this range: it’s either full on, or it’s super mellow. With avalanche conditions largely pushing us towards the mellow, it was good to have fast and light powder to ski day after day.
On our second day at the Bomber, we decided to skin back up to our prior day’s descent on the Pennyroyal glacier. It just looked too good to pass up a second day skiing up there.
I broke trail back up the glacier with beautiful weather and just perfect snow. The Pennyroyal is a local anomaly, garnishing its two long pitches of 25-degree cruiser pow with an intervening headwall that offers more steep turns than most of the glaciers around. The air was windless and, I kid you not, there were little songbirds flying around and chirping springtime sounds though the North-facing powder held fast and cold.
Though I had planned a more delayed approach than that day on the Pennyroyal, I did happen to be carrying a ring in my backpack, just in case. As we skinned up the Pennyroyal, everything was too perfect. I couldn’t risk it getting any worse, and it had too. Perfect doesn’t last forever. So, there at the top of the glacier looking out across the Talkeetnas and the Chugach, I asked Taylor to marry me.
She made me a very happy man by saying yes.
And what better way to celebrate an engagement than by skiing powder? It was so much fun that we took two laps of the infinitely long glacier before heading off to hunt South-facing corn in the afternoon. The evening brought a riffle of flurries, but as had become routine for the trip, the sky cleared again for a beautiful evening.
The next morning we made the hop over to the Snowbird hut, which is owned and operated by the American Alpine Club. The morning ski was a bit rough, crossing frozen avalanche debris with loaded packs before climbing to the moraine of the Snowbird glacier, but the position of the hut made the trip worthwhile.
The hut sits on the terminal moraine of the receding snowbird glacier and looks out with circumferential views of the surrounding peaks. The Snowbird glacier is itself split by a famously striking nunatak, the rock spire which defines that zone.
On the Snowbird glacier, there is essentially one main run, and we lapped it twice before hitting the hut to rest up for the following day. In the evening, we skinned along the crest of the moraine to below Lower Spire, and there we found the best snow of the trip under a glowing alpine sunset. It doesn’t get any better.
And the hut! This thing is plush.
That night, we shared the most intense game of Jenga ever transacted with a couple of gents from Palmer and Kodiac, who were up to ski for the week. They joked that Joe Stock was making it too easy for non-Alaskans to find out about the traverse. I think that they were just grumpy that we were putting first tracks down everything in sight.
Our second day at Snowbird was our last full day on the traverse, and we milked it from morning to dusk, skiing our way around the compass on the terrain above the hut.
On the last day, we couldn’t help ourselves and skied again to below Lower Tower with our full packs. Dropping our packs in the snow, we nabbed another couple of laps in the amazing snow before contouring to the pass and skiing downvalley back to the car.
We celebrated in Anchorage, quaffing tasty ales at Midnight Sun brewing and rehashing the most perfect trip we’d ever taken. Perfect weather, startlingly good snow, amazing terrain, and a new commitment to each other rounded out a traverse that can’t be beat.
This much is sure: we’ll have to come back to Alaska. We barely scratched the surface of a tiny corner of one of its many ranges. The potential is beyond a human lifetime, the wilderness is vast, and the adventure is waiting.