January 2 2019 - The road is good but the ski conditions at the pass are pretty icy. They graded the road today and really fixed up the switchbacks. No need for studs. I found decent skate skiing above the ski chalet at the plateau at around 800 feet. VERY FAST for advanced skate skiers only.
1/3 Somehow my reply from earlier did not show up. Anyway I went crust cruising above the ski chalet this afternoon. It is decent skate skiing on the 800 foot plateau above the ski chalet towards Buskin Lake (see photo below). I noticed that below about 700 feet it is very icy and then when I went above 1300 feet it started to get punchy and breakable. Hence if you are skate skiing stay on the plateau or between 700 and 1300 feet in elevation. There is no boilerplate ice but I can't imagine the downhill skiing is all that good on high! Patrick
1/14 (monday) - I drove up to the pass and they were grading the road, but they did not score the ice very deeply. Still the road is OK. Dismal snow conditions. We have lost a lot of snow up to 1000 feet. In the jibber you can still see all the old tracks but some new snow that refroze. We have gained snow above 1500 feet. It seems to have refrozen with a crust last night. Today it was raining up to 1900 feet where I turned around. Below 1000 feet is now combat skiing and it would be very difficult to make the road. I booted the bottom part. Patrick
1/17 Thursday - I skied Pyramid around 3 PM. The road is excellent and ice free. We have lost a lot of snow since monday. But still 1-2 feet in the jibber and we did not lose all that much above 1500 (looks like we gained and lost). The conditions are variable with icy crust and corn. Not great. You can only ski to the knob. Patrick
1/19 Above the jibber the hoar on crust actually made for decent skiing - dust on carvable crust. The North Bowl might actually be moderately good. But yeah, as Philip says above, from 1600 on down is pretty bad. And Jibber really tracked up too. Patrick
1/22 Today I went up and the road is great! But we have lost a lot of snow in the last couple of days. Basically no snow now below 1000 feet. That said the jibber has not lost all that much (still one to two feet) and we gained snow above 1500 feet. Today there 3-4 inches of slow snow above 1700 feet. Patrick
1/25 New snow at the pass! A skim of snow at the golf course and a couple of inches at the road at the pass. Ryan and I skinned up via Sharon's Traverse from the parking lot. About 6 inches of powder in the jibber bowl and good skiing. But not enough cover to ski below 1000 feet (the knob). Above the jibber everything is wind drifted or blown off to ice. Even the North Bowl is wind scoured. Road is good. Patrick
1/29 Surprisingly good conditions today on Pyramid. Snow depth at the bottom of the jibber is about the same as it was a week ago and we have gained above the jibber. At the end of the storm last night a dusting fell on everything and stuck to it. Not icy! A lot of rime up high but all covered with new snow. Old tracks mostly covered up. Patrick
1/30 Today was pretty much the same as yesterday except a little bit better! Yesterday the jibber was slightly breakable and today it is not. I did try the north bowl and the face was terrible. Basically ice. But the gut is OK with a skim of new snow. I think if I was to do it again I'd stick with the low angle stuff (pictured in yesterday's post) - that is the best snow on the mountain. Patrick
2/10 I went up Pyramid around 1PM. Not as bad as I expected. It is snowing to below the knob and there was a dusting of new snow in jibber, and 1-2 inches of remarkably dry stuff above the jibber. And not windblown either. Vis was pretty bad though. Patrick
This sounds very promising. After a few years away from Alaska I'll be moving back to Kodiak in a few weeks. I'll be looking for ski partners, (hopefully with a car!) I'm a splitboarder, relatively mountain compentent and avalanche savy. Looking forward to meeting some folks!
Welcome back, Torvy. But don’t get your hopes up too high. This has still been one of the most pathetic snow seasons in my memory. You have to really hike to find some snow, and even then it’s just crusty sh!t. And given the thin snowpack, once it starts to warm up and eases into spring skiing, it may all be gone in a single rain event. :^(
Have faith Philip! Big winters seem to follow me. Spent this winter in Minnesota and it's been gnarly! We'll just have to go further and higher, any turns keep me happy anyways, I'm not picky. Arriving in two weeks, can't freakin wait.
2/27 I got this report yesterday from Dale via email for Pyramid:
'There was a nice 1" layer of snow over everything and deeper in places. The n. bowl had a big pillow drift near the top, but it also was in the shade so it had flattish lighting. The south bowl looked resurfaced after being tracked up over the weekend. I did some laps on the top. It was a decent surface and icy in all the usual places, but hey, it's better than October. The jibber was OK with softer corn under the new stuff.'
Sounds pretty good! But I'll be XC skiing at Heitman!
On Sunday March 3 I hiked up the 4th of July Trail and came down the Cope ATV trail. The trail is in amazing shape with this constant cool, dry weather. Basically just frozen dirt. I didn't wear microspikes until the final climb into the alpine at the end of the cottonwood valley. The snow starts just as you exit the brush and break into the alpine. I didn't bring snowshoes because I was just expecting crusty boilerplate, and the snow quality actually surprised me a little. There was a fairly uniform 1-2" of wind-packed/sun-settled powder everywhere. It would have been nice touring on skis, either A/T or stout XC. I just stayed on the wide bench below the mountains you look at behind Bells Flats and didn't climb any of the peaks. I sank in a little here and there, but for the most part the hiking with microspikes was good. I didn't run out of snow until I emerged onto the knob at the top of the Cope ATV trail where the shallow lakes are. Sargent Creek is incredibly low and easy to cross right now.
Today Steve, Sharon, and I hiked up the 4th of July Trail and skied into the mountains behind the Flats. The hike in was fine if a little wet in places. You don't hit snow until you emerge out of the brush but starting there it was lovely spring touring conditions with about 2-3 inches of spring corn melt rounds over a firm base. Southern aspects were going isothermic a little deeper down, and high elevation north- and west-facing slopes were a bit crusted over, but there was hardly any wind and the sun was out so things were pretty sweet. There is new snow up high and it has filled in most of the old patchy crap and sastrugi. You have to hike for it, and the snow down at the brush line is patchy, but the conditions up higher are smooth and if sun-softened, quite nice. Steve and Sharon peeled off to go up 4th of July Peak and I continued north to do a loop coming down the Cope ATV trail. I did traverse across the face of one peak on the Elbow Mountain side of the range behind the flats and that was very firm and not great, but all the aspects facing south and east towards Bells Flats were very nice. Sargent Creek is over ankle deep at Little Kosovo, so bring wading shoes or boots if you are going up that way. The rest of the week looks pretty nice, so if you are willing to hike for it, there is nice spring touring to be had back there.
Also, I ran into Dale at the top of the Cope ATV trail and he reported hearing whumpfing and experiencing collapses in the snowpack in a few locations on the slopes of Cope, so he stuck to low-angle terrain. I didn’t experience any of those indications and there was no avy evidence from within the past 48 hours (we saw some older slabs and point releases on 4th of July), but be careful out there in any case. Despite all the rain on the snow, the increasing intensity of solar radiation is going to start loosening up the snowpack and we are getting into afternoon spring wet-slab and wet-loose avy conditions.
Up and over the Hogback with 4th of July in the distance:
Leaving the cottonwood valley and heading up towards the alpine:
On snow and aiming towards 4th of July Peak:
Very pleasant touring conditions on sun-softened slopes:
4th of July looms above:
Nearing the top of the Cope ATV trail, you have to weave around a little to avoid bare spots, but it's still pretty easy to tour where you want:
Spring ski conditions are here ! After hiking up the 4th of July trail with Philip, Sharon and I skied up the North bowl of 4th of July Peak. The last 500 ft. had a hard crust so Sharon put on micro spikes and I kicked steps to the pass. The crust was so hard it took 3 hard kicks to make a good foot hold, crampons and an ax would have been more appropriate. After a couple of hours the north bowl corned up and we had good corn skiing.
There is a lot of snow in the high country behind the Flats but we already have May corn snow conditions, so get it while its good!
Today was the last sunny day for a while so I skipped out of work in the afternoon and did something completely different (for me). I hiked up Kashevaroff and skied out the ridge towards Center Mountain. I have purposely not hiked up Kash in many years as I find the ATV trail rutted, muddy, and tedious. But I'm doing a little trail research so I headed up to record the track on GPS and although the climb was pretty much as I remember, it wasn't irreconcilably terrible. After about an hour of booting up the trail, right at 2 miles and 1,500' of climbing, I hit snow. You can put your skis on at the first real snow patch and skin from there, which was cool: not a bunch of post-holing until you can connect snow patches. The north bowl that the trail dumps you into is quite firm, but traction is good and I skinned up and over to the western bowl (facing Bells Flats) and the sun was just warming that up. I stripped my skins and used the fish scale pattern on my skis to tour about 7 miles out the ridge towards Center Mountain. From the road to the top of Center is 10 miles, and I turned around where the final climb onto the narrow ridge leading to Center starts. It took me 2.5 hours to tour the 7 miles in, as the conditions are firm and superb for touring. I wasn't after vert- rather I was trying to get through the terrain efficiently on my new A/T gear. It was lovely touring. The 7 miles back out I did in a total of 1.75 hours. I only mention this to underscore how nice and low-angle the touring out the ridge is once you are over Kashevaroff. And now I feel a little guilty for poo-poo'ing the climb up there. Given good spring conditions, the terrain is wonderful for meadow-skipping and knocking out some gentle, rolling miles.
As soon as you hit snow at 1,500', you can link snow fields and start skinning:
At the top of the north bowl (where the trail deposits you) looking back down:
The western bowl is a stunning slope of perfect spring snow. It's not a huge slope, and the gradient changes (decreases) constantly, but it is lovely to either ski or look at:
Touring out the ridge was pretty much effortless with a perfect veneer of corn over a firm base. Center is the highest pimple on the ridge just right of the horizon's center and I toured back as far as where the steepness of the terrain was casting dark shadows on the ridge:
Well, I gave the ski from Kashevaroff to Center a try again, and I was only marginally more successful. The snow was a bit crusty and hard most of the way out the ridge except in the sunniest spots which made the touring a little less nice. As I got closer to Center and gained elevation the top of the ridge was pretty nice but I spent some time messing around on the Russian Creek side of of the ridge looking for a shortcut to get over to the 4th of July mountain system and sort of sketched myself out on some steep and very firm sidehilling. I gave up and climbed back onto the ridge to Center and eventually came to a dog-leg in the ridge where a cornice had developed that basically blocked easy progress. I front pointed to the underside of the cornice (normally a terrible idea, but this one wasn't huge), got out my snow saw, and spent a while cutting blocks until I had tunneled through. Okay, it was a terrible idea, lol. I kept going until the ridge became narrow enough that I wasn't comfortable continuing. I had lunch and skied back the way I had come. It wasn't a total waste of time because now I have a better idea of how to sneak through, though I think I would wait for softer snow conditions on the NW side of the ridge so a slip wouldn't immediately result in rocketing down into the Russian Creek ravine. It was about an 18-mile round trip, and now that I have a better plan I think I’ll start on the 4th of July side and finish on Kashevaroff: start on the east-facing slopes in the morning and give the Kash-Center ridge a chance to warm up for the trip out. I think that will be a 20-ish mile loop.
There were a LOT of bear tracks out the ridge and I ran into 2 sub adults, likely siblings.
I kicked steps up to the cornice lip and tunneled through:
Center Mtn is in the image upper left and the headwaters canyon of Russian Creek is in image center- the thing I am trying to get around...
Did I mention all the bear tracks?
Looking back at my progress before turning around. Kashevaroff is the first snowy peak in the distance to the right of image center:
The perfect confluence of topics: we skied from The Pass to Behind Bells Flats today, lol!
Steve, Sharon, and I set up a shuttle by dropping a vehicle at the end of Sargent Creek Road and then headed up to Pyramid Pass. We hiked in the southern ATV trail over the dome behind the chalet and into the headwaters of Buskin and Elbow Creek. The old ATV/Snowmachine trail is still barely visible and we followed that, partially boot packing and partially skiing, until we reached alpine west of Solstice peak. There we committed to skis for real and climbed up to the backside of Cope Mountain, and then skied down to the Cope ATV trail and finished out Little Kosovo. The snow down in the brush (where it didn't do us any good) was nice and fresh and fluffy, and the snow up high (where it could have benefitted us) was wind-blown crap. Welcome to Kodiak. The day was lovely if a bit cold and breezy, and the route is pretty cool and takes you through some remote terrain that few folks in Kodiak get to see. Either more snow (for skiing) or no snow (for hiking) would have been better, but we still had fun and burned a few calories in the deal.
Climbing up from the ski chalet with Anton Larsen Bay in the background:
Trying to decide between booting it and skiing:
Still booting for a short while:
Switching to skis presented its own complications:
Fresh spring snow proved sticky:
Nonetheless progress was made:
Cope Mountain is just barely peeking up above the pass dead ahead:
Yet more climbing with Erskine in the background:
Finally on the Cope ridge and ready to take a brief ski down to the ATV trail: