We had an incredible and successful expedition to the Alaska Range April 7-23, 2015. Here’s the movie. The first 6 days were perfect sun, calm and stable snow and we got some big lines.
Stu Brown of Valdez joined us. He’s rips big lines but is rather modest about it. We all got along great and are planning more adventures. We scored really nice light powder, calm winds. The snow was deep in the chutes, but it was super stable and the sluffs hardly ran. We lucked out, at first, with nice weather because the group before us sat out 5 days of snow and bad weather, but it left great snow for us. We lived in luxury on the glacier. Sarah cooked Apple tart, Pear Tart, Blueberry Cheesecake, Chocolate Chip Cookies. We had French Toast, Eggs Benedict, Pancakes, Huavos Rancheros for breakfast.
One perfect clear calm day, Paul and a friend flew in with little 2 seater Piper Cubs and were using the planes to land on the lower glacier and fly up to the mountain top where they landed and skied down. Luckily we were able to hitch hike on their last run as they headed home and they flew us up to the top for a cool fly and run in sunny perfectly calm cold powder. That was fun.
I skied my DPS R112’s and they worked well in the soft snow and held well in the steep couloirs. The couloirs had amazingly thigh deep snow, but when skied did not sluff at all. Incredibly stable Alaska snow which doesn’t appear anywhere else in the world that I know. Stu got some first descents on a number of big lines. They ranged from 37-58 degrees measured steepness. I followed him up as far as time and my energy allowed and got to ski some very aesthetic steep big lines. Its something I’ve always wanted to do. We got the big main line in the valley, “Big Bird” Chute. Also Stu did a huge line I call Condor down the next valley.
I met Stu Brown thru his brother Aaron Brown in Valdez. Aaron wrote the book on skiing the steep chutes in the Valdez area. Stu picked us up at the Anchorage Airport at 5:30 a.m and we got some breakfast and headed north to Wasilla to shop, then to Talkeetna. We were exhausted from our Daughter’s wedding 3 days before which we had at our house. It was a happy wonderful wedding with all our and her friends coming from all over the world and helping. It turned to be a 7 day party. We arrived in Talkeetna but the weather was cloudy and we couldn’t fly, but it was just as well as we were beat. We got all weighed in and took a nice nap at the Talkeetna Air Service bunkhouse. Talkeetna Air Servic e is owned by Paul Roderick. He is a great guy, a fantastic pilot. They run a super friendly, helpful welcoming operation. They really helped us with everything, shipping, loading, staging, fuel, weather reports, wands. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Great folk. Thanks to Vicky, Annie, Tom, Dennis, Richard and Paul for making the Pineapple Express Expedition a big success.
A big hit on the trip was the 1-K BTU kerosene heater which kept the tent warm and dry. It was great having warm ski boots and dry gloves in the morning, and a warm place to relax after skiing. We were running low, so Paul flew in several gallons of Jet A fuel which is in big supply at the airport and burned nice and clean in the heater.
After 6 perfect clear calm days of skiing in the Alaska Range, there was a 5 day snow storm which dumped over 4 feet of snow and we had to shovel to prevent the tents from getting buried. (Pika got 8 feet) The plane couldn’t pick us up on the scheduled day due to weather and when it did a day later, it couldn’t land in Talkeetna, the only airport when a front came through. Weather pushed the plane back into the mountains to the Ruth Gorge where we landed, but were stuck and out of gas. Paul had to fly up to bring fuel at 8pm. After trying to take off around 9 pm, both planes had to turn back again as visibility went to zero and we had to spend another night with 2 planes stranded on the glacier. I set up the group tent, melted some snow for water with the stove and luckily had some emergency supplies. Paul and Richard had to start the plane every 2 hours in the night so they would’nt freeze. We got out at 6 am the next morning in hazy conditions. Richard said it was the first time in 20 years he couldn’t land in Talkeetna. That was an adventure! Paul and Richard of Talkeetna Air Taxi are experienced, professional and very very competent Alaskan bush pilots who made good, safe, decisions, and made the extra effort to save us when we were stuck.