Forums Trip Reports Roadside Alaska: It’s like a hut trip on wheels.
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  • #580289
    Rico in AZ
    559 Posts

    Winter in AZ was a bust. 1st winter in 9 that I got no backcountry days on the San Francisco Peaks. Sure, there a couple afternoons spent lapping 600’ on cinder cone hills, on very sheltered slopes holding the only real snow from a storm in early December.
    Shit was bleak.

    Plans were hatched. We’d talked about renting an RV and parking it somewhere on the Kenai Peninsula. Taylor had done it before. He knows his way around, and has a friend in Anchorage.

    Airline tickets were purchased.
    The RV was reserved.
    Hours were spent in the gym getting fit for a long trip.

    The nonstop flight from Phoenix to Anchorage is long.
    Long.
    We got in past midnight and slept at Taylor’s friend’s house. There was much to do in the morning.
    We rose early to pick up the RV. We finally drove away after what seemed like an endless interrogation, and repeated warnings, “Don’t use the water system. And don’t use the shitter.” The week’s menu was planned in an hour over plates of eggs and greasy reindeer sausage and copious coffee.

    Avy airbag canisters were filled at the dive shop.
    Next stop, Safeway.

    After two hours of cris-crossing the grocery store and $420 later, we were almost done.
    Seven cases of Sierra Nevada Pale oughta do it, right? Better throw in a bottle of Bulleit bourbon. And 20 gallons of water jugs.

    Seward Highway. I’m more accustomed to southwest deserts than AK mountains. I mean holy shit, Glaciers. Avalanche debris next to the highway. Turnagain Arm was a raging whitewater river with the tide going out. The Chugach rise straight up from sea level. The only other vertiginous mountains that I’ve seen that might compare would be the San Juans, and the eastside of the Sierra.

    Soon we arrived to our destination. It was like 7:00 in the evening. Where had the day gone? We both were fairly weary. Whatever,”lets go get an evening run on Magnum.”

    We finished at 8:30 in near darkness. Celebratory beers were popped, cheers were had. There was still work to do.
    The RV needed to be moved to a flatter lot, the Center Ridge parking area. And, this lot has vault toilets so the RV guy wouldn’t be angry.
    Dinner was ravenously eaten. Gear was unpacked. Again, sleep came around 1:00am.

    Most of the good pictures here were shot by Taylor.

    The rest of the grainy pics were shot by me on my crappy point and shoot.

    We awoke to find the view from the front porch wasn’t too bad.

    Turnagain Pass is rad. Touring starts right from the road. Go wherever you want.

    And the area is kinda unique. Non-motorized on one side of the highway, with arguably better and more terrain without sno-mo’s.

    We had unbeatable weather for seven straight days. Perfect high pressure. Zero wind. The snow had degraded slowly after dumping seven feet in February and March. Pow runs would be hard to find, and classic steep Alaskan spines and couloirs were unlikely. Post storm avy crowns and debris were everywhere.

    The first day’s tour would be back the Lyons Creek drainage.

    The skin track was slick as fuck for the first mile or so. The alders were a jungle in this low snow winter.
    Then things improved.

    The heat was taking it out of us. We “settled” for a lower peak in the middle of a large basin with unbelievable views. A decent avalanche from a fallen cornice had happened during the approach. Lunch and high fives were had.

    The next couple of days were spent leisurely touring up glacial valleys. We were figuring out that good snow was on a pretty narrow aspect, above a certain elevation. West to slightly northwest above 1800’ was the money zone. Anything with a southerly aspect was not-quite-mature corn, thin corn and scratchy. Northerly aspects were cold and hard. There probably wasn’t going to be any steep classic Alaskan lines.

    And by leisurely, I mean like, cold ones, good conversation, lunch, a nap in the sun… it was just that kind of trip. The snow was decent, but not worth killing ourselves for. But fun turns were had.

    Taylor striking a pose on Taylor Pass. Behind is Pastoral Peak. It looked good. But folks weren’t skiing the obvious descent off the summit. It’s mostly north-ish facing and presumably wind blown and rock hard. It had obviously been skied, like every other high steep peak in the area, but my guess is a week or more earlier. Everyone we saw who went back there went and tagged that low saddle to the left of the peak, and glacier cruised back.

    And then one evening this guy cruised through the front porch. Skijoring. Huh. We saw his rig parked in the lot about 100 feet away. So we tossed him a beer, and he talked for a while. He came back later with vodka. Something about being allergic to most kinds of alcohol. He regaled us in Chugach tales of divorce, failing business, tourons at Alyeska. Bourbon was drank, the night went late again, and he went home to his dogs visibly drunk on vodka. An entertaining night to say the least.

    Evenings were spent on the back porch soaking in the evening sun, watching the sun set over the next ridge and the alpenglow behind us, drying soggy things out, beer cans piling up at our feet.

    For the past few days we’d been staring northeast at a decent looking peak with a bunch of old avy crowns on it. Tin Can. We had to go check it out. There were probably better decisions to be made.

    Wait, what ski area is this?

    But great views of the drainage we were in a few days earlier were the reward.

    And we got a view of where we would go the next day.

    Some ok turns were spooned between old tracks.

    The interwebz had been telling us the weather was going to change on our final full day. Mid day went gray bird.

    This northwest bowl held the best snow we had seen the entire trip. Albeit with a lot of tracks. So we booted up the ridge to get higher. Views opened up.

    Anchorage Jim and Rico.

    The light got pretty magical, and the leisurely skin back I didn’t really want to end.

    We knew we had a few hours on the final morning to go get a run. The west face on Sunburst looked good, and the lower slopes we knew had decent snow. So two of us set out in flurries on the familiar skin track.

    The ridge was wind hammered as expected. The last turns of the trip were made.

    Post Script:
    I know some of you have seen Taylor’s old reports, and have asked questions.
    Just go. It’s so damn easy. Get a few of your buddies together. Find an RV on the internet. Ours was a ’99 and was decent (even if we couldn’t take a dump in it or use the water) and was pretty cheap split three ways. Book your flights early for a good price. I think I was into this trip for a grand; one of the best and cheapest trips I’ve ever done.

    #678222
    nickstayner
    700 Posts

    Thanks for the stoke!

    #678223
    shredgnar
    643 Posts

    Nice work guys. Always wanted to do the RV thing in AK. I’ve been to Valdez and Aleyeska on Heli’s but need to get some touring in.

    What dates were you there? April? May?

    #678224
    Taylor
    792 Posts

    @rico: Thanks for the proper write-up and a great trip; I look forward to many more adventures.

    @shredgnar: 15 Mar – 15 Apr is a good window. Long days, snowpack at its maximum, usually still cold enough for good snow at lower elev. (1000-4000′). But it’s a crap shoot because airplane and RV reservations lock your dates in. Storms, snow hazard and low vis can really put a damper on things. Longer trips mitigate the odds of getting caught in a cycle for your entire trip.

    Here’s Rico:

    @sun_rocket

    #678225
    HikeforTurns
    1113 Posts

    Sweet stoke boyoz! Looks like a great trip.

    #678226
    D-GREEN
    336 Posts

    Ah haha… Did Jim the “skijoring guy” just talk for a while, or forever? And did a Subaru mysteriously start up and then later shut off on its own near your home? Just wondering. Nice trip report of a, uh, not so nice of a season. I like the more out of the box approach of staying at Turnagain as opposed to Thompson Pass.

    #678227
    Rico in AZ
    559 Posts

    @shredgnar wrote:

    What dates were you there? April? May?

    We were there 3/28 to 4/5. The cool thing is, at that time of the year, you gain about seven minutes of sunlight per day. 45 minutes in a week!

    @d-green wrote:

    Ah haha… Did Jim the “skijoring guy” just talk for a while, or forever? And did a Subaru mysteriously start up and then later shut off on its own near your home? Just wondering. Nice trip report of a, uh, not so nice of a season. I like the more out of the box approach of staying at Turnagain as opposed to Thompson Pass.

    HA HA, YES! The skijoring guy talked for a long time. The three of us were nodding off, quite inebriated ourselves, Jim seemed like he was just getting started. Nice enough guy though, seemed like he just needed someone to talk to.
    And I guess that was your car? I thought “Damn, that’s pretty smart to have a remote start to get your car toasty warm before you even get back to it.”
    We had talked about going to Thompson. And Hatcher. We voted against the long drive to Thompson, and concluded snow conditions would be about the same at Hatcher.
    Turnagain is rad. I couldn’t believe more peeps weren’t out there doing the same thing.

    #678228
    Method
    151 Posts

    Nice, wasn’t the best season in AK – very low tide – I was out in the tordrillos in early march and there was a lot of “loud pow” and chocolate chip. Looks like you guys made the best of it.

    The mid-march storm topped things up which would’ve made it a little better.

    I’m yet to tour around turnagain, its a very pretty area and on my to-do list.

    Great stuff!

    :thatrocks: :headbang:

    #678229
    wasatch surf
    979 Posts

    awesome Rico! looks like a super relaxing trip. Way to make the most out of a bad winter.

    #678230
    saign
    330 Posts

    Thanks for the stoke.

    I’m going up there this year and weighing the options, so I’m loving the beta and photos.

    You could have had better snow, but you coulda also been hosed with nothing but storms, and no vis…

    #678231
    JimmyC
    351 Posts

    Nice!!!!

    #678232
    Weakened Warrior
    12 Posts

    Oh man, this just made me drool so bad. :drool:
    I love the photos of Outsiders in our home stomping grounds. (No offense, outsider is a term.) Gives a perspective.
    I did the rv at Hatchers in March, and except for serious white outs where we would fall over standing still and the threat of an unstable snowpack (read: damalanche) we had a similar time. At least I got over there though.

    Is there, or can someone with cred on this site make an “Alaska conditions thread “like the one that used to be on telemark tips? That was single handed lay the best snow pron site ever.

    Splitboarders deserve the best.

    #678233
    D-GREEN
    336 Posts

    Not to commandeer your thread and/or one up anyone, but I hope you don’t mind my adding a little here. That was my subi parked next to your home on March 31st. jdoneill and I also hiked up Lyons Creek drainage that day…

    …following, literally, snowsavage’s bootpack up this behemoth


    Kickstep Mtn, boot and skin up in blue, survival turns down in red

    This VERY SHORT video gives you an idea of snow quality and the size of the run (skier unknown)

    [vimeo:9ebrmjb4]http://www.vimeo.com/111081350[/vimeo:9ebrmjb4]

    Here’s jdoneill one the ridge near the top

    and dropping…
    that’s him under my foot

    just left of the rock outcrop

    and the dot just above the shadow in the center of the photo

    celebratory beers back on bottom and alive!

    Then came the “super fun” flatish ride home on hardpack snow in alders on soar legs and burnt lungs in near darkness where I crashed and burned, and unbeknownst to me, accidentally started my car with a super touchy autostart button. Hence, the ghost driven Subaru.

    Thanks again for your Turnagain TR, and give us shout next time you’re in state! :thatrocks:

    #678234
    SPLITRIPPIN
    709 Posts

    Nice one Rico! Good to see you kept the stoke alive and headed up to da AK, meng! :thatrocks:

    #678235
    Rico in AZ
    559 Posts

    Nice trip up Kickstep D-GREEN. That is one badass peak. It was really weird that your car was running. For like an hour. 😆

    @d-green wrote:

    Thanks again for your Turnagain TR, and give us shout next time you’re in state! :thatrocks:

    I/we will!

    #678236
    Taylor
    792 Posts

    That was really funny. D-GREEN when your subi fired up out of the blue, in the otherwise empty and silent parking lot, I was taking a wiz not ten feet from it. It made me jump. Luckily I didn’t get any on me. I was sure someone was pranking me. I spent a good while looking around for some jokers watching me from the woods or something. Cool trick.

    Kickstep – big, badass line. Moreso given the snow, or ice, that day. Survival turns–I believe it. Well done.

    We’ll definitely be in touch next time we come up that way. Here’s to a good season for you guys!

    @sun_rocket

    #678237
    snowsavage
    312 Posts

    Way to get a handle on Turnagain guys. Looks like you made a well-rounded tour of the place. Thanks for posting.

    oh…and all those tracks on TC….thats just one reason why I call roadside AK “The New SLC”.

    ..and rad to finally get the whole Kickstep story from you D….stoked you guys made it up there for sure, even if it was MC Hammerville..

    #678238
    nickstayner
    700 Posts

    Great TR!

    Where’d you guys rent the RV from? What was the price for your trip? Where’d you park the rig at night? OK to sleep in those big lots on Turnagain?

    #678239
    Rico in AZ
    559 Posts

    @nickstayner wrote:

    Great TR!

    Where’d you guys rent the RV from? What was the price for your trip? Where’d you park the rig at night? OK to sleep in those big lots on Turnagain?

    Taylor took care of the RV through http://www.alaskafamilymotorhomes.com/Pages/aboutus.aspx
    I think it was about 80 or 90 bucks a night, off season price. I think the guy Tom was a little suspicious about sending one out with a bunch of snowboarders, so he gave us this old ’99. It was definitely used, but just fine. We only used one tank of fuel, and less than one tank of propane. Split the costs 3 ways and it’s really affordable.
    We parked and slept at the Center Ridge parking lot each night. The lot is flat, had toiltets (so Tom’s head wouldn’t explode), and you can tour to easily a weeks worth of terrain without moving. We got hassled by no one, so I guess it’s legal and kosher.

    Go!

    #678240
    Zude
    367 Posts

    Looks like low tide in Alaska is still pretty fucking awesome! Thanks for the report this a trip that is definitely I my future, or something very similar. Yeah flag was bad but I got out maybe thirty time or so… Late season was really good on the north side. Besides Alaska, Hakido Japan is on the hit list for a winter volcano/zen temple/hot springs extravaganza. There is an outside chance I could be teaching in Japan in the near future.

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