After the first sunny days of our ski mountaineering trip in the mountains of Glacier Bay, Alaska, our third day was forecasted to be stormy. According to all the Haines locals, however, you can’t really trust the weather forecast. So we woke early and headed out. There were clouds and fog covering the high peaks in the morning, but after a few hours it seemed to be clearing.
On our flight in we had spied a tasty NE face on a big peak down the glacier from camp. Back then it had seemed like a far-out, lofty goal. But with the light, stable snow we’ve been encountering it now seemed more realistic. We climbed from camp to a low pass, and skied through the morning light down the low angled glacier on the other side. We arrived at the base of the peak, with a long 3,000 foot climb ahead.
We were able to skin the first half of the run, but had to start booting after a bit. The snow was deep so our ascent plates and Verts proved their worth once again. Even with the extra flotation we were still wallowing up to our thighs. We swapped trail breaking duties every few minutes. As we climbed, the clouds that had been hanging above us started moving in. Eager to get to the top, we pushed on, and eventually made it to a small col just below the summit. The last 100 feet was a steep, deep headwall, peppered with rocks poking through the snow. The climb ahead, combined with the thickening clouds, convinced us to turn around. We clicked in, and I started down first. Flat light made skiing a little tricky, but the snow was amazing, once again, and the 3,000 foot run was incredible. We coasted out onto the huge glacier, and stopped for lunch.
We opted to explore a new route back to camp, and skin up the huge glacier that we are camped near the top of. The skin through the worsening weather took over an hour; the glacier was immense. When we made it back to camp, the weather had fully moved in. The last few days have involved low clouds and light snow. The storm has been pretty mellow, without too much wind and pretty warm temps. We even got out on a little exploratory tour on Sunday during a break in the storm.
I’m hoping the light winds and snow from this storm will supply some nice powder without increasing the avy danger. It seems the weather forecasts all contradict one another, but there might be a bit of clearing on Tuesday or Wednesday that might last a few days. I’m hoping the optomistic forecasts are right, but the few sunny days we have had have already made this trip more than worth it.
Map below shows our location at the green arrow. It appears we are on somewhat of an ice cap or field, with several valley glaciers flowing out of it. Again, from what we can tell the big glacier flowing easterly from us is the Davidson. It’s not named on our map but we’re told it is named on other maps. Whatever the case, always a special thing to be on the ice river.
Louie Dawson earned his Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design from Western Washington University in 2014. When he’s not skiing Mount Baker or somewhere equally as snowy, he’s thinking about new products to make ski mountaineering more fun and safe.