2017-03-09 - GW's Birthday - AlpenScapes Photography

He's one of my closest friends, the most reliable ski partner a guy could ask for, and the best adventure buddy I've ever had. We've reconstructed trails in the cold Alaskan rain, packrafted splashy whitewater, skied second (maybe first?) descents, caught huge salmon, and partied down under the midnight sun. So when he said he wanted to explore the couloirs in his back yard on his birthday, of course I joined in.

It's been an off year for the Summit Lake area, which unfortunately coincides with the year that GW volunteered to be caretaker for the Lodge. It was early March and we hadn't even been out to check out the Hannukah Chutes, a zone we frequented many times a season in years past. GW was itching to finally get out and see what his back yard was looking like, and, with the best stability we've seen all year, we amassed a crew and went for it.

Even in a bony year, the Fat Chute is reliable

Following breakfast beers at the Lodge, five of us loaded up our packs and began the 2.5 mile approach to the upper Tenderfoot Creek basin. As mentioned in other recent posts, winds had hammered much of the area, but we had hope that these couloirs might be somewhat spared due to their northwest aspect. Sure enough, the ascent up the Fat Chute assured us that we'd find mostly great skiing conditions. Variable, no doubt, but given the recent weather we couldn't complain.

Andrew tops out onto the ridge and into the sunshine

Looking south into Canyon Creek. Lots of rock showing this year

On the ridge we basked in the warm sunshine. Winds were relatively calm and, while the temperature was still probably in the single digits, we were elated to relax in the warmest weather we'd seen in a week. GW popped a bottle of champagne, we all cracked our chosen beers, and we toasted to our the birth of our dear friend.

The crew enjoys yet another day of sunshine, calm winds, and ridgetop beers

And so a couloir was named: The Champagne Couloir at Summit Lake

Vince dropped first, guinea-pigging the bony entrance. A few turns down, we cheered him on as a huge rooster tail of powder followed his descent. We could hear occasional scratching, indicative of the variable ski conditions we'd encounter. The lower he went, the deeper the powder looked. We were stoked.

After a bottle of champagne and a tasty local IPA, Vince sends it like he means it

Kaitlin went next, excited to ski a new zone with the support of tipsy friends. The rest of us followed, GW taking clean-up. He found a sweet pocket of deep powder towards the bottom, making hard turns as we cheered him on.

We all met up at the bottom and high-fived before pointing our skis and boards downhill to party-ski our way back to the Lodge. We opted to ski out Owl Gully, a sometimes challenging exit depending on conditions. I would classify conditions as not the worst I've ever seen...

Kaitlin expertly negotiating the firm entrance

We all met up at the bottom and high-fived before pointing our skis and boards downhill to party-ski our way back to the Lodge. We opted to ski out Owl Gully, a sometimes challenging exit depending on conditions. It was a fun party ski and a great way to end a fun day with fun friends. 

The question was, what would we ski next?!

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