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| | |-+  Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
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Author Topic: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs  (Read 7605 times)
ryanl
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Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« on: 01/30/12, 03:23 AM »

"I don’t know what despair is, if it’s something or nothing, a kind of filling up or any emptying out.  I don’t know what sorrow does to the world, what it adds or takes away...Maybe, even though sorrow never disappears, it can make a deeper connection to the currents of life and so connect, somehow, to sources of wonder and solace…This is something that needs explaining, how light emerges from darkness, how comfort wells up from sorrow.  This is the wildest comfort.” -Kathleen Deen Moore

"Ryan, those stories you tell me on Monday mornings.....do they usually have moments like this?"

I looked around. Erik had gone for a walk to get warm. Mark was in front of me digging a hole in the snow to get out of the wind. I was sitting on my pack feeding snow into the pot of my Reactor. Kevin, who I work with and who had asked the question, stood with his arms wrapped around himself and water dripping before his face from the hood of his jacket.  I grinned. "Sometimes."

The four of us had left Seattle at 4 am Saturday with grand ideas. We'd already had beautiful turns down the Twins on Kendell (labeled here:
http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/probe/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=4544.0;id=47;image). But now, a little after noon, the weather had begun to take a turn for the worse. So we decided to make some water and figure out a plan B. Which isn't always easy in a group where everybody finishes their opinions with a sincere, "but I'll be happy with whatever."

Svege ripping right Twin:


Mark's a really good skier:


Brunch at Silver Creek. The Twin couloirs are out of sight behind the ridge in the upper left of the photo:


Climbing out of Silver Creek with the Kendell Couloirs in the background:


Behind from where we sat by a quarter mile stood the north face of Red. Kevin and Erik liked the idea of aiming for a col on Red's west ridge and going out via the Commonwealth. Seemed shorter than retracing our steps back to  Kendell Stump, and a heck of alot easier than dropping down to Gold Creek. Given the weather, the choice seemed like a good one.

Mark and I were both familiar with the west ridge col. We'd crossed it 364 days earlier. I know that because we crossed it three days before Monika died. I also know that I traversed it 357 days ago. That was the last time I touched Monika's face. 

I found myself resisting. Too steep to get there. Too steep to get out. What if it has too much snow? Or isn't safe? One reason after another surfaced until Mark, who had been watching me, said quietly while the others weren't paying attention, "Ryan....you Ok?" I noticed as he said this that tears were mixing with the rain on my cheeks. "We don't have to go there if you don't want. We can go out some other way."

"I don't want to make a decision based on that."

"If I thought it was a question of safety I wouldn't give you a choice."

I let my tears flow freely while Mark went back to digging his hole.

When the coffee I'd been brewing came hot, the four of us huddled together and began passing it around. I couldn't help but notice that Erik was smiling. Mark too. Same with Kevin. Sitting there, with them, I recognized my aversion to Red for what it was: sadness. I can live with sadness. I can even be happy with sadness. I felt wildly comfortable.

Me: "I vote we go over to Alaska and ski it's south face."

Mark: "I'm in. And if the weather gets worse we can always drop down to the lake beforehand and hit Gold Creek from there. I don't want to be on that face if it starts raining hard."

Erik: "COOL! Sounds like fun."

Kevin: "Seriously?"

Me: "Guys, I have no problem going out via Red if anyone isn't up for a long day. 'Cause it'll be a long day. Gold Creek sucks."

All, including Kevin: "No, it'll be an adventure. That's what we're here for." I've said it before but it bears repeating: I'm fortunate to have the firends that I do.

The Traverse. Chikamin is the monster in the clouds and Alaska is the knob furthest right on the ridge in the foreground: 






Top of Alaska:


Erik, still smiling:


In a few hours we were all standing atop Alaska with ice encrusted packs in howling winds looking down at my old friend, Mr. Gold. We'd taken as much precaution as possible traversing high above Alaska Lake. An extended column test had yielded the same result as the one we'd done earlier in the day: the top 3", the width of a shovel, moved slightly on the second tap. The 15" beneath that and above the buried crust layer wouldn't budge. The probability of a slide seemed small. Still, the potential for injury in the event of a rip was high. We took turns putting a track in place between safe zones. In retrospect, and to be honest, I'm not sure if I would do it again if I had to do over.  Not because I think we got lucky. But because the risk/reward was too unbalanced.

Alaska had about every snow condition you can imagine for a south facing slope that begins at 6000' and ends at 3000'. Still, such a cool face. Especially for being so close to Seattle.

Even though we nailed the deproach with nary a single meander, Gold Creek nevertheless took the edge off. Sort of like a shot of Wild Turkey mixed with Southern Comfort. The final 2 mile road skate was exhausting for everyone except Erik, who seemed to enjoy the exercise. Lucklily, we got back before not too late and managed to hitch a ride back to our car from the I-90 overpass.

And if anybody wonders, I DO have trips that don't end in the dark. I just usually don't write about them  Smiley
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ron j
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #1 on: 01/30/12, 07:10 AM »

Nice report, Ryan.
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"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston
Marcus
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #2 on: 01/30/12, 08:01 AM »

Great stuff Ryan, thanks for sharing it.  You've got a hell of a posse.
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jwplotz
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #3 on: 01/30/12, 09:55 AM »

What a great TR, all around compelling. Thanks for posting.
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Pete A
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #4 on: 01/30/12, 10:15 AM »

holy huge tour!   nice job Ryan and company...

and shenanigans involved in getting across to the east side of Gold Creek on the way out?   
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Salal
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #5 on: 01/30/12, 11:39 AM »

 Nice report. Is the south face of alaska filled in now? It was a bit thin in december. Been leaving a bike chained to a tree at the exit of GC so I dont have to walk the road.
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Lisa
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #6 on: 01/30/12, 12:14 PM »

Wow, nice work Ryan and others! Very well written Ryan, thanks for sharing.
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daveb
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #7 on: 01/30/12, 12:17 PM »

Thanks Ryan for the insight, I like reading your thoughts.

Looks like Eric got some fancy skis to match his fancy...hot... curvy....  
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Lisa
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #8 on: 01/30/12, 12:32 PM »

Funny Dave B. If Eric wasn't so damn hardcore and fit he might have some curves. I believe those are DPS skis. Hmmm wonder who set him up on those.  Wink I think our posse should all have a pair. Amar, one more pair to add to your quiver.
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ryanl
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #9 on: 01/30/12, 12:55 PM »


Looks like Eric got some fancy skis to match his fancy...hot... curvy....  

wrong Eric. E_$ chose to ski powder in sunshine on friday for some reason.

No shenanigans at all Pete. We almost got suckered into working our way down the west side, but vigilance won out and we had a relatively easy time.

Very filled in Jeff. I like the bike idea. Maybe you can give me a duplicate key?
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esvege
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #10 on: 01/30/12, 01:03 PM »

Great write up on the day Ryan and thanks for putting the tour together!  That coffee we shared it the hole Mark dug sure was good
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daveb
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #11 on: 01/30/12, 01:12 PM »

Oh!  Oops, sorry Eric for wrongfully molesting your boots.  "Boots" was what was supposed to go after the "..."  Although your boots like pretty nice too.
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andybrnr
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #12 on: 01/30/12, 01:18 PM »

Well, early bird gets the worm... we were a couple hours behind and a touch surprised to see your tracks when we hit the notch.  After eating lunch at the base of the Twins, we noted a bit of drizzle, and decided it was time to gtfo before it all went cement like and bailed over the ridge into Commonwealth and out from there. Guess if we want fresh tracks next time, we'll either have to get up at 0330 or slog all the way to Chikamin Smiley
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cbcbd
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #13 on: 01/30/12, 03:21 PM »

Always great reading your words, Ryan.
Sounds like a real banger of a trip, good job all Smiley
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allyson
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #14 on: 01/30/12, 09:20 PM »

great report, ryan. thanks for sharing. sounds like it was a good adventure with a good group of folks. 
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snowshoe?? why would you??
alecapone
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Re: Jan 28, Alaska South Face via Kendell Couloirs
« Reply #15 on: 01/31/12, 09:38 AM »

great write up Ryan.

Warm coffee with 3 smiling friends sounds like a great time to me.





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scott
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