[The following took place during a 10 day trip in the Turnagain Pass area, thus completing the ski course of the Mountain Training School’s Guide School Program]
Its 11:00AM and we’re on our summit at 4,451ft. Below us rests 3,000ft of powder tainted only by our acutely zigzagging climbing track. It may have only taken us 5 hours to climb 3,900ft from camp that day, but we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the experience of the last few weeks. Skins not sticking to skis? Fixed. Ascending steep, icy crusts? Pfff. Avalanche terrain? Managed. 18 kilometers to go? Bring it.
It was the last day (morning really) of the final portion of our ski course. The plan was to have a relaxed wake-up before hopping into the van straight to the showers. That was until our instructor Andrea told us he was going to wake up as early as was necessary to go climb and ski a beautiful peak down valley. His “seize the day” speech and Italian accent were all it took to convince me and my course mate Dan to join him. By 6:00 the next morning we were hauling ass towards our objective, eager to shake the -15°C with our internal combustion.
As we left the trail and began the true ascent, dawn began to illuminate the summit. We raced to meet its warmth but our enthusiasm was unreciprocated, the daylight maintained its unobservable pace down slope. With our ankles straining from constant edging into steep, hard snow we took a break upon reaching the sunshine and gave it time to metamorphose the snow.
The remainder of the climb along the gorgeous ridge was filled with anticipation. The snow was perfect. The best we’d seen on our 37 day course. We weren’t quite sure we’d get all the way to the top but at each decision point the mountain led us onward until there wasn’t any more up to go. A quick 360 and a Snickers bar and we cramponed back down a few meters to our skis. I volunteered to guide our descent, deciding how to manage the group, where to ski, and most importantly, getting the first lines. On day one I would have struggled to make it down the ungroomed snow, by day 37 it was pure glory. Within no time we were back on the icy snowmobile track, to camp, the van, and a well deserved hot shower.
[What’s next, you ask? A few days of civilization before beginning our 42 day mountaineering course here in Alaska. STOKED.]