The reports down in the lower 48 are true-it’s low tide in AK. The thing is you wouldn’t really know it if you were hanging out in Cordova. The Points North Heli (PNH) family along with their guests are all fired up, adventuring throughout the Chugach daily, and currently enjoying some of the best days of their lives.
The energy is positive and the stoke factor is high in Cordova, regardless of the variable snow conditions. And the thing about that is even though there’s an obvious absence of the AK velvet the fuels many of our collective ski dreams there’s some all-time world class skiing to be had right now. The heli guests have been flying almost every day under sunny blue bird skies while the PNH guides have been doing their best to search out and slay the best available snow.
Jeff Dostie and myself are up here on a slightly different program checking into the many opportunities for ski touring and ski mountaineering in the greater area. We’ve only been up in the zone for a few days, but we’ve already been fortunate to get on few solid missions. We’ve tackled a couple of backcountry objectives accessible from town, and had one heli assisted visit into the high alpine to get a feel for the backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering potential that’s literally endless. Here’s a brief photo essay from our first few days in Cordova to wet your whistle:
The Heney Range is one of the smallest mountain ranges in the world and rises right out of town. A few minutes drive from PNH HQ, past some world class ice-climbing, will take you to a trail head where you’ll climb through temperate rainforest on your way into the mountains.
After an all-time summit view from the top of Shiels and about twenty different kinds of snow on the descent (including recrystalized powder and 50 degree firmness) we climbed the backside of Eccles for some high quality steep corn turns.
Our next day was all about getting deep in the Alaskan bush.
And stumble upon cirques like this the “struggle” to climb what you ski in Alaska is that much sweeter.
Our third day brought a heli bump and zone breakdown with Kevin Quinn. Kevin, along with his wife Jessica and their absolutely brilliant staff of world class guides, cooks, and support staff facilitate some of the most comfortable living you could ever imagine up in Cordova. From down-day activities to the gourmet meals and superior hospitality every moment spent with PNH is of the highest quality. Kevin has also been pioneering this section of Chugach for many years so getting a lay of the land from him was the perfect intro for Jeff and I. Our heli drop left us with a blank canvas that’s hard describe in terms of how awe-inspiring the terrain was coupled with the ski mountaineering and backcountry ski potential. Jeff and I got a few ski descents in while climbing some amazing lines. Our major plan is to get out in the zone for a longer stretch of time sleeping in the alpine, and get more intimate with this terrain that will hopefully be more available for other backcountry users in the future. What do you think of having a tent/yurt setup in the Chugach where the terrain behind me in this next photo is right out your front door?
Sounds pretty unreal to me too. From the steepest of the steep, to gently rolling ramps that are accessible to anyone that can slide on snow the variety of terrain and unmatched scenery make this one of the best places you could ever earn your turns.
We’re actually having a mellow down day today as some weather’s rolling through that is hopefully the sign of a shift in the currently uncharacteristic high pressure pattern that’s dominated AK for the past several weeks. Hopefully it’s the sign of some positive changes to come and until then Jeff and I will be doing our best to keep checking into what’s quickly becoming one of the best backcountry ski trips either of us have ever embarked on.
A parting sunset shot taken from the shore at PNH HQ before dinner last night: