For PNH Tour Camp, 2014 was an incredible year. The following photo essay speaks to our season in total.
In the beginning, there was Storm Duncan. AK had been weathering a tough start to the season until this bad boy showed up. Aimed directly at the Chugach, this system annihilated the mountains dropping several feet of snow along with some incredibly intense winds.
In the midst of Storm Duncan, co-guide Jeff Dostie and I felt like we were right back where we had left off after last season’s huge snowfall totals. This season, we showed up in Cordova, started firing to get our program going right off the plane, and with the help of several PNH staff members, established Tour Camp just as Storm Duncan arrived. For the next week+ Jeff and I shoveled, secured camp from the ridiculous winds, and saw nothing but each other and a glimmer of camp here and there when the precipitation backed off. It was a rowdy way to start the season, but the skiing sure was good.
As the storm vacated the forecast area our Week 2 clients arrived. It was a shame that we didn’t get to ski with our Week 1 group due to the storm, but such is the case in AK. The Week 2 guests were a great group to get things going for the season. We eased our way into the goods all week culminating with some phenomenal skiing by weeks end. Here the crew gets ready for the inaugural descent of “Red Hot Mamma”, a SE shot that was perfect powder in March, something that’s not readily available come April.
The real meat of our season came in the third and fourth weeks this year. In the moment, we failed to understand how long the Rex Pattern would last following Storm Duncan (three weeks!), but Jeff and I understand that at this point, when there’s relative stability and it’s clear, it’s go time. Here, Molly-one of our stellar ladies from the 2014 season-helps break in “The M-Slot”, a notch that’s more accessible with a short belay or rappel, that leads to a whole new world of ski touring that we hadn’t touched until this season.
Thanks to the Rex Block, exploration and expansion became major themes of the 2014 season. While nibbling away at breaking in a complex new peak called “Dark Star”, several new lines were skied. “Lovelight”, shown here, is just one of many couloirs that one can ski back to the Simpson Glacier after tackling the more committing lines off the peak proper.
2014 was the fourth season for Jeff and I exploring this corner of the Chugach. As much as we enjoy the explorative nature of our position, having a spine wall like this that’s accessible from camp brings it all together. There are other places to experience spine riding, but when “Dan O’s” is caked like this and all systems are a go for a session, these are the days that last with you for a lifetime.
This season, The Mountain Hardwear Space Station, aka the Steal Your Face Station (SYFS), brought Tour Camp into a tighter state of being. It allowed for guide extraordinaire and camp cook, Jeff “Chefstie” Dostie to prepare delicious food with ease. Rocking out at night with our new sound system while watching the stars from the SYFS was a huge hit as well. Photo: Brint Markle
There’s nothing like watching the Northern Lights go off after a huge day of ski touring in AK. This is a shot of what we call “Home Peak”, the mountain face that frames Tour Camp, absolutely going off with as vibrant of a banner as we’ve ever seen in our four years at this spot. Of course a tripod would’ve helped the shot immensely, but I’m glad I snapped this one as by the time I went to set up a more solid shot, the banner was gone.
It takes a lot to keep Tour Camp firing on all cylinders. The PNH staff and crew are huge in their support, but it would be nothing without the efforts of Jeff Dostie or Wes-Slay Stomp-Son. Here, I had the opportunity to chase Wes-Slay as he shredded his way towards “Grizzly Point”.
On the last day of the official AK Rex Block of 2014 I had the opportunity to go deep, exploring with clients Brint and Austin, seen skinning in the photo. Behind them you can see “Dark Star” and Sluffhead”. I love this shot for its backdrop beauty, but also because at this point no one had yet to tour where we were. In the following hours the three of us would summit a new peak and ski two new lines. That was before we stumbled upon three gorgeous previously unskied chutes that we took all the way down into a low elevation river drainage. Skinning out, we scoped a lifetimes worth of bowls, panels and couloirs that I can’t wait to explore with future visitors to Tour Camp.
As we approached our last week of the season clouds finally built and a storm blanketed the Chugach with its first new snow in three weeks. This is a shot taken from the heli after we got our first window to get back out to Tour Camp post storm.
After close to a foot of new snow, this is what it looked like walking out of the guide tent. With our first fresh dump in such a long period of time, you better believe we were fired up to go slay some pow!
The views from our place in the Chugach never get old. This photo was taken while Jeff led the crew up “Home Run Low” en route to the best powder skiing of our 2014 season.
The final week of Tour Camp was all about skiing pow. A few of the days boasted truly sublime skiing conditions where more than a few overhead face shots were experienced. I have to give the crew at Praxis Skis a major shout out here as the custom ultralight Protest model they made for me, specifically for the PNH season, truly shinned in these conditions. Who else will make a 196 ski that slays powder as well as any ski out there, and also kills it on the up weighting under 9 lbs.? Praxis. Check’em out!
What would Brian Boitano do? Here, Brian enjoys a post 9 pm run back to camp after a glorious day out in the field. This is but one of the many novelties of Tour Camp. We don’t tend to ski as early as Jeff and I are used to back in Tahoe, but then again, we’re not usually skiing powder past 9 pm either. However, at Tour Camp, some of our best days involve skiing back to camp with light like this.
Thanks for checking out the AK reports from the past few weeks, I hope you enjoyed them. If you have any interest in skiing with us in 2015 please get in touch with us soon as some weeks are already booked. Happy Turns!
“State of the Backcountry” is sponsored by Alpenglow Sports. Established in 1979, Alpenglow Sports is Tahoe City’s original mountain shop. Specializing in Backcountry and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, trail running, backpacking, hiking, camping, and the mountain lifestyle apparel, Alpenglow is always psyched to offer premier user-based customer service.You can check out more “State of the Backcountry” reports through Facebook, Instagram and its website.