The Big Five: Tusk
FIRST DESCENT: Dean Cummings (ski), Sunny Hamilton (snowboard)
VERTICAL: 1,900 feet, 50-60 degrees
ACCESS: The valley is accessible by all Chugach heli operators or by hiking or snowmobiling from the highway
AS SEEN IN THE JANUARY 2012 ISSUE OF FREESKIER MAGAZINE. WORDS BY CHRISTOPHER JERARD.
ITS STONE PINNACLE RISES AT THE HEAD OF A VALLEY FILLED WITH POWDER RAMPS SEEMINGLY BUILT TO SKI DOWN. SKIING IN SIGHT OF SUCH A MAGNIFICENT GEOLOGICAL PHALLUS IS GREAT ENOUGH REWARD FOR MOST. ONLY THE MOST INTESNSELY DEDICATED HAVE SKIED THE STEEP AND EXPOSED LINES NEAREST TO THE TUSK PROPER.
“The view into the Valley of the Tusk from the Richardson highway is awe-inspiring. These roadside pullouts fueled much of the Alaskan heliskiing dream. While some giant trophy peaks are hidden deep within the Chugach range, The Tusk is right there, propped up by endless ramps, looking dreamy every time you drive Thompson Pass.
When skiing in the valley, seeing the peak up close, you can tell it is an “easier seen than done” line. There’s a smooth snow covered rock plate with multiple cruxes and massive exposure. While the 50-degree ramp fills regularly with snow, the 60-degree plus upper reaches rarely hold any—an extra special maritime blend is required to plaster the pointed black rock. Even more than usual in Alaska, all of the elements have to add up to perfect for a descent from the summit.” —Flip McCririck, legendary photographer
PHOTO: DEAN CUMMINGS SHOT BY ERIC LAYTON
“Back in the early ‘90s, we didn’t think about first descents as much as opening up new regions, so I’m unsure if it was Doug Coombs or me that took it from the lower west shoulder. The first time I skied the Tusk was in 1993 from the southwest shoulder. This presents some exposure below, but overall the mountain is 50 degrees and fairly straight forward.
Three years ago I snowmobiled in from the road to climb the Tusk and see if the upper unsupported face was skiable. Sunny Hamilton and I climbed straight up the face for three and a half hours and skied from the highest point of snow just below the Tusk pinnacle, which is the east arête of the summit. This ascent and descent was considered the first descent from the top.” —Dean Cummings, owner and operator, H2O Guides