FIRST DESCENT: Kirk Jensen and Eric Pehota (N/NE Ramp), Todd Jones and Dirk Collins (South Face)
VERTICAL: 3,000 feet sheer, 54-57 degrees
ACCESS: Close in proximity to Valdez
AS SEEN IN THE JANUARY 2012 ISSUE OF FREESKIER MAGAZINE. WORDS BY CHRISTOPHER JERARD.
A 57-DEGREE TOP PITCH THAT LASTS 400 FEET MAKES FOR A BLIND ROLLOVER— ONE OF THE MOST HAIR RAISING IN THE CHUGACH—BEFORE “MELLOWING” TO A SUSTAINED 54 DEGREES AND SLOWLY EASING UP NEAR THE BOTTOM. THIS PEAK WAS STRUCK BY A METEORITE IN 1927 AND CREATED THE NORTH/NORTHEAST RAMP THAT DEAN CUMMINGS SKIED DIRECT LAST SPRING. (WATCH THE VIDEO AT FRSK.ME/1mt).
“This peak gets skied a lot by the Valdez operators, and you can’t help but notice it when you drive through the Keystone Canyon going up or coming down from Thompson Pass. You often need a rope to get over the roll and into position to feel good about things. Other times you can tread lightly and just make it happen. There is no relief on her and no safe zones until you’re done.” —Kevin Quinn, owner and operator, Points North Heli-Adventures
“My first turns on the Dragon’s Back spine (pictured here) sent the slough over [a] fracture line. It was crazy from my vantage point, seeing it split around the huge beak. This put me over the 3,000 feet of exposure on the right. This was 55-plus degrees and the most likely section of the descent that could slide because of the unsupported shallow snowpack over the rocks. Once I got through the top crux, I skied the spine fast and got white roomed on at least half of my turns. The slough that went down the right side exposure blew up huge in the cirque below, and a cloud rose up 800 feet. The exposure on the left was two razor-drop 100-foot cliffs. After getting through the 60-degree double-exposed spine, I just opened up my speed, and it was such great snow—it felt like the promised land.” —Dean Cummings, owner and operator, H2O Guides
PHOTO: DEAN CUMMINGS SHOT BY JOHN FULLBRIGHT
“This may be one of the funnest runs I have skied—ever. When I skied it, the conditions were perfect. I remember standing at the top with Todd Jones. We were both laughing that we were even there. We dropped in to over-the-head pow on the ramp. It was crazy good. Once we got to the bottom, we jumped back into the heli, flew back to the top and got the first descent of the opposite south face. A pretty sick morning by any standard. The funny thing is that we were really tight on budget in those days, so we decided we would get our two runs in and walk out rather than get a flight back. Pretty classic, as the south face ends a long ways from the road. The way back was a slog complete with a bear encounter.” —Dirk Collins, pioneering Alaska skier and filmmaker