On the seventh of May Matt dropped Graham and I at about 6000 feet on the Powell Glacier. It was an incredible day to fly. The next day we went on an exploratory cruise, but ended up climbing and skiing an icy knife-edge ridge that lead to a 9500 ft peak just west of Mt. Thor, which had an amazing view of College Fjords. Although this peak likely has a name, and has likely been climbed and skied, we chose to call the ridge “The Canadian Cleaver”. The next day, we had yet another day of great weather, and we took advantage by skiing a 2500 ft coulee just outside of camp. We called this one “The Guillotine”, given the massive cornice at the top.
On the third day we tried to avoid too much adrenaline by taking a nice glacier cruise, but were turned back by high winds and incoming fog. That night the winds started gusting up to about 80 knots, and there was little sleep had. Shortly after sunrise, we were roused when one of the fly lines broke and the tent collapsed on us. We spent the next 3 hours trying to build taller snow walls, while the winds continually blew us off our feet and threw most of the snow blocks out of sight down glacier. This began to feel like a losing battle and the tent was eventually ripped to shreds by flying blocks of snow, and every aluminum tent pole was mangled. In survival mode, we dug a snow cave and toughed out the storm. When the storm cleared we got the motivation to hike out, since it looked like more weather was rolling in and we didn’t want to spend too many nights in the cave. This is when the adventure began.
We left camp at 6:30am, and were luckily able to avoid complete white out. The ski off the glacier only took 2 hours thanks to hard snow and good bridges. At the foot of the glacier we started towing the sled through punchy corn snow down the braided south fork of the Mat. River. With Matt’s advice to avoid the Matanuska River lower down, we stayed east and climbed out of the river valley through an ice filled gorge with the hopes of ending up at the radio tower. This was painful however, since the bag’s were no less than 80 lbs and the skis strapped to them magnified the already thick bush wackin’. We encountered a deceased moose as a nice warning of possible things to come (ok, it wasn’t that bad). At 7:30 pm, we saw our first glimpse of the tower, and called Matt to let him know that we would be out shortly, but we were deceived. We intersected yet another massive canyon (this one looked like hell on earth due to mud flows and flash floods). We forded the east fork of the Mat River at 10:30 p.m. and reached the radio tower at 1:00am. After replenishing morale and nutrients, we left our bags, and carried onto the road with the hopes of hitch hiking back to Meekin’s airstrip, however there wasn’t a car for miles. We therefore walked down the road until 4:00 a.m. where we reached the end of the epic after about 22 hours and 50km of exit.
All together, we had an excellent adventure, learned much more than we had in the previous weeks spent at UAA, and were totally stoked on Matt’s knowledge of the area, the awesome plane ride, and his effort to fly us in on such short notice to such a rad place. Looking forward to next year.
– Jeff and Graham
photo 1: Matt flying away under some seracs
photo 2: Jeff eying the line on our first day
photos 3+4: looking down the powell
photo 5: looking down the Harvard into PWS
photo 6: Jeff skiing the so called “Canadian Cleaver”
photo 7: Looking back up
photo 8: Jeff heading up on our second day
photo 9: Graham on the ridge on day 2
photos 10+11: Some ice above the Sylvester
photo 12: turns from day 1
photo 13: camp pre storm
photo 14: a look at the second day’s line, dropping off the top snowfield skiers right and into a couloir hidden from this angle
photo 15: a look at camp and the entrance to the hobbit hole apres storm.
photo 16: i guess you could call it tree skiing
photo 17: getting kinda tired
photo 18: crossing the east fork