May 13, 2011:
recently has had some good crust skiing. More hiking than usual for this time of year
has been involved to get up to the good
snow. But the skiing conditions up high have been worth the
Bald Mountain Ridge Crust Skiing
May 6, 2011:
For many years I had
wanted to crust ski on Bald Mountain Ridge. I had skied
this ridge quite a few times in the past, but getting to this
during crust snow season proved to be tricky. The trails
up Bald Mountain Ridge from the south melt out and get muddy
quickly, the access from Hatcher Pass is avalanche-prone and the
Dave Churchill Trail is tough to get up when Willow Creek's ice
gives out. Luckily Willow Creek still had just enough ice
to allow me to get across on this day, and I was finally able to
crust ski Bald Mountain Ridge. I skied up the Dave
Churchill Trail access to above tree-line and then skated this
wide and expansive ridge top on to the State Trooper's
communication station at the 4577' level. I also
incorporated a side trip to check out the remains of a B-29 that
crashed in 1956.
Overview of route
GPS track: 20 miles,
3000 feet of elevation gain.
This sign on the
Fishhook-Willow Road marks the start of the access trail to Bald
You can see where the "Bald" part of this ridge's name comes
I had tried
to find this plane wreckage before (on skis), but I
wasn't able to locate it. So this time I cheated
and got the GPS coordinates off the geocaching web site (N
61 42.843, W 149 30.397). This wreckage is
of a B-29 fuel tanker that crashed in 1956. Here
about this event. I wanted to visit this site to
complete my "B-29 Troika", which is visiting all three
B-29 crash sites in this general area: Bomber Glacier,
the Delta Islands in the Big Susitna River NW of Willow and here at Bald Mountain
View from west to
east from the 4577' point on Bald Mountain Ridge where a State
Troopers communications site is located.
View of the Knik
Glacier in the distance. The dark thing on the snow at the
left of this picture is a ground squirrel.
The top of Bald
Mountain Ridge is completely white, except for many brown ground squirrels
sitting on the snow next to their burrows. I must have
seen 200 of these little guys.
Looking back at the
communications station on the 4577' point of Bald Mountain
Is crust skiing safe
from avalanches? Definitely not. This picture shows
where a snowmobile was going up crusted snow and triggered a
slab avalanche. The upper layer had a thick crust on top
of it, but it was tenaciously resting on top of a super-slick
layer of icy rain crust.
When it comes to the
Hatcher Pass area, I like the west (Willow) side the best.
There is 10 times more skiing terrain and 1000 times less people
than the east side.
Places like Bald Mountain Ridge and Craigie Creek (see below) are rarely
May 1, 2011:
I had been to Dogsled
Pass, at the head of the Craigie Creek drainage in the Talkeetna
Mountains, several times before while hiking, mountain biking and
snowmobile trail skiing. But I had never crust skied
to Dogsled Pass. Craigie Creek is usually a bit hard to
get to for crust skiing. But for the last two winters the Fishook-Willow Road east of Willow on to Craigie Creek has been
kept plowed-open. In past years this road was
usually unplowed all winter and not opened until the end of May.
So I figured this extended road access would allow some easy
access to new crust skiing terrain. The crust skiing in Craigie Creek was good. There was a little bit of new
powder on top of the crust, so I'd give this crust skiing a
rating of 7 out of 10. It could be good skiing here for
another two weeks or more if we have normal-ish spring freeze/ thaw cycles
in the Talkeetna Mountains.
Looking down the
Craigie Creek drainage from the old cabin near Dogsled Pass.
Old penstock and
Cabin near Dogsled
Nearing the pass.
Dust (3/8 inch of
powder) on crust.
A rarity ... driving
the Fishook-Willow Road to Craigie Creek in early May.