Portage to Whittier and Back, Skiing A Circle Around Bard Peak

The pointed peak that rises above the east end of Portage Lake is Bard Peak.  It's a fun peak to climb in the summer.  And it can be a good day-adventure to ski a circle around Bard Peak in the spring.  On April 29th Tim Miller, Cory Smith and I headed across Portage Lake and then skied up the Burns Glacier to a pass that overlooks Blackstone Bay.  We then skied over the Whittier Glacier, down into Whittier, along the Whittier road to the tunnel, up over Portage Pass, down to the lake and back to the visitor's center parking lot where we started from.

This was definitely spring skiing.  Conditions ranged from perfect crust, to powder, to "survival skiing" on breakable, windblown, semi-frozen crud-crust.  But it was a clear spring day in April in Alaska and we were on skis.  'Nuff said.

There is always a "double-dose" of web photo-journalism when Cory and I do a trip together ... so make sure to check out the photos on Cory's web site.

Our route around Bard Peak - click to expand map to readable size.  (map by Fred Trimble) Cinching up the saddles on the crust steeds.  Bard Peak is the pointed peak in the distance.  We'll be skiing across Portage Lake and a counter-clockwise loop around this peak. Killer crust.  A good way to start the morning.
Cory skis the best crust we've seen all year. Tim Miller heads towards the Burns Glacier. Cory gettin' after it.
Climbing up to the Burns Glacier. We roped up on the Burns Glacier and skated up loose powder on top windblown snow. Heading to the pass at the top of the Burns Glacier.
Looking back at our route up the Burns to the Portage Valley. Getting near the pass. Great views at the pass, but windy.  A classic Venturi effect was happening.  Wind picks up speed as it is forced through a channeled area.
A panoramic view of Blackstone Bay from the pass at the head of the Burns Glacier.
Looking at the snow surface you can get an idea of how strong the breeze was here. Tim Miller and Cory head back down the Burns.  We backtracked a ways before climbing north up onto the Whittier Glacier. Tim K. taking off from the pass.  Note the skis - no fat boards for us - we all ride 44 millimeter xc racing ski width slats.  (Cory Smith photo)
Our up-trail and coming down turn tracks. Tim K. nearing our high point on the Whittier Glacier.  No climbing skins for us, and no kick wax.  That stuff just slows you down!  (Cory Smith photo)
This panoramic is from the divide of the Whittier Glacier drainage (elevation: ~2400').  We climbed up from the right, will head left, north, down to Whittier.
We noticed "someone" else had been up here making turns.  Likely a wolverine.  But who knows maybe it was a yeti who was heading down to the Anchor Bar in Whittier. Heading down the Whittier Glacier.  Our Finnish friend Tuomo would call this camera angle a "Norman shot".  Why?  You've got to ask Tuomo! We un-roped once off the end of the Whittier Glacier and picked our way down to Whittier.
The snow on this descent was not good.  It was a lot of breakable crust "survival skiing".  Here Tim Miller leads the way. No town in Alaska can be mistaken for Whittier.  The Begich Tower is the defining landmark. Looking back up the route down into Whittier.  Soft crust, and getting softer in the sun.
Spring is finally beginning to show in Whiiter.  Here we sneak out of town on a ribbon of snow next to the dry bed of Whittier Creek. There was just barely enough snow along the railroad tracks to ski to the base of Portage Pass in the distance. Tim Miller powers up the Whittier side of Portage Pass.  Due to slow snow conditions - this was a long day.  5 1/2 hours.
  We didn't see anyone else out skiing this day.  Back in Anchorage this same day over 6000 people gathered to run a 5 km race on pavement.  I sure am thankful that most people don't think spring skiing is cool.  It's nice to have some of the best skiing Alaska has to offer - all to yourself.  
Back to 2006 Skiing Photos Photos and web page by Tim Kelley