Gold Mint to Yoder Road

It's March in Alaska and time to be out skiing! I managed to convince Elizabeth and Kate that alder-thrashing would be far more rewarding than powder laps, so we set out to ski from the Gold Mint lot in Hatcher Pass to Yoder Road (outside of Talkeetna). The idea was to copy this trip, but bad visibility up high led us to switch to a lower route early on, meaning we'd get to go alder-thrashing for sure. Shortly after committing to our alternate route, the sun came out and the winds died down, which was just cruel in so many ways but -- on the positive side -- had the advantage of leaving the high traverse for another time. 

Elizabeth skiing down Bartholf Creek. Photo by K. Strong.

Scoping out the descent into the Kashwitna. Photo by K. Strong. 

Who needs powder when you can ski rock hard crust through the trees? Photo by K. Strong. 

Touring down the Kashwitna River. Photo by K. Strong. 

Photo by K. Strong. 

I'm not sure how open the Kashwitna normally is, but it's pretty open this year. Which was awesome for hardly ever having to melt snow. Photo by K. Strong. 

Elizabeth starting out on our hike through the alders and devils club to exit the Kashwitna River drainage. Photo by K. Strong. 

It got better. Once we got above treeline, we got to ski up this beautiful valley. Photo by K. Strong.  

Photo by K.Strong. 

After dropping into the Sheep Creek drainage on our second night, we started off the next morning with a few miles of easy downhill cruising (after finding our way through some complex avalanche terrain AND managing to not find the bear den that -- given all the tracks -- we were worried about stumbling on in the dark). 

Looking back to the headwaters of Sheep Creek. (I'm not sure why Kate fell over, and I actually don't remember taking this photo, so maybe photo credit on this one goes to E. Powers? I'm not sure. Point is, that's where we came from on our third morning.)

There were a few hours of skiing through thick willow on morning #3 that I'd like to forget. Here's when it became more pleasant, and we got to ski on an animal-highway through some open forest. We saw wolf and bear tracks! And some really cool moose sheds we all wanted to carry home, but were far too heavy. Photo by K. Strong. 

After making our way out of the mountains via Sheep Creek, we toured through some lowland forest to find the snowmachine track that parallels Montana Creek. Like much of the rest of the trip, there was some gorgeous, really memorable sections that I would have been happy to ski in all day, and there were some sections of alder that made me want to cry.  Photo by K. Strong. 

Of course, being with friends made even the challenging sections something we could laugh about. Photo by K. Fitzgerald.

Photo by K. Fitzgerald.

Back at the truck, freeing the feet. Photo by K. Strong. 

Our route, more or less.

We had planned for three long days. It took us four. It's been a while since I've had an extra unplanned night out, and this was a fairly gentle reminder to be more diligent about packing that extra day of food, just in case. And not to preemptively eat the emergency chocolate stash...