Ode to Sunshine

On Friday, Jenna and I decided to take advantage of the calm winds, sunshine, and 20 degree temperatures to break for the Delta Range.  Our intent was to ski the south aspect from the ridge splitting the Castner Glacier to the north and the Fels Glacier to the south.

A frozen Lower Miller Creek.

We left Fairbanks at 7, negotiating sheet ice plastered on the Richardson by our recent freezing rain storm.  We reached Lower Miller Creek around 10, and were on our way by 10:30.  The big outwash plain of Lower Miller was a bit windy, but firm and fast going.  After a few miles of skinning, we made it to a point where the creek flows out of the mountains into the big Delta valley, and began to climb through a reasonably spacious alder thicket, following a wayward moose who seemed to have a good idea of the most efficient way through the bushes.
 

Engaging the brush.

Escaping the brush.

 The nice thing about interior AK is that the brush peters out quickly, and we were soon skinning up moderate slopes on a supportable wind crust.  Views out to the enormous Mounts Moffit, Shand, and McGuinness were characteristically imposing, and I was reminded of how much I’d like to get back amongst those mountains again.  We made short work of the remaining climb to the ridgeline, and were greeted with views of Silvertip and White Princess among other smaller Delta peaks.

13k+ Mt. Moffit dominates the Hayes Range skyline on the other side of the Deltana.

Lunch spots.

Ridgeline cruising.

Travel on the ridge was fast, and we followed Wolverine tracks for about a thousand more vertical before reaching a point where a fall line run would place us directly at the Fels terminus.  Dropping into the vast glade, we expected to find wind blown, slabby snow or sastrugi like we had been climbing on.  Rather, we found deep and settled powder snow, and took turns trading tracks for over a horizontal mile and 3000 vertical feet.  From the bottom of the run, it was a quick schuss out the bottom of Lower Miller Creek, and we were back to the car with plenty of daylight remaining.

This is not a black and white photo, there just aren’t any plants.

See?

Looking back up the egress route.

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