In early March 2018, Bob Walker, our lovely Huskador Dexter and myself hit the road in style with our camper, the sled and multiple pairs of skis. Direction? Alaska.
It feels like even a full month spent at the “Last Frontier” was only enough to get our feet wet. There are so many stories and side adventures built into this one journey that I'll be cherishing for a lifetime. But if I had to pick one of the highlights, it would be the day of the Dimond. After spending a full week nested at Thompson Pass, couloir paradise of Alaska, skiing an average of 3 chutes/day & getting chased by helicopters full of eager skiers, we started getting a craving to move camp.
With one more day left of perfect weather before taking the ferry to Whittier, we really wanted to pick a perfect objective. From the first day I walked on Small Glacier, I remember being very impressed and intimidated by Mount Dimond. It’s North West facing couloirs go from entry level chute skiing to very steep with everything in between.
Given the stability, the weather and the knowledge we now had of the area, we decided to go for the summit. We jumped on our gasoline pony all the way to the toe of the glacier and carried on the climb on skis. While approaching the headwall, we were contemplating options to get to the ultimate goal. This is where we saw this steep, narrow, twisted line, leading directly to a large hanging snowfield, which linked to the summit.
The slope looked quite steep but certainly doable. We started to make a zipper line across the fan just to test the snow and switched to bootpacking very soon after the choke. Still in the shade, every step, I was building more and more confidence in our decision-making. We approached the steepest section of the chute going over a small snow covered waterfall. There again, all was pointing in the direction of the summit.
As we gained the top of the chute, the sun was starting to shine on the large steep snowfield. The mountains around us were just glowing. The “Stairway” zone we skied all week looked now so small from up where we were. A narrow ridge walk and a bit of ice scrambling brought us to the small summit of Mount Dimond. I took a minute to take in the moment even if I could barely contain my excitement knowing what was ahead.
We carefully switched gear on the ridge and one after the other we proceeded to test the slope. With perfect timing and coastal snowpack, all lights turned green. I skied first on the large steep hanging field as my heart was pounding with joy and excitement. The snow was ridiculously soft and sparkling under the sunlight.
We regrouped before heading into the narrow chute just as a heli flew over us. I think they may have been envious of our location even if we worked hard all morning to get there. Descending into the couloir, the snow was holding very well although some serious sluff management was required.
With punched legs, we skied the fan making larger turns all the way to the flat glacier.
As the sun was starting to come down, we decided to skip across the glacier and climb up one of the Stairway couloirs to finish the day. The line was longer than anticipated… or maybe the fatigue from the Dimond was starting to hit in my legs? Nevertheless, we gained the col as the light was slightly turning pink, and we enjoyed a full view of the turns we made on the steep couloir just a few hours earlier.
The North East Stairway couloir skied quite well all the way to the toe of the glacier. While Bob played around on the “snowmachine” in the meadows, I skied great white velvet all the way to the road.
Alaskan beer in hand, we sat quietly for a few minutes in front of the fireplace in the camper with a large smile and a deep feeling of satisfaction. It was then okay to hit the road and continue our journey. This is exactly what I had hoped Alaska would be.