Patagonia Backcountry Report: Spicy From Top to Bottom | A Mini Avalanche in a Technical Chute

Miles Clark | | Conditions ReportConditions Report

Report from September 19, 2022

I awoke uneasy yesterday.

I awoke spun.

I searched the mountain, the skies, the clouds, and my mind for reasons not to ski Alaska Chute.

For reasons not to even go look at it.

Bad snow, avalanches, too cloudy, not enough snow, I’m not up for it, it’s not in.

When I got to the mountain, everything looked right so my brain engaged a new process.

Smile! image: snowbrains

Places that could be better than Alaska Chute:  here, there, everywhere.

I started walking towards a different line after convincing myself it would be better and have better light.

After 3 minutes, I turned around.

Fuck…

Solo skin track and towers. image: snowbrains

It took a while to get to the chute, but the weather was kind.

Almost no wind, warm, friendly.

Warm and friendly vanished as I looked into its throat.

The Two Towers. image: snowbrains

An east wind breathed into my face, daring me to enter.

I barely noticed.

I had the fear.

I knew I wasn’t going to turn back.

Big relief. image: snowbrains

I unloaded my pack and stared.

I worked my hands left and right like serpents planning each turn, each move, each increment of fear.

Suddenly I felt it, slammed my poles together once, and dropped.

The rest came instinctively as my brain raced through the turns, the moves, the drops, and the escape…

It’s 3 or 4 sluffy turns in a fluted, 50-degree funnel that shoots you straight into a very narrow, jagged slot that ends in a rock wall.

Vistas. image: snowbrains

You need to make that right turn (notice the fear-induced grunting) and when you do, you’re maching.

From there the best line is to the far right where a fluted curtain hangs over a small rock air.

Land the air and bust another right to get to the (normally very defined) wind spine.

Five or so filthy fun spine turns before airing it out over the rocks at the base of the spine.

Land that air then quickly decide if the snow is good enough to keep mobbing and take it another 1,000-vertical-feet to the bottom of the valley or bang yet another right and stay high to get to the skin track that heads to another spine zone.

That’s me! image: snowbrains

I chose the latter mostly because I was shaken up by the little avalanche (check the video).

I looked over my shoulder twice as I glided to a stop in a safe zone then watched as the avalanche debris came to a stop.

Whoa…

Full spice from top to bottom.

From top to bottom…

Misty… image: snowbrains

[Break]

Ok, the rest of the day felt like another story completely.

I climbed back up the valley and skied the mini-spine I like the most and haven’t skied yet this year.

I had plans of staying directly on the spine, risking the landing-on-a-rock-air and staying as true to the spine as possible.

The snow looked immaculate.

Cala on guard at sunset. image: snowbrains

It wasn’t.

I dropped in, made two turns, and changed my plan.

I went for the mellower exit which still felt exciting.

I landed it, made a high-speed turn or two, and decelerated to a stop.

Yesterday was one helluva day in the mountains.

I walked home happy.

***

Note: this was 2nd time since January that I’ve triggered a small avalanche via skiing a small wind spine. The other was in the Revelstoke, BC in January 2022. Both times I’d let my guard down a bit having skied in the area and having felt comfortable with the snow stability. Both times I was surprised and caught off guard. Luckily this time the avalanche was very small (15′ x 30′ x 4″ & ran about 70′) and I wasn’t caught in it 🙏. Heads up when skiing wind spines¬†

Apres tea. image: snowbrains

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2 thoughts on “Patagonia Backcountry Report: Spicy From Top to Bottom | A Mini Avalanche in a Technical Chute

  1. Miles, is the Snowbrains comment section broken or is the staff censoring comments? We often see the story front page showing comments but when you open the story, there are no comments? I just wanted to let you know so maybe you can fix it. As a reader and commenter on Snowbrains, I enjoy seeing what the readers have to say. Enjoy the endless winter

    1. Hey Sue, thank you for your comment. When other sites link to our posts, for some reason it shows that there is a comment when there isn’t. I’ll ask our web developer to take a look at this and see why. I understand your frustration!

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