Report from April 9th, 2022
On Saturday we skied six glorious runs with clients: four in a fun spine zone, one on the dazzling White Wall, one on the very steep Jacques Cousteau with Pulseline Adventure heliskiing.
After skiing high-quality powder all day, we returned to the Valdez Aiport to hang ’em up for the day.
As I walked into the airport, I was taken aside and informed that I was invited on a strike mission to ski Mt. Benet with Travis Ganong and former US Ski Team member Bill Gibson.
Mt. Benet – Valdez, AK Details:
- Summit: 7,193′
- Vertical skied: 1,000′
- Max Pitch: 50º
- Avg Pitch: 50º
- Aspect: North
- Recommended Equipment: helicopter, skis, guide
I was elated…
We jumped in the heli and ripped up to the top of a perfectly pyramidal beast only a four minute flight from the airport.
I was a bit stunned.
Travis was all about it.
We dropped off Keoki Flagg at the barbie angle and got close to Mt. Benet.
7,193′ Mt. Benet is 50º steep for 1,000-vertical-feet, has a large bergshrund at the bottom and is absolutely planar.
The toe-in landing was intense with only one skid on the snow.
Once on snow, Travis just smiled.
He wasn’t scared at all.
He was already talking about how he’d like a bigger face.
Our lead guide Dan Van wasn’t scared.
He was telling stories of how he has the first ascent of this beast and did it alone.
I was scared.
I buckled my boots one more notch than usual…
Travis dropped first and simply ripped it apart.
Perfectly symmetrical, high speed turns down the face, over the bergshrund, and out into the flats in seconds.
It was my turn next.
I pumped myself up and dropped when Keoki was ready.
I made two turns, blinded myself with a faceshot and hucked off a small rock and onto the face.
My speed check turn after the air was money.
The next turn was crusty, bouncy, and weird.
I nearly lost it…
I got it back together, realized the face was quite crusty and started working the big Alaskan face technique where you work from left to right so your sluff doesn’t come down and take you out.
It worked, mostly.
Fear & crust kept me from fully opening it up on the face and my sluff was constantly tickling my heels.
I kept it together, narrowly avoided my sluff multiple times, and pointed for the bridge over the bergshrund.
One big bounce, a rough debris field, and I was out into the flats.
I couldn’t help but raise my arms and claim it in front of Travis.
It felt good.
Like I’d won a battle.
I gave Travis a huge hug, exuding stoke, and got ready for Bill.
I didn’t know much about Bill’s background, but started asking Travis questions as soon as I saw Bill sinking his teeth into Benet’s face with grace and power.
“Yeah, the US Ski Team only lets in pretty good skiers,” Travis said.
Turns out, Bill was on the US Ski Team for moguls for years.
The guy shredded the face and blew my mind.
He skied it way better than me and he did it off the couch (he’d been working dispatch all week).
I’ve since been calling him Off The Couch Bill.
We picked up Keoki and flew home happy.
Saturday was a big day in the Chugach.
A day I won’t ever forget.