Arctic To Indian* (with a shorter shuttle)

coryMarch 14, 2011

(* – well, not quite Indian…)

One of my main concerns for the upcoming White Mountains 100 is my Achilles tendon. It has been two years since I tore it, and I haven’t had a single problem with it in well over a year, but recently I’ve started to worry about it anyway.

See, when I was training for the Iditarod Invitational, all of my long workouts were skate skiing. I figured that if I needed to shuffle along, classic style, at times during the race, I could do that just fine. But I didn’t anticipate having to shuffle for hundreds of miles. My feet, ankles, knees, and – yes -Achilles, were not ready for that. Eventually the Achilles gave out.

So now, leading up to the White Mountains 100, once again all of my long skis have been skating. But what if the snow is squeaky cold? What if there is a foot of new snow the night before the race? What if the trail is simply too narrow to skate? My leg aches when I think about it. So, it was time to squeeze in one more long training workout – classic style.

On a related note, I’ve had an idea for a while now to do the Arctic Valley to Indian ski, a very popular backcountry route behind Anchorage, but as a loop starting at Hillside – without the car shuttle. You could use city trails to get to Muldoon, then up the 5-mile trail to Arctic Valley, across the regular Arctic to Indian trail, and then instead of dropping down to Indian, go up and over Ship Pass, down to Glen Alps and back to Hillside.

This loop would certainly fit my criteria of a long classic ski with lots of climbing. But Saturday’s conditions weren’t good for the Muldoon to Moose Run section, and I was short on time – I only had a six hour window, so I skipped the city section and got dropped off at the bottom of the 5 mile trail, where Arctic Valley road starts to climb. The full loop will have to wait for another day.

The 5-mile trail was decent skiing. The first kilometer was a hard-packed mess of wavy bumps caused by sledders, but after that I was skiing up a trail that had been packed only by a couple of snowboarders. It turns out snowboarders make a pretty good trail for skiers when they don’t have to turn or push much. The Arctic to Indian trail was in excellent shape, very enjoyable skiing on classic race skis and extra blue wax. Breaking trail up to Ship lake wasn’t bad because most of the snow was hard and wind-blown (sastrugi). Hiking up to Ship Pass was a little sketchier than I would have liked. The recent sun and wind made the snow rock-hard and glazed in spots on that steep slope. Definitely wished I had either an ice axe and/or crampons. The run down to Glen Alps was also a lot of sastrugi. No carving turns, just holding on while the skis chatter away. Then a straight shot down to Hillside and a walk to my house to finish off the day.

Here is a link to a map and statistics. 29 miles, somewhere between 4000 and 5000 feet of climbing, total time 6:00:31

It was a fabulous day. Great snow, great sun, and I did it in exactly 6 hours so I wasn’t late getting back to the wife and kids. In my rush to get home, I didn’t take any pictures. I stopped for a total of about 30 minutes to fix a broken pole (watch out for narrow cracks in the ice on Ship Creek!) and chat with friends skiing Arctic to Indian.

Here’s a picture from the last time I was up on Ship Pass. It looked pretty much the same on Saturday.


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