“There is no way it is skiable,” I thought to myself, “So it can’t hurt to go up and just take a quick look.” Ian, Matias, and I were standing at the high point of the pass between Williwaw Lakes and Long Lake, just behind Elliott Peak in the Chugach front range. What had started as a quick morning crust jaunt up to Williwaw Lakes had already gotten a bit longer, and it was about to be pushed a little further.
We were eyeing the low point in the ridge that separated us from the Ship Creek valley, between Koktoya Peak and Mount Williwaw. Ian suggested maybe we could ski down the backside into the Ship Creek valley. I was skeptical. I’ve been up on that ridge in the summer, and I remembered the backside as being fairly steep – too steep for nordic racing skis. It made me nervous. Besides, that would commit us to a loop that I really didn’t have time for today.
But the view of the Chugach from that ridgeline is sublime…and I did have a little more time…and it couldn’t hurt to look, right?
In half an hour, the three of us were standing on the ridge, admiring the view:
Long Lake Pass overlooking Ship Creek. Click here for a full screen version.
Sure enough it looked pretty steep. Matias said that he was going to hang out in the sun for bit, then head back. I was trying to come up with the right words to tell Ian that I was going to turn back too. But before doing so, I scurried down about 50 yards to a rock outcropping to have a look at the gully directly below us.
I’ll. Be. Damned.
It looked totally skiable. And the conditions were perfect: bomber crust that had an inch of soft corn on top. Hero snow. We were staring at the perfect opportunity to do a pretty cool loop: down into Ship Creek valley, up to Ship Lake, over Ship Pass and back to Glen Alps. We had to do it.
We walked down a couple hundred yards before putting on our skis and descending the gully. It was great skiing. And the upper Ship Creek valley was excellent. I love that area. The best crust skiing in Chugach State Park in my opinion, but it takes a couple of hours to get there from any direction.
We hoofed it up and over Ship Pass and cruised back to Glen Alps.
Ship Pass. Click here for a full screen version.
A fantastic loop! But if you give it a try – remember the descent into Ship Creek valley is east-facing so it starts softening up early. Hit it early to minimize avalanche danger, but not so early that it is rock hard.
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