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[TR] Skiyaking Prince William Sound - 5/28/2008

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Trip: Skiyaking Prince William Sound -


Date: 5/28/2008


Trip Report:

In this Text Speak nation of abbreviation, hyphenation, concatenation and excessive verbation, I hesitate to do this, but…Don and I went skiyaking. Now, I know this isn’t a kayaking website, but, since we actually went skiing on this trip, here’s the TR, the last of my Alaska series.


After the Alaska Range, Don flew up and met me in Anchorage, where his daughter and her boyfriend were gracious enough to put me up, and give us a ride to and from Whittier, on Prince William Sound.


With a ski bag strapped to Don’s deck, we paddled out to Culross Island, where we did our only ski during the 9 day trip. Culross does have some great ski terrain, 2500 feet of relief, and snow right down to the beach. Unfortunately, by the time we summited it was whited out.




Skiing Culross Island


I carried my 84 cm mini skis and ice climbing boots to keep the airline baggage down. Although we carried them in a ski bag, they also fit inside the hull; perfect for skiyaking.


Our trip coincided with the highest tidal variation of the year; 19 feet. The combination of snow to the water line and spring tides made finding dry camps a problem. All the normal beaches were under water sometime between midnight and 3:00 am, depending on the day. As the gentle but relentless tide crept in at up to an inch a minute, we had to move our tents uphill two nights in a row.


If you’re wondering what a 19 foot tidal variation looks like….




19 foot tide (Picturesque Bay). Yes, our tents were under the tarp an hour before.


Rain was also an issue, more so because I had a planet killing cold. It rained about 24 inches in 8 days. Basically, it never really stopped. As a result, I didn’t take out my camera very much.




Moss reflection (Mink Island)


We made our way down Culross passage to the Nellie Juan Glacier. At peak ebb, the upper ice filled lagoon empties with a 5 knot current loaded with icebergs, which march out to sea about 4 miles and promptly melt. We paddled the eddies against this wild phenomenon and into the Nellie Juan ice face itself.




Don approaching the Nellie Juan Glacier




Waiting for some action from the Nellie Juan




Iceberg (Nellie Juan Glacier)




Iceberg (Nellie Juan Glacier)




Iceberg (Nellie Juan Glacier)





Iceberg (Nellie Juan Glacier)


After camping near the Nellie Juan and Deep Water Bay, with their beautiful tidal granite, we made our way back to Culross Passage and Long Bay, hoping the Shrode Lake Cabin, about a mile hike in, would be vacant.


Long Bay, a narrow inlet surround by steep, snow covered slabs, is one of the few places on earth where you can actually get avalanched while still in your kayak. We had to drag our boats a couple of hundred yards across avalanche debris to ensure that they’d still be there when we got back.




Don mushing himself across the avalanche zone above Long Bay


The vacant cabin provided some badly needed respite from the constant wet.




Staying dry in the Shrode Lake Cabin


As our allotted days dwindled in number, the weather refused to break. After two nights we left our beloved cabin and set off for Whittier in the still pouring rain. Conditions where far too rough for a channel crossing, so we made a soggy camp on an small island at the northern mouth of Culross Passage. If the storm didn’t break, it would provide a visible spot from which to hitch back on a passing boat.


The next morning was calm, but still rainy. We packed up and started back. By the time we had finished our first channel crossing, the sun had come up. By mid afternoon we were lounging on a slate gravel beach, drying our wet belongings in the warm sunshine.


In Alaska, you have to take what you can get and like it.



Gear Notes:

Kayaks, skis, a good sou'wester, and 4 gallons of Robitussen.

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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Nice. I was up in AK in May as well and got in a day skiing up above Whittier while the snowmachiners were at work. 40 mph wind kind of sucked but the views were awesome. I've heard the skiing from the Shrode Lake Cabin is sweeet.



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Nice! Succinct and good style. Glad to see you got to use your naval training. Great pics except for that intellectual reading a book? Tell him hello for me - :-) And what's with the easy chair? There's no easy chairs in the boondocks!




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Where did you start your ski approach? Did you go from Culross Passage to the island's 2500-foot highpoint?

Edited by WCC

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