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Trip Report: The Goat Zone
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Trip Report: The Goat Zone

Trip Report: The Goat Zone

 

Goat Zone
High on a pass soaking in the vista we saw the Goat Zone, knowing we needed to learn more about it…

Sometimes you just need to break away for a little. Come the beginning of April when every year people migrate and flock to Valdez it’s usually time for our crew to move on. While it’s understandably a great time to be there, it also puts more pressure on the area and leaves people to a cutthroat mentality that’d we generally just like to avoid. I’m a little protective and don’t like sharing my pow too much with strangers too I guess. Tailgate infiltrates Thompson Pass and soon snowmobiles, skiers, snowboarders, and heli clients all track up the slopes. If you’re a social butterfly this is a great time to participate in some antics. However, I come up here for work and to see what the mighty state has to offer, and it’s increasingly harder to get things done when competing with many others for similar goals.

Goat Zone
It’d been a long time since Thompson Pass had seen bush planes, and we’re glad to have brought them back this year as I’m sure a few others who utilized them too were! Zack with his nimble Super Cub.

Weather had turned a little sour and warmed up a bit, but on a couple nice days we hopped in our friend Zack’s Cessna 185 and Super Cub to get some good recon flights out past the riff raff to check up on some zones we were interested in. After firing off many many photos to review later on the computer for camp spots, the next thing we needed was a little weather window to go out for a camp. Problem was the weather just wasn’t cooperating for an extended camp. Fortunately though we saw a two-day opening and hopped in the plane for a quick overnight camp. We’d first seen the zone from far away on our first camp on the Cleave glacier. It looked pretty righteous. Not a ton of vertical, but about 800-1,200 foot lines along a flaky northwest panel and filled with steep spines. A local friend who’d spent a long time in the area thought we might be talking about the “goat zone” when we mentioned it. Apparently, it used to be heli terrain until they found goats that migrated in the area and it was then closed to heli access, and plenty far from snowmobiles. Perfect!

Goat Zone
The Cub has no problem dropping us off in fresh snow at the Goat.

We couldn’t waste any time and immediately headed out. The snow was deep, and the wall was steep. Using specialized snowshoes called Verts really makes the process easier, however it was so steep and deep that we were still wallowing away with each step. The brim of my hat was hitting where my next step wished to be, and we had to excavate snow just to help build a step. For every foot of vertical climbed, we took 10X as many steps. Eventually though we got to the top and man what a sight! Initially, Clanton wanted to get an on-slope photo but once on top he realized the angle back down at camp was best, and therefore dropped in the shadow line to retreat to camp for his telephoto.

Goat Zone
Celebratory beer just because.

The light had hit the line just right and while it wouldn’t receive pink pow, it would still be amazing. I’m not really a fan of taking a million little wiggles down the mountain and feel Alaskan mountains deserve more respect- they should be ridden with speed. Also because, slough management is a real thing and as soon as you start turning the slopes being so steep, pushes all the snow you’ve disturbed down the face after you. Sure you can ride it slow and let the slough flush out below you, but again, Alaska deserves more respect. Therefore I counted down my drop and hit it. My second turn was a quarter way down and right into the light. Ugh, I wish all turns felt this good!

Goat Zone
Ridge walking at the Goat

Once we all got down to the bottom, we figured we’d go up for another bonus lap. Though the light was fading, the snow was too good to pass up and our time was too short. I rarely ride Alaskan lines out of the light (a little snobby I know,) but it’s always nice to put the cameras down and just have type A fun. The next morning before Zack showed up with his plane, we’d do the same again to squeeze one more run in. Since the plane Super Cub could only take one person at a time, I decided to wait it out and go last to soak in the last moments on the glacier.

Goat Zone
All packed waiting for the plane, light fading from an oncoming storm.

It is a little strange being out on the glacier all alone while the clouds are socking back in, unknowing if the plane will be able to make it back. I put some bags down the runway for depth perception and waited patiently. While sitting alone with my gear on the glacier and many miles from roads, cell phones, emails, and other first world artifacts I felt free. I long for these moments of clarity when can feel alive more so than any other time. Being out in the wilderness has a special part of my soul and I desire that “Next Adventure” more than anything else. But, of course Zack’s Super Cub soon ripped over the ridge down glacier and I knew I would be heading back into the “real world” again, only to start planning for our next moves...

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