Posted by GeoTom on August 12th, 2013 | 0 comments
Since I don’t TNAB anymore due to various reasons (hey, you try driving I-405 through Bellevue in the early afternoon and see how you feel), I needed some sort of acronym hiking series to at least temporarily take it’s place. Lo and behold, I had to go to Anchorage for work, and it was going to be over the weekend. The actual field work was only to take a half day, but due to the laboratory’s hours of operation I would need to be there from Friday afternoon through Monday morning. What does Anchorage have in abundance? Well, other than Alaskans and sunlight during the summer, there are tons of peaks only minutes from town. Literally tons. Those rocks aren’t light.
So, I made a plan of attack for AWASH, or After Work Anchorage Summit Hikes. If I ever move up there I’ll immediately be the geekiest member of the hiking community. And quite possibly the stoutest too. But, back to AWASH.
My flight from Seattle arrived a little early (I had even been upgraded to 1st Class) and I managed to pick up the sampling supplies at the lab and check into the hotel a little early. My hiking choice for Friday afternoon/evening was Wolverine Peak with the possibility of adding Near Point. These were peaks with trails to the top and accessed from the same trailhead. Additionally, the guidebook mentioned an “adventurous” ridge traverse between them, so I thought I would try a 2-fer. I found the trailhead without any trouble, and immediately started hiking. At the first junction I went left as the guide said, but after I few minutes I was convinced that the guide was wrong as I seemed to be heading in the wrong direction. So I went back to the junction and took the right fork. In this case right was wrong, but it took me another mile to realize my mistake as I was definitely on the wrong side of Campbell Creek.
Annoyed with myself I turned around and started hiking quickly back to the junction. Suddenly I heard something in the bushes right off the trail. I turned and saw a fairly large female moose. I managed a meek hello as I turned and swiftly walked down the trail, looking over my shoulder for most of the next few minutes just to be sure that I wasn’t followed. Moose can be MEAN!
Now back on the correct trail, I hurried to make up time as I thought the hike would take much longer than it eventually would. The trails in this part of Chugach State Park are in generally pretty good shape, and wide enough for even me to make good time up and down them. I made it to the summit of Wolverine Peak with the sun still three hours from setting, and took a well deserved break. There was a little wind, but I managed to sit behind some rocks to get out of it. Summit views included Anchorage and Turnagain Arm, as well as several peaks I had been up on previous trips and many more than I had not. There was reportedly wreckage from an airplane crash near the summit, but I only saw a few pieces of twisted metal on the ridge. Maybe it was a small plane or much of it had already been scavenged.
After a good break, I started back down the ridge. I could see a couple making their way up, and I passed them shortly before the trail turned down the ridge. I asked them if they had ever done the traverse to Near Point. They had not. The guy seemed a little distracted, but I figured he just didn’t want me talking to his gal, not realizing that I was probably old enough to be their grandfather. As it turned out, the world is sometimes a very small place. An old college friend of mine who lives in Anchorage saw my photos on Facebook and mentioned that a buddy of his proposed to his girlfriend on Wolverine Peak that Friday night and thought maybe I had seen them. He sent a photo, and it was them. She said yes, so that was good news.
Back to my adventure hike. The ridge traverse to Near Point looked fairly tame, so I headed in that direction. I’m not sure why the guidebook called it adventurous as there was a bootpath all most much of the way. By the time I got to Near Point the wind had picked up considerably and the sun had inched closer to horizon, so I made my stay brief and continued back to the trailhead, making all the correct turns this time. (~13 miles with 4,100 feet of total gain)
Photos: Wolverine Peak and Near Point; August 2, 2013
On Saturday morning I went to Girdwood for the soil and groundwater sampling. It was buggy, but the work went quickly even with a small mixup regarding who was supposed to bring the pump. Everything got sorted out, the samples were collected and I returned to Anchorage with the afternoon free to hike again. I made my way to the ever popular Glen Alps trailhead. Somehow I lucked out and got parking spot while others were waiting. Suckers!
The Flattop Mountain trail is popular, even more so on a sunny Saturday in August. I did avoid the worst of the crowds by taking the old trail to the final saddle, then staying on the scramble route while the flip-flopped masses navigated the pseudo trail carved into the final couple hundred feet. On the aptly named flat top of Flattop I was assaulted by the wind. After picking myself up I walked across the summit and headed to the next bump known as ‘Peak 2′. I had been there on one previous trip, but had not continued along the ridge to Peak 3 and Flaketop Mountain as I planned to today.
The wind seemed to die down a bit as I made my way up Peak 2, but was just as strong when I reached the summit. Luckily the route appeared to continue on the southern side of the ridge, in the lee of this particular wind. I wasn’t really sure what to expect beyong Peak 2, but the route was mostly a bootpath with a minor scramble move to reach the top of Peak 3, and the same for Flaketop, although the highest point of Flaketop was too small for someone of my stature to comfortable stand on, so I merely touched the top then descended to Ptarmigan Pass.
I had considered adding Ptarmigan Peak to the peak haul for the day, but the summit was clouded over and I felt a couple raindrops. So I descended directly north to the Powerline trail and returned to the Glen Alps trailhead. (~9 miles with 2,500 feet of total gain)
Photos: Flattop Mountain, Peak 2, Peak 3 and Flaketop Mountain; August 3, 2013
On Sunday I had the entire day for a hike, but the weather wasn’t as sunny as the previous two days. Undaunted by the occasional raindrop, I made my way to the Rabbit Creek trailhead and began hiking the long, fairly flat trail to Rabbit Lake. As I got closer to the lake I could see my peak goals for the day, North and South Suicide Peaks. Well, I could see most of them. The top couple hundred feet were engulfed in clouds, and the wind was blowing hard again. Hmmm. The saddle between the peaks was called Windy Gap…
By the time I got to the lake I had decided to make this my final stop for the day. However, as I sat there I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to check out McHugh Lake to the south. Then as I sat next to McHugh Lake I thought to myself that the slope to the western ridge of South Suicide Peak didn’t look too bad, so I went up it. Then, well, you get the picture. It was an easy ascent to the top fo South Suicide Peak, with an occasional class 2 move. Unfortunately the top was still encased in an Alaska cloud. I had read that the way between the peaks involved some class 3 scrambling, with a loose scree gully down from Windy Gap back to Rabbit Lake. Not being able to actually see the correct route due to the fog, the high winds, occasional raindrop and my starting to ache knee (oh, ibuprofen, why did you stay in the hotel?), made my decision to retrace my steps an easy one.
On my hike out from Rabbit Lake I saw several other hikers, some with doggies and even a few mountain bikers who ignored the no bikes sign at the trailhead. The rain started in earnest as I hit the pavcement in my rental. (13 miles with 3,800 feet of total gain).
Photos: South Suicide Peak; August 4, 2013
Somehow I managed to wake up Monday morning and deliver the samples to the lab and make my flight back to Seattle. Theer was no 1st Class upgrade this time, but I was able to nap for a while, waking up to see Vancouver, BC out the window before our descent into SeaTac.