Sunday, September 25, 2011

09/18/11 Bleak (5430') & Bright (5745')

The plan for the weekend was to head up Camp Robber & Grey Jay Peaks. The weather forecast looked like it might be rainy towards Girdwood, so Tami and I agreed on Bleak & Bright. Peaks that neither of us had been up before.

We met up a little after 6am and drove to the Eklutna Lake Trailhead. It was a beautiful crisp fall morning with barely a cloud in the sky. We parked our bikes at the Bold Ridge Trailhead and began gaining elevation quickly. Before long we were above tree line and the sun was warming things up. I got some water flowing from the rock glacier at the head of the valley. We headed towards Hunter Pass, but found an easier route between two high points to the NW. From there it was a ridge walk to the summit of Bright. Things looked a little more interesting connecting the ridge to Bleak. 

I've heard of people scrambling along the ridge to exit in a narrow steep gully to bypass the 5th class terrain. We decided to descend a scree slope and ascend another, which probably took a little longer. After side-hilling scree below the ridge crest we reached a saddle before Bleak. It was an easy 15 minutes up Bleak from there.

We ran into a couple Sheep Hunters near the summit who said someone else had scrambled down the gully I mentioned. It turned out to be Trond Jensen on a more ambitious hike (see my blog links for Trond's page). From Bleak we descended scree slopes and brush to Bold Creek. We then began an ascending traverse, crested the next ridge, and dropped down to Sdaylent Creek before meeting back up with the Bold Ridge Trail.

By this time it was getting pretty dark, and we took the headlamps out for the ride back. The trip was 23 miles total with 7300 feet of elevation gain. The most exciting part of the day was almost running into a bull moose on the Glenn Highway going 60. Luckily my new 1994 Nissan Pathfinder performed well. It exited the ditch as well as it entered!

Rumble, Bee's Heaven, and Thunderbird Peaks

Tami trying not to blink in the bright morning sunlight.

Bold Valley

Rehydrating before the ridgewalking,

Toe of the rock glacier.

Flank of the rock glacier.

Bleak & Bright

The rock glacier resembles a marble rye.

Bellicose, Benign, and Rumble


Summit of Bright.

My head is in a halo!

West Fork Hunter Creek Drainage

We headed down scree slopes at the first saddle, and ascended scree slopes to the right of the high point on the ridge. Others have followed the ridge to drop down a narrow gully.

Descending from Bright.

So much little time!

View of the 5th class ridge.

Bold Peak

Point 5420 and Yudikench Peak

Bleak's summit

Route back to the Bold Ridge Trailhead.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

09/11/11 Cumulus Mountain 5815'

I first noticed Cumulus Mountain last fall when I visited Bombardment Pass. It wasn't on my short list of peaks to climb, but when Ben mentioned that he and Peter were heading there, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit a new summit. Alders, ridge-walking, scrambling, scree, and lots of side-hilling made for a great hike in the Chugach. About 1.5 miles from the summit, the rugged terrain took its toll on Peter. It was a little more than he expected, so he hung out while Ben and I tagged the summit. We followed the ridge crest on the way there, and side-hilled on the way back to save some time. We started hiking at 9am and finished at 7pm; 9.3 miles and 5200 feet of elevation gain.

The only problem with this area is the access. In the past, hikers have accessed the Ram Valley via Prudhoe Bay Rd, but there is no legal access through the area. The gated roads leading towards the valley are private driveways, and the power line corridor leads you to private property. The valley can be reached from Mile-Hi Saddle or the Eagle River Nature Center, but require considerably more effort. With some alder-bashing and creative route-finding we found our way into Ram Valley.

 Our creative route choice.

 Fall in Ram Valley.

 Some scrambling on the dragons tail ridge.

Pleasant Mountain & Ram Glacier

 The last push to the summit.



 Polar Bear & Organ

 Dragon Tail Ridge

Cumulus Mountain