Sunday, September 18, 2011

Eklutna High Ridge Traverse

September 18th, 2011
24 miles, 7 true summits, 10,000 vertical feet

I had been saving this ridge hike for a fall day when the higher mountains had already recevied their termination dust.  September 18th arose with clear skies and calm winds.  Perfect!  As the day wore on, I experienced some varied weather - snow flurries and wind - but nothing to prevent me from finishing this great ridge. 

I started out from the Eklutna trailhead around 8:20 am and finished at 8:40 pm, so just over 12 hours to finish the roundtrip.  The ridge-traverse involves 7 true summits (prominence of at least 500 ft) and a number of lesser peaks.  The true peaks are:

Bright Peak (5875 ft)
Bleak Peak (5430 ft)
Yudikench Peak (5732 ft)
Peak 5450 (5450 ft)
Peak 5285 (5285 ft)
Salt Peak (5455 ft)
Pepper Peak (5450 ft)

I started in the Eklutna lake-side trail and then headed up the Eklutna overlook trail.  From there it was back-country travel until I descended from Pepper peak back to the Eklutna trailhaed.  Some easy scrambling and scree was involved, but most of the ridge traverse is over gradual terrain and on sheep trails. 

Especially Bright peak was a pleasant surprise.  I decided to climb the southwest ridge.  This was a fun ridge with great views overlooking the tundra below.  The ridge ended with a gully and exit crack leading to the summit ridge.  I didn't know if the exit crack was passable until I was about 50 yards away.  It turned out to be a fun little scramble.

Route outline of the Eklutna High Ridge Traverse.

Bright peak with southwest ridge in the center.

Bright peak southwest ridge and gully.

Bright peak exit crack.

Hunter Creek drainage.

Massive rams on Bright peak.

Bold peak seen from Pepper peak late in the afternoon.

Finishing in the dark.

Western panorama from Yudikench peak with the Eklutna ridge traverse continuing to the left, the Pioneer ridge to the right, and Goat Creek in the center.

Eastern panorama from Peak 5285 showing the ridge leading back towards Yudikench peak (left).  Bright peak is in the in center and Bold peak on the right.

Eastern panorama from Pepper Peak showing the entire ridge system leading back towards Bold peak in the distance.  Eklutna lake shows to the right.

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