North & South Pioneer 9/2/2017 - Crisp Sunshine!
Since I opted for a short mountain day on Wednesday, my legs were feeling good to go for another long one come Saturday. Pioneer fit the bill - I'd often contemplated climbing it, but been scared off many a time by the warnings regarding the true (north) summit. Everything was coming together though: the weather, the day off, and my improved scramble skills since the last time I had wanted to attempt Pioneer. Go time!
|Beautiful sunrise on the Pioneer Ridge Trail|
|Me walking in the morning sun.|
I started up the Pioneer Ridge trail just before 7AM, and after an hour of climbing, emerged above treeline. The sun was gorgeous, but there was a definite nip of fall in the air, freezing the path solid and casting frosty highlights across autumn hued tundra. It was also a bit breezy, so I donned my wind shell and soon got a look at the two peaks I'd be climbing.
|It got breezy up here!|
|The Pioneer Ridge|
|Bold Peak with some snow.|
As I traveled, soon the only one I could see was the South, and the trail remained quite distinct all the way to it's summit. From here, I could see the new task at hand: the North summit.
The connecting ridge did look fiercesome, but then again, a lot of things do when you are far away. I decided to climb down to the saddle for a better look, and immediately, got a nasty surprise!
The scree was frozen.
It had been saturated from all the days of previous rain, and now, it was a solid block with little kitty litter sprinkles of pebbles! Traveling down it wasn't very fun. I kept to some frozen footprints and eventually (albeit at the slowest scree descent speed ever) made it down to the saddle.
|Looking at the ridge to North Pioneer.|
|I'm in the midst of the ridge at this point...|
So, I'm guessing this is the part you want to know about. The ridge. I'd heard so much about this ridge that I was expecting the worst. As it turns out, sticking pretty much on the ridge, I don't think I ever encountered anything I would consider class 5 (although I'm no authority on the subject). Whenever there was something nasty, I went around it, and always found a better way. To be fair, it was quite dry and had warmed up at this point, so conditions were prime. Certain sections were class 4 for sure with some decent exposure to boot, but nothing I would consider outrageous at all. It was very reminiscent of the NW ridge of Williwaw, so that would be a good gauge if you are pondering this route to the summit of Pioneer. Needless to say, I made the summit!
|Looking back at the south summit|
|Typical ridge action|
|Typical ridge action|
|This might be the 5th class section on the left. Was not bad honestly, the picture somehow makes it look worse.|
The summit was really cool. Looking down into the valley, looking back at a very snowy Bold and a few snow showers starting to form, made me realize I'd made the right choice to come to Pioneer today. I was glad I waited for the proper weather for sure! Lots to see. I spent a few minutes and went down.
|Looking down down|
|Looking toward Knik|
Getting back to the car was just as fun as coming up. Lots of beautiful fall views. A perfect start to the very short Alaskan fall! I wish it would last longer!
|Ridge travel back toward south summit|
|Bold and Bashful on the horizon|
|Bold and the B-Boys|
|Me walkin. Thanks Garmin!|
|A mighty cairn with Knik in the background.|
Overall, the trail is super easy to follow and offers some of the mellowest routefinding ever. I'd highly recommend it on sunny days, probably not as much on wetter days as I think the view is a big part of the experience. Wait for a sunny one and then go for it!
|Last view of the peaks before heading back down into the brush|
|World's best picnic table|