Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Baneful Peak - Alder rappels and sunshowers

Baneful Peak 5/28/2018 

10 miles bike, 10 miles foot, and 10 miles out on bike.  Bonus avalanche activity and alder rappeling!

Bashful (left) and Baneful (right)
   Ahhh - the beginning of a three day weekend.  And what better way to begin than by scoping out some B name peak approaches?  Given the nature of Chugach bushwacking, there's a high level of certainty that any given approach will have at least some routefinding errors, so it made sense to go get a taste of the "B Peak Area" before trying to summit its larger denizens.  Baneful peak, a 5500' (ie "small") peak in the midst of this area, seemed the obvious vantage point.  By 8am, I was riding around the shore of Eklutna Lake toward Baneful.

Bold peak peeking boldly.  OK, kill me for that one.  
   Leaving my bike at the start of East Fork, I was pleased to find that trailside brush was still quite low.  It was earlier in the season than I had ever been back here, and what is typically a dense jungle by July was only ankle high.  Fine with me - the overgrowth can be quite wet in the morning, leaving you soaked and guessing how many bears it may or may not contain.

Not too overgrown at all!
   This was also the first time I had continued past Stiver's gully, and thankfully the trail stayed distinct all the way to Tulchina Falls at 2.5 miles in.  Once I reached Tulchina, I'll admit I had no real idea of where I was going, except that I needed to stay to the right of the falls and aim towards Baneful, which towered above to the right.

Tulchina falls
   I started climbing just to the right of the falls, and by chance I immediately noticed an overgrown trail marked with orange ribbon.  Following this was certainly easier than a straight up bushwack, although getting my ice axe to clear some of the branches was a challenge.  After a while, I came to a mossy cliff and turned left.

   From here, the indistinct trail got steeper and wetter, and I noticed some dangling fixed rope from years gone by.  Finally, the trail narrowed to a nasty moss chute, and for once, I was thankful for the alder handholds.

   Leaving the moss and alder behind, I began ascending a large field of talus on Baneful's south side.  This got steeper and steeper, forcing me to choose a gully and scramble up some kitty litter style pebbles.  I eventually came to cliffs and turned left, skirting beneath the steep ground and up onto the west ridge of Baneful.

South slopes and west ridge
   The initial going on the west ridge proved an excellent, confident scramble.  As is typical with the Chugach, it's really hard to tell how difficult something is until you're right up on it, and I'm pleased to say that this turned out to be good fun with minimal danger.

   At the first high point in the ridge, I got a good view of the summit and travel ahead.  There was some exposure to be had, but it stayed below perilous levels.  All the same, I tested most of the more suspect rocks before weighting them, as being alone this far into the CSP warrants caution.

Exposed, but the wide angle makes it look worse than it is.
   Finally, the ridge mellowed out into a big gentle field to the summit, and I quickly ascended to the snowy top of Baneful.   From here, I was really hoping to get a good view of Baleful, the red spot glacier, and the east fork below to my right.

   But no!

   Clouds, lots of clouds.  They had been present all day, shrouding the summits of Bashful and Bold.  Baneful was no different.  Everywhere I looked was cloud or hazy visions of trees, snow, and water below.  From time to time there were breaks in the clouds, and I did catch a glimpse or two of Baleful.  It looked positively menacing!

Summit socked in.

Only needed it a lil bit, and only then just to feel safer and keep hands out of snow.

It was warm!
   All of a sudden, I heard a tremendous noise in the distance.  Rockfall!  Squinting through the mist, I caught sight of snow and rocks falling down the south side of Bashful.  It was warm, and the mountains were shedding their winter coats.  I was happy I only had minimal, shallow grade snow to cross.  With the sound of rockfall a constant ambience, I backtracked my way down Baneful.

   The views would have to wait.

   Going back down through the alder trail, I had quite a lot of fun using the alders to rappel.  This was probably the first time I had ever used this technique, and it worked awesomely.  I also noticed, somewhat to my dismay, that the trail will indeed be quite overgrown in the coming weeks.  There are Devil's Club plants all over it which have yet to grow leaves, although the thorns were still quite prickly...

Buttslide mania!

Raindrops are fallin on my...  Helmet.
   Rain showers moved in for my journey back to the car, and I got some sprinkles on both myself and my camera.  It was warm, so I didn't mind in the slightest.  I ended the day with a perfect evening ride around Eklutna, a great start to another summer in the Chugach.

Sunshowers on East Fork.

Pleasant, although my serious face says otherwise... 



   Easy until you get to Tulchina, then a moderate bushwack/navigation crux until you break out of treeline.  From there, climb the south side of Baneful and trend left to reach the west ridge.  There's some exposure once you gain the ridge, but the going stays scrambly.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Goat Rock West Ridge - Thread the Needle

   Goat Rock is a pointy 5200' tower of Chugach crud located near Eklutna Lake, Alaska.  There is no specific trail approaching it, and the two main summit routes require either exposed scrambling or outright rock climbing.  It's a fun climb, but unsurprisingly, it doesn't see a lot of traffic.

Goat Rock West Ridge
   I parked at the S turn just before the ice cream shop on Eklutna Lake Road, and was soon bushwacking upward through a mixed forest of deciduous and evergreen.  Eventually the forest thinned out, and I emerged above treeline onto a very steep grassy slope.  After a few more minutes, I reached a gentle ridgeline with a view of the task ahead - Goat Rock.

Wacking that bush
   As I got closer, I began following a sheep trail through the scree.  This led me below a promising gully to the West col.  I started upward, picking my way through talus and bits of remaining ice and snow.  The travel stayed mellow, if a tad wet and mossy, until finally bringing me to a sharp ridgeline and dropoff.

Goat Rock directly ahead.  The col is down in the bottom middle - NASTY drop to my left.
   I had gone a bit further West than I had intended, and missed the col!  No matter -  backtracking was easy, and I soon traversed into the correct gully and was on the col. 

   The opposing side of the col dropped off very steeply, and I could tell that the going was about to get steep no matter which way I went.  The West ridge itself rose abruptly to the right, and I spotted a trickle of water coming down by an old climbing anchor.  As I came up to this, I could tell I would be crossing the "no bueno" category of downclimbing if I continued up.  I tried going around to the left and to the right, but came up empty.  It was all steep and saturated, or a mixture of the two.

Anchor is middle left, in the middle of wet, WET rock
Not Bueno
Also not bueno
   Discouraged, I backed off, and then my eye caught a snowy ramp that was about 50 feet below the col.  I started tentatively up this, and was delighted to find that it stayed much more mellow than the terrain on my left.  Gradually though, it did narrow, and forced me into tighter and more exposed terrain.  At last, the ramp came down to cliffs on the right, and a body width crack ahead.
The crux crack
   The crack seemed that it still might not be a fun downclimb, so I tested it.  Not very good.  It was then it occurred to me that my large winter backpack, with an ice axe and all sorts of gear, might be hindering my  maneuverability in the narrow space.  So, realizing that leaving my pack for a few minutes was probably fine on this deserted peak, I decided to take it off and try again.

Leaving Mr. Pack behind...
   This was the magic bullet I needed!  Without the cumbersome weight on my back, I fairly flew up the crevice and was soon on much easier terrain.  I picked my way through the remaining rocky travel, which never again rose to the same steepness as the crevice I had passed.

Past the crux crack.
Past the crux crack.  Not as steep, but still exposed.
Past the crux crack.  Summit ahead.  Some mean exposure to my left and milder exposure to the right.
   The summit came up quickly, and I was happy to see rays of sun poking through the cloud cover.  Opening the summit register proved a hilarious struggle.  Whoever last closed it did a good job of it!  Funny enough, I flipped open the paper and the first name I saw was Bill Finley!  Hmmm...  Bill's trip reports are the framework I refer to whenever I need a helping hand on a peak (and I'll admit, I did read some about Goat Rock too!!)  I signed my name, albeit accidentally claiming the date one day ahead, and headed down.

Summit.  Holding my helmet up for dat pano!
Struggling to open the register.

The B. Finley page!

Putting the register back.
   Needless to say, downclimbing the 4th class segment to my backpack was a lot easier without the pack being ON!  It was also warmer at this point, so I took my gloves off for even greater downclimbing prowess.  Shouldering the pack, I made it back down to the col without incident.

Approaching the downclimb.  Sun was out at this point!  Nice.

Bare hands are much nicer for downclimbing.

Bare hands are much nicer for downclimbing.
   As I backtracked the sheep trail, I thought it would be fun to also do a quick jog over to POW/MIA.  Since leaving my pack had worked so well just a few minutes before, I left it again to make jogging easier.

   I snapped a few pictures from POW, then headed back to the pack, and from there to the car.  The grass field I had come up was still INSANELY STEEP!!!  (Hmmm...  Exactly the same as it was on the way up, haha.)

Pano from POW/MIA.  Pioneer/East Twin/Goat Rock/Eklutna/Baneful/The Mitre/The Watchman (left to right)

Closer up view of Goat Rock West Ridge (center) from POW/MIA.
Overall - 

   Goat Rock is an awesome early season way to get some good 'ol fashioned Chugach crud exposure with a minimal approach.  There are a lot of climbing options as well - mild, medium, spicy, or very spicy indeed on the north side.  I was content with the mild!!

Route info - 

   Watch my videos (listed below) or pay very close attention to Bill Finley's excellent trip report.  If you want to scramble this peak AND downclimb it, it's important to hit everything right on the West Ridge.  Downclimbing the ridge proper would be quite bad if the rock is wet.  The crack/ramp go-around is definitely easier but is still exposed and narrow.  As Bill mentions, it's a great way to get summer started with a nice bit of scramble practice.  Be careful, and have fun on this pointy, seldom visited Chugach peak.  Stay tuned for lots more peaks this summer.     

Links -