Nantina/West Kiliak attempt via Icicle Creek. Big day and big mistakes!

Eagle Peak rising above the Crow Pass trail
12:49:52/21.5 miles
WELL! This didn't quite go as planned...
   The first scary bit came in the form of a grizzly sow and cub crossing the road to ERNC. After 5 miles of hiking Crow Pass and yelling "HEY BEAR" with spray in hand, I came to Icicle Creek. This is where fumble #1 happened.
View of Nantina, Yukla, and Polar Bear (left to right) from Echo Bend

Another view of the same, this time from The Perch

Looking up Icicle Creek.  I should have done more research and realized this is one of the most hated bushwacks in the park..
   First I tried going climbers right, and was turned back by cliffs. Then I tried going climbers left, which turned into a maze of goat trails on top of loose scree cliffs.  Eventually I found a weakness and got past the worst of it, but not before wasting a good few hours.
   The trail become more distinct the further I got, and I found some cairns and signs of the alders being trimmed. This was encouraging and spurred me on to greater speeds.
Typical travel past the worst of the routefinding.  There IS a trail of sorts hugging the cliff.

Eventually the trail meanders down to the water, and this intersection is marked with a cairn.
   Eventually I came to Icicle valley, with views of Mt. Yukla's north face on my right and Nantina Point's south slopes on my left. I began scrambling up the typical Chugach scree towards Nantina.
The thicket is thinning, and I'm almost above treeline!

At long last...  Easy travel!  Icicle glacier on the left, Yukla on the right.

A magical place.  Yukla right, Nantina scree slopes to the left.
Yukla northwest face.  Richard Baranow, ie Mr. Chugach, has traversed this face!
This is where fumble # 2 happened. I noticed a gully to my left, and even footprints up this gully (probably from an ascent a few days prior) but I decided to keep going forward and perhaps find a better way to either Nantina and/or West Kiliak. WRONG!
After climbing up the initial scree slopes, I came to this cool little ridge.
A handy reference for where I went wrong.  There were footprints in the gully to the left, but like a dummy I wanted to do my own thing and went right.  DON'T do that, unless you know good things will happen.

Looking back down towards Yukla.
   I eventually came to a big bowl, with some avalanche debris both to my left and right. The terrain on the left looked mellow enough if pieced together correctly, and the avalanche debris here was obviously from a few days prior when the sun was out and the temps were hot. I started my way up left, and soon reached a nice class 2/3 slope.
   Some clouds moved in, and it began to snow lightly. Looking down to my left, I could see that my earlier gamble of finding a better way was probably NOT going to pan out, as the gully I had passed up before lead to a nice easy cirque... A cirque I now desperately wanted to reach! Still, I kept doggedly on, hope that this slope/ridgeline would pan out in the end.
   I reached cliffs ahead, and there was zero prospect of downclimbing to the cirque on my left. I toyed with the idea of backtracking and climbing that gully I had passed, but I knew that this would turn into potentially an 18 hour day which I wasn't ready for. This is when I knew it was time to turn back.
This was nice and mellow enough, until it wasn't!  Nantina is on my left, Kiliaks are on my right.  Eventually this ridge turned evil and I tucked my tail and headed down.
   Coming back down to Icicle valley, the snowshowers passed and the sun was out in full force. It was a glorious afternoon back down Icicle creek.
Taking off my "snow" gear - neoprene socks and mini gaiters.  

ooohhh pretty flowers.

ohhhh pretty flowers, then a drop into the nasty Icicle gorge...

My bushwack duckface

What a view!
   Routefinding near the waterfalls and cliffs of Icicle creek again gave me trouble, and once more I pieced together a nasty goat trail with some loose 4th class downclimbing. Tricky business... I now know of a much easier way past all of this 
Borderline 4th class with some nice crud thrown on top
Borderline 4th class with some nice crud thrown on top
   It was a sunny, pleasant hike back to the car. The only bear I saw on the trail was a smallish blackbear that immediately ran away and climbed a tree. That's fine with me - I didn't like the idea of coming face to face with a momma grizzly.

   I'll be back, and next time, take the right way!!

My thumbs up translates to "thank goodness I'm done with Icicle creek!"

Evening Perch

Fairytale forest

Back at ERNC!  Eagle peak in the distance...


OK, so honestly, you probably shouldn't be listening to me because I didn't make it.  I can, however, tell you what NOT to do as illustrated in the photos below:

Mistake #1 - trying to find a trail near Icicle creek.  It's pretty rough.  I now know that the pros go around wide to the left, up onto the obviously flatter bench.

Mistake #2 - not following the small gully to the cirque below Nantina.  This one was just pure stupidity on my part.  
Yes, this green arrow is the right gully.


Popular posts from this blog

Ice Cream Cone/Skybuster Mountain 8/22/20

Bashful Peak 7/30/2017 - Redemption in the clouds!

Hidden Peak & Ramp Ridge - Danger! - Updated 2020