I'd been scheming about this peak for nearly a year - plotting on Google earth, reading through old Scree articles, and bugging Wayne Todd without mercy, yet I still didn't know quite what to expect. The obvious route seemed to be the southeast gully, but I could find little beta on it. No problem! Sometimes it's more exciting to head into the unknown.
Wickersham hiding behind a cloud
The forecast had taken a turn for the better, and so on 7/24 Wednesday night, I found myself sleeping in my Honda Civic in the Matanuska glacier parking lot, true hobo style.
Civic lifestyle! It's not quite van lifestyle, but somebody has to live it!
After a 3am coffee, I made my way out onto the glacier, or at least, I tried to. Being pretty unfamiliar with the Matanuska, I attempted to get on the ice right away... Which turned out to be a bad idea. The ice is initially a maze of crevasses and seracs, where one wrong turn will put you into a total dead end that takes agonizingly long to reverse.
Heading left onto the moraine turned out to be a much better option, and one that my feet appreciated (walking lots of miles in crampons is brutal). Once on the moraine, I quickly found a trail that the glacier guides put in. This was easy travel for a mile or so until it eventually ran out, leaving me to fend for myself.
The moraine remained good travel for quite a while, sometimes turning crevasse-y but mostly staying flat. Eventually the ice on my right mellowed out, so I figured it was a good time to strap on the crampons and cross to the correct side of the glacier.
Crossing took a while. I never came to a true dead end, but I did backtrack around some wider crevasses, which was time consuming.
At last, I finally got off the glacier, where I managed to put my boot into some deep cement mud in the process. YUCK! It felt like it added 5 pounds. Some vigorous rinsing brought the boot back down to weight, and I vowed to tread more carefully around sickening silty mud. After less than a mile along the edge of the glacier, I came to what I was waiting for - a stream flowing in from the right. I ditched my crampons and ice axe, and went up.
Close to where I got off the glacier and stepped in heinous mud
Looking back down the stream
The Wickersham stream. Go up this.
Going up this stream proved to be very easy. The brush stayed well back and there were never any true shwacking moments. At a clearing, I realized I had arrived at a key feature I'd observed on Google.
Ahead, the terrain got steeper and narrower, turning into more of a gorge. To my right, a scree gully seemed the obvious route around. I went up this, and once at the top, I realized how well the Google Earth scouting paid off! I was on a wide grassy bench, and it was just a matter of easy sidehilling to get back to the (now mellower) stream flow.
Narrowing of the terrain on the upper left. Go right here in the obvious scree gully
Looking back down from the scree gully. Who put a golfing green in down there?!
On the grass bench above the scree gully (left), gorge on the right.
Beautiful serene views of the glacier
I was now in a wide open valley with the stream trickling through its middle. Travel was still tranquil, and I thoroughly enjoyed climbing to the peaceful sound of running water. After a while, I came to another scree field leading up to the south ridge of Wickersham.
Looking down the valley. Grass bench on the left.
The next scree field leading to the south ridge and summit (right)
As I clawed my way to the top of the scree, I realized just how mellow the rest of this route was. All the gendarmes ahead had easy scree bypasses, keeping travel squarely in Class 2. Only once or twice did I go hand over hand, and even then this was optional. It almost felt like cheating.
Looking up the south ridge.
Looking down the south ridge.
Upper part of the south ridge. Summit on left.
10:10 AM saw me at the summit, where I was surprised and amused to see I had 4 bars of cell service (ATT, you da best! haaaa) I sent a few photos, and decided I wanted to stand on the actual summit, which is a slightly precarious block of stacked choss. Once I tagged this, I figured it was time to head down and face the long walk back.
Looking north. Actual summit on the right.
Looking southwest from the summit
Actual summit block. Not good for taking photos on!
Ascent GPX overlaid on Google Earth. Note the glacial difficulties!
Well, OK - I actually did take a photo from the summit block ;)
As I ran down the scree, I couldn't help but gleefully (and badly) sing my new favorite song -