Ridgelines are the best: you get up high and stay up high. The best are those that go on for what feels like forever. This summer, I’ve had three ridgeline days worth recommending. In all honesty, they’re old hat to crusty Chugach scramblers — two of them I checked out because of info I found on other blogs. But, to add to the conversation, here’s my take. On my totally subjective scale of awesomeness, going from good to great to awesome:
Mount Magnificant to Mile High Peak to Vista Peak
Start this one at the Mile High Trailhead out of Eagle River: head toward the Nature Center, turn left on Mile High Road, and just keep going up whenever there’s a fork in the road. Eventually, you’ll hit a very small trailhead with room for a couple cars. After a mile of walking up through the forest, you get to spend the rest of the day above treeline. I was under some time constraints, so spent a half day walking the ridgeline to Mount Magnificant and then continuing on to Mile High and looping back to Vista Peak. From Vista, I dropped down into the drainage that leads back toward the trail you walk in on. If you have more than a half day, it looked awesome to keep going on the ridge toward Mount Significant. I left Bella at home for this one and regretted it. Minus a bit of scree that she probably would have liked better than I would have liked seeing her on, the day was quite dog friendly.
I left Bella behind for this one too, and was pretty happy about it. There’s a fair amount of scrambling. Sometimes, Bella rocks technical terrain like she’s walking on flat tundra. Other times, I have to shoulder her and trust she won’t shift and throw off my balance. With the exposure on Penguin, I was happy that she was having a play-date in Girdwood.
There’s a great description of the route here. Do follow the advice about climbing up Gentoo Peak at the end to find the descent trail. We bailed off early and ended our day with bushwacking through steep devils club and alder with another group of friends that we ran into toward the end of the hike. It was good to have a large group for that, but I think we could have avoided the 3:30a bedtime had we found the actual trail.
Eklutna Ridge Traverse
I largely copied the route detailed on Trond’s blog for this one, but decided to do the loop clockwise so that I could stare at glaciers and mountains all day instead of out toward Palmer. Also, I skipped Bright Peak, which looked way too scrambly for Bella. (The rest of the route was very Bella-friendly.) I haven’t done it, but I understand heading toward Pioneer — instead of continuing on toward Bold — is a great traverse. From the looks of it, I’d have to agree. But, this loop is fantastic, with no shuttle required.