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Waterfall Ice North

      The climbing areas north of Anchorage are accessed by the only highway heading north; the Glenn Highway. All major streets running north-south within Anchorage will intersect the Glenn or 5th Avenue if driving downtown. Access the Glenn Highway and drive north.

     South Fork Eagle River: All the hazards of alpine climbing to include a long approach. The 10-mile approach is almost too long for a day climb except the most harden alpinist. Best done in early or late season during stable snow pack and lots of daylight. Drive the Glenn Highway to milepost 8 from Anchorage, take the Hiland Road exit then turn right at the first stop light which is Hiland Road. Follow this narrow winding icy mountain road and the signs to Chugach State Park parking area. To ski or not, I have seen this approach deep with snow in October or a dirt trail in January. Gain access to the trail and traverse the hillside then down a steep hill across a bridge to a "Y" in the trail. The trail here can become faint in the alpine tundra and blown snow. If the trail is lost, head up the main valley keeping on the left side of the valley with the river on your right. Eagle Lake is reached in about 6-miles from the trailhead. Cross the foot bridge then immediately turn left and follow the lakeshore of Eagle Lake. Do not follow the rock cairns across the boulder field or suffer and add an hour or more to the approach time. Follow the lake's shoreline till the second small gully is reached, usually filled with windblown snow. Go up the gully and across the alpine tundra down to Symphony Lake. Superb camping can be found here. Follow the left shoreline of Symphony Lake back to the valley. Head up the valley for about 2.5-miles until under the long gully of ice on Triangle Peak. Ascend the snow slope paying attention to its stability. Climb 4-7 pitches of grade 3 ice and snow. Bring Bugaboos and medium Stoppers with rap cord.

     Eagle River: About 10-miles from Anchorage, take the Eagle River exit into the town of Eagle River. Turn right onto Eagle River Road at the first stoplight and drive the 12-miles to it's end. Park at the privately owned Nature Center and make sure you pay the parking fee. Gain access to Crow Pass Trail and follow the main trail. The trail is well packed and at times icy so skis or snowshoes are not needed but skis could make travel faster especially if heading further than Echo Bend.

     Ram Valley: Just before the Eagle River Visitor Center, take the last dirt road that winds directly up hill. At this roads end you will find a wide open area and another small dirt road. Park here and walk up the road until it traverses up into Ram Valley. Peeking Mountain and Raina Peak both produce fine grade 4 gully ice. More ice can be found in this valley. Best climbed in September or early October. The approach crosses private property!

     Mount Eklutna: Drive the Glenn Highway and at milepost 18.5 take the Peters Creek exit. Turn right and follow around the shore of Mirrow Lake and park in Camp Gorsch which is a Boy Scout Camp. Take a compass bearing on which of the three 1000' grade 2 mixed terrain gullies you seek. Best to descend the south ridge. There are water ice cicles on the north side of Mount Eklutna, a 100' grade 3 in the far north gully and a slightly stiffer but shorter cicle to the right on a small rock butress.

     Eklutna Canyon: This narrow steep walled river canyon has superb one-pitch ice with an easy approach. A lot of locals consider this quaint little canyon as a poser area and it does possess a host of macabre events but it is hard to deny the quality of close-to-town-easy-access climbing. It is no place to be on the weekend though unless you like crowds. But still, most of the climbers hover around Ripple when the other cicles are hanging free of climbers. I have seen three climbing teams on Ripple at one time with another team racking up to climb, crossing ropes and all doing their best on tempers and some failing when a couple minutes up stream found no one. Around milepost 25 of the Glenn Highway take the Thunderbird Falls Exit and park in the parking lot just before the bridge over Eklutna River. Gain access to the river by the steep and icy bank directly off the parking lot and follow the well booted trail. You may have to establish new sections of trail due to overflow. If the river is not frozen yet, head up the Thunderbird Falls Trail until a hard right turn bend is found, at about a ½ mile. Right at the apex of the bend, walk down a non-descript ridge for 150’ then turn right and wind your way down through the trees trending right till a steep gully is found. Scramble down this gully using trees for hand-holds till reaching Thunderbird Creek. Pick your way down stream until the fallen tree at the "T" with Eklutna River. Follow the established trail or make your own up Eklutna river. The ice can be climbed through May with an overland hike along the canyon rim to the tops of the climbs.

     Eklutna Glacier: At least a dozen big ice routes in an alpine setting with all the hazards. This area has good potential for new routes of the mixed game. It is best late in the season, March-May when days are long and the freeze-thaw cycle have built the cicles into massive flows of big blue ice. You must have skis or snowshoes to move around in the deep snow and a snowmachine for the approach can turn this into a day climb, albeit a long day. Motorized travel is only allowed on certain days though. Take the Thunderbird Falls exit, go pass the Thunderbird Falls parking lot and over Eklutna River bridge. Go about a quarter-mile past the bridge to Eklutna Lake Recreation Area sign and road. Follow this narrow mountain road for about 12-miles till the road ends at the recreation area. Park in the day use area and pay the fee if you do not have an annual permit. Access the trail, actually it is an old military road that lost funding in the mid 1970s and approach along the shore of Eklutna Lake. The lake is 8-miles long and at its end the trail when trend right winding through the flats and trees till reaching an open area with an avalanche mangled outhouse, 12-miles from the parking lot. This is a good area to camp but pay heed to the signs of past and present avalanches. There is a cabin back here built in partnership by the Mountaineering Club of Alaska and the Anchorage Snowmachine Club but it is best to bring a tent. The cabin is for members only and at times can be crowed diminishing the alpine experience.

     Peters Creek: Harder to access than Eklutna Glacier and fewer climbs but the ice is just as big and just as superb. Exit at the Birchwood exit of the Glenn Highway. Access Peters Creek and ski 13.5 miles until the valley forks. This is a good area to camp but take heed on the snow slopes above. From the fork, ski 3 miles up the right fork underneath Bellicose or ski 1.5 miles up the left fork towards Benign Peak.

      Beer Climbs: Found at the base of Pioneer Peak, this area is perfect for a first time on-ice experience or first time leaders. Exit onto the Old Glenn Highway milepost 30 and follow till you cross the bridge over Goat Creek, past the large avalanche debris area, and as the Old Glenn hugs the bank of Knik River there are two pullouts found on the river side, milepost 7.5 from the Glenn Highway. At the second pull out but do not park in the pull outs used for delivery mail, a keen eye will spot the ice hanging among the trees. A faint trail can be located on the left bank of the drainage so head up the trail. Where the trail and the drainage are near the same level by a huge tree, access the drainage and ascend up to the drainage. The drainage consists of bulges of ice, snow, and rocks which have produced several ankle twists and even a breakage or two. This area has posted private property with signs so don‘t give climbers a bad name.

      Hunter Creek: One hour north of Anchorage brings you to this deep and long river canyon that currently has over four dozen routes with something for every climber. This river canyon requires a good spell of deep cold to freeze the river with enough shelf ice to even consider an approach. Exit onto the Old Glenn Highway at milepost 30 and drive 8 miles till the bridge across Knik River is reached. Turn right onto Knik River Road just before crossing the bridge over Knik River. At milepost 10 of Knik River Road the bridge over Hunter Creek is found, cross the bridge and park in the pullout up the hill on the left. Ensure to park out of the way in this pullout that is used by school buses, snowplows and others to turn around. It is best to go back across the bridge to gain access to the river and then head up stream. Expect to yoyo several times, side hill above open areas, walk on small ledges of shelf ice and even wade a few sections. Beware of thin ice and weak snow bridges and double that once the river narrows in 1.5 miles when the swirling pools are reached. Snowshoes or skis can help on the approach but only during times when the approach is a solid trail of shelf ice and snow. It is wise to keep a close eye on the water level of the river during sunny spring days. The water level can rise several inches over the day that will weaken snow bridges that where solid on the approach. Ice can be found in less than a half mile from the road and while these cicles are fun and something different, the good stuff is reached in about 2.5 miles from the bridge.

      Continue up stream of Hunter Creek till the fork is reached. The left fork has the most abundance of technical ice but the approach is somewhat tricky. There is usually a trail to follow if the creek is passable past the fork. If not, expect some challenging route finding. Either way, large boulders, open pools and snow loaded slopes must be navigated to approach up this fork. Skis are a total hindrance but small snowshoes may help in the deep snow and boulders. There is a huge avalanche debris cone consisting of snow, rock and mud that must respect attention. During one spring day, this slide dumped an enormous amount of debris into Hunter Creek damming up the water behind it. The water level got dangerously high in a short amount of time until spilling over the debris until failure causing s mini-tsunami down Hunter Creek. There is also a small waterfall in the creek proper found at the base of Harry’s Big Adventure that will require some problematic skills to surmount. Once past the waterfall in Hunter Creek, there are more open pools of water until the creek canyon narrows to just a few feet wide. Most of the cicles are located inside two huge amphitheaters. There are actually three amphitheaters up this fork but the first amp contains only a grade 1, 20’ piece of ice high above the river that is not worth the concentrated effort to reach. The amps are commonly referred to as the first and second amp even though they are actually the second and third.

      The first amphitheater is called the Christmas Amp and has the highest concentration of technical ice up Hunter Creek. The amp is horizontally split with a steep curtain of ice on the lower section which could be separate climbs. Steep pillars of ice hang from the upper section of the amp with moderate ice in between the lower and upper halves. This amp gets a good amount of spring sunshine which can soften the ice mid afternoon and produce dangerous rock fall. Ice is this amp is very cyclic to form and even then it forms later in the year. During most years the lower half of the amp will have ice but will not connect to the pillars above if the pillars are even there at all. Only during those good years of ice does the ice in this amp form to climbable cicles.

      About a half mile further up the creek from the amp another area is found containing several cicles all on the left side of the creek.

      The Second Amphitheater is rarely reached and contains nearly the high concentration of hard grade cicles of the first amp. I have not given most of the cicles here a name, only an estimated grade and length except, Jonny's Quest.

      A quarter mile past the second amp.

      This is the last climb up this fork at least until the glacier is reached.

      Up the right fork of Hunter Creek there are several long moderate angled gullies instersped with steep bulges. Only due to their length are they rated grade 3 but most are not technically difficult. There also are a few one pitch cicles with a wide 40’ curtain of ice for bouldering too about 1.4 mile up this fork.

The river canyon narrows up this fork and can requires some tricky stepping and very cold temperatures to pick a route up this fork. Very rarely will you find tracks that go very far up this fork let alone all the way to prized ice. Skis or snowshoes would be a hindrance. All the cicles are on the right side of the canyon until past the Grotto.

      The Grotto is an open swirling pool of water that will require a small inflatable packraft, chest waders or swimming to navigate across. Even in the deepest coldest darkest winter this pool never freezes with any shelf ice. And the rock walls are too steep and lack any type of holds for the feet and hands. Of course if you know the area, you can climb one of the cicles before the Grotto that reach the canyon rim, traverse the rim pass the Grotto and rap back into the canyon but a 4 pound packraft is the best option. There are more open pools of water to cross as the canyon narrows but they are much smaller and can be easily waded. Most of the ice past the Grotto is more gullies of ice but they are shorter in length and of lesser grade than the gullies before the Grotto. But, what the first section lacks of steep technical ice, past the Grotto it is just superb.

     The Gorge: This area alone could fill a thick guidebook with over thirty climbed cicles and who knows how many unnamed or unclimbed in the far reaches of The Gorge and up the many side canyons. The wind can howl with hurricane force along Knik River and The Gorge can accelerate the velocity of the wind. It is a good idea to camp a few days to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the blue ice walls of Knik Glacier on one side of The Gorge and a long rock wall with hanging cicles on the other side. There are several side canyons too. From the bridge that crosses Hunter Creek, head down stream of Hunter Creek for 2-miles reaching Kink River. Turn right, staying right and head up the river for 6-miles until reaching the face of Knik Glacier. Stay right and cross moraine with veggies growing to reach the beginning of The Gorge. You will not be disappointed. Climbing on the walls of Knik Glacier in another pastime of fun. They are quite steep and even overhung in certain places.

     Friday Creek: Known more for its Pink Salmon fishing than ice climbing, this deep and long river canyon does not see much action. This canyon and its several side canyons seem more weather and/or ground water dependent than most and since the year 2000 has been lean of ice, but when good, its good. It is located across Knik River from Hunter Creek but the approach is most definitely a, if not the crux. Another reason why this secluded river canyon sees little action from climbers. Exit onto the Old Glenn Highway at milepost 30 and drive 8-miles till the bridge across Knik River is reached. Cross the bridge and immediately look to the right for the access to the river bed of Knik River. This area is very popular with snowmachines, 4-wheelers and offroad vehicles so the tracks are abundant. If you have a snowmachine or 4-wheeler you can park here and ride up the frozen bank of the Knik, there is an actual road all the way to the face of Knik Glacier. But this area is also very popular with gun toting Rambo types and it is a good bet your vehicle will mysteriously develop bullet holes or be a burnt out shell if left here for long. Follow the tracks left by others up the left side shore of Knik River for 10-miles to the mouth of Friday Creek. If you have a brute of a 4x4 (hopefully with chains on all fours and a winch or take two vehicles) during a good frozen surface you make it to the mouth of Friday Creek. It is possible to drive your 4x4 a good ways up Friday Creek but be very leery of thin ice and scraped paint. Understand the Knik River consists of a glacial silt river bottom, icy conditions and few trees, it would be very hard to extract a stuck vehicle. Clip on skis and make tracks.

     Metal Creek / Paradise Valley: Drive the river bed road of Kink River for 13 miles reaching Metal Creek. Slap on the skis and ski 1.5 miles to reach the first drainage which is on the right or south east. Up this drainage are several one pitch grade 4 cicles. Continue to ski up Metal Creek for another 2 miles reaching Paradise Creek which should be called Paradise Valley. The creek resembles Hunter Creek just before the fork both in appearance and cicles. Metal Creek goes for another 15 miles with numorous side drainages all requirng exploration.

     Grasshopper Valley: After gaining access to the Knik River bank road to the face of Knik Glacier, do not stop at Friday Creek and continue on for about 12 miles until reaching the face of Knik Glacier. Head left from here to reach Grasshopper Valley. There are two small cabins back in this valley, one very old A frame and another one. I do not know the legality on using them but the old A frame has been there for decades and has been used to get out of the weather. Cicles can be found on the south facing wall which are similar to the Gorge that is across the face of the Kink Glacier from Grasshopper but most of the action is in the deep side canyons of Grasshopper Valley. A keen eye will sight the tops of several big blues up the side canyon all which are grade 3/4 200-300 feet. I am sure there are more cicles up the other canyons. Climbing on the walls of Knik Glacier is also fun which are quite steep.

     Matanuska Peak: This cicle can be seen from the Glenn Highway with a sharp eye located on the north face of Matanuska Peak. It is best to drive to the town of Palmer by way of the Glenn Highway then access the Old Glenn Highway at the stop light. Drive till crossing the bridge over Matanuska River then look for Clark-Wolverine Road on your left. Drive to its end, snap on the skis and ski 4-miles to a creek crossing. Then angle up hill towards the ice situated among the rocks: Pigs in the Blanket, grade 4, 200'.

     Castle Mountain: A long, hard and dangerous mixed route for the experienced only. There is easier ice climbs on the far right buttress but this gash up the face of this mountain is the king. It faces south so it is best done in mid winter when the sun has less warming effect on the snow and rock keeping them stable. But it is also best done later in the season when a good freeze-thaw morphs the snow into ice and neve. It is a viscous gamble on conditions of this route and luck with prayer sure won't hurt.

     Hicks Creek: This long winding river canyon has little ice hanging from its rim but what is found is just exceptional. It is a long day trip to do just one of the climbs and to do them all would take a very fast team. There is really no good area to camp up in the creek bottom so it is best to do as day trips and camp elsewhere. But if you must camp back here the area where the drainage from Road Kill spills into Hicks Creek is probably the best area. The seems to be very little temperature variation once back inside this creek. Drive to milepost 95 of the Glenn Highway, and park in the restaurant and lodge parking lot. Ask for permission to park. Though the lodge is closed for most of the winter is not void of people living here. Cross back over the Glenn Highway, access Hicks Creek and ski up this narrow creek. More than likely there will snowmachine tracks to follow until the river is broken up in a mile or so.

     Glacier Creek: This drainage has plenty of ice but not the easiest to get to. Take the Glenn Highway and exit at the Glacier Park Resort milepost 102. Follow the road down the hill and across the Matanuska River Bridge. Park at the fork in the road then gain access to the creek drainage and ski up stream for an hour until the first cicle on the right comes into view. There is some private property to cross.

     Caribou Creek: With close to 3-dozen cicles located along its length, the gaining popularity of this area is understandable. It can be quite cold back here once the S section of the river is reached. There seems to be a spot during approach when the left turn of the S curve is performed that an arctic chill and wind hits, and it hurts. A good camp site is the flat area by Sublimation Wall or go all the way back by the dam but expect arctic cold back here. I mostly car camp along the Glenn Highway to avoid the cold and have warm treats at the Long Rifle Lodge. Drive the Glenn Highway to milepost 105 and the bridge across Caribou Creek. Find a place to park and head up Caribou Creek. While skis are not a must they will increase the speed as you kick and glide up this wide frozen creek. A snowmachine will make short work of the 5-mile approach to the dam.

     Gypsum Creek: This secluded area has good action and is well worth the effort. Instead of skiing up stream of Caribou Creek, ski down stream to the confluence with South Fork River. Turn left and ski east up South Fork River for near an hour to Gypsum Creek.

     Secret Spot: Well, that may not be totally true. Park at the Caribou Creek Bridge milepost 105, gain access to and ski down stream of Caribou Creek until reaching the confluence with South Fork River. Looking south from Caribou Creek in this wide open river bottom, look for a tiny drainage, you may have to ski along the treeline of this area to find the tiny drainage. Its almost best to leave the skis among the trees and use small snowshoes up the drainage. Skis, snowshoes or booted feet, it does not matter, the approach is pure character builder. Follow this small drainage for about two hours, maybe three or more in low snowpack and skis or deep snowpack and booted feet until reaching an open cirque with beautiful blue. Good luck on this one!

     Mount Wickersham: Park at the Caribou Creek Bridge milepost 105, gain access to and ski down stream of Caribou Creek until reaching the confluence with South Fork river. Mount Wickersham is located across the Matanuska Glacier south-west from the confluence of South Fork river and Caribou Creeks. A keen eye will spot the blue hanging on the lower flanks of Wickersham. A better approach than skiing across the Matanuska Glacier from the confuence that will also cut the distance in half is to gain access to Matanuska Glacier through Glacier Park Resort. Ski two and half hours up the far west side of Matanuska Glacier.

     Bunny Flats: Big ice very similar to that of Eklutna Glacier. Gain access to Matanuska Glacier through Glacier Park Resort. Ski 9 miles up the Matanuska Glacier until reaching the area known as Bunny Flats. This big mountain valley has several big cicles, grade 4/5 up to 750' in length.

     Yellowjacket Creek: Located deeeeep in the Talkeetnas, this big bowl of a canyon could have as much as a dozen or more grade 4 & 5 thick cicles all around 300' tall, all who require an ascent and the area really needs to be explored by someone who now has the amp on to get it done. Of course, to reach Yellowjacket will require a snowmachine with loads of extra fuel and a GPS to navigate or a bush plane such as a Super Cub. There is a nice area to land near the climbs. Bring skis and plenty of rap anchors with cord. Not a good choice in deep winter but once the sun starts its spring protraction bringing long days with warmth this area is superb. Quite possible this area has good ice well into May. List of climbs are on the north facing wall, south to northeast, there are more but these are the main cicles.

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