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.
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.
Hurdygurdy Area: These climbs hang high on the buttress of their namesake and possess an exposed alpine character. At mile 2 from the Nature Center near Rapid Camp, access Eagle River by the side trail heading down to the river. Go up river for about a half-mile till a keen eye spots the faint trailhead just pass the narrow rapids section of the river. Follow this drainage up and always take the left drainage. The approach from here is steep but worth the effort and skis would hinder this approach. There are several more cicles and even a mixed affair or two than listed but these are the two main cicles.
Piece of Cake, grade 3, 350': The largest cicle in the area located on the right side of the buttress. Starts with easier ice to a half-way ledge and two exit pitches with the left steeper but better quality ice.
Fruitcake, grade 4, 230': On the left side of the buttress, steep ice its entire length.
Echo Bend This area is reached around 3.5 miles from the Nature Center. You can stay on the main Crow Pass Trail or proceed down to Eagle River at Rapid Camp and follow the river from here, which is the preferred approach. Echo Bend area has superb camping in the wide open area among the trees or out on the shelf ice. The cicles can be seen hanging across the river from Echo Bend. The approach from the river to the cicles is through deep snow and brush with pockets of Devils Club but it is short. Sometimes a semi-trail is established by other climbers but the best start is at the apex bend in Eagle River just left of the climb Three Ring Circus. Head directly back aiming to the left of Three Ring. Once back there, you can traverse to the other climbs in a semi-brushless area between the climbs. The exception is Hollow Icicle, and it is best to approach this cicle 100m further up Eagle River and take a direct approach to its base.
Three Ring Circus, grade 3, 1000: Three steep but short pillars connected by low angle ice and snow. The second pillar can be quite difficult to protect with chandelier ice on the left side but is easier on the right. For the most large of the hardmen, climb the protruding rock in the center of the second pillar. The upper pillar is steep and thin but short.
There are several grade 2 short cicles seen hanging among the trees.
Icicle Delight, grade 3, 50: Under certain conditions this could be the area get large and hard cicle, and it is another one of those Alaskan cicles that is hard to grasp it's grade. Start in a psuedo groove on frozen veggie moss that leans left, no gear till reaching some veggies with mass. From here climb the steep face on thin ice that may take a shortie screw. At times it forms as a single ice dagger further on the right but either way it is often top roped.
Hollow Icicle, grade 4, 240: A must do! A steep curtain to lower angle ice and then the hollow icicle; detached, rotten, poor protected and quite technical pillar; described as WI 5+/6- by several outside climbers. Late in the season this pillar can melt out during long sunny days.
Icicle Creek: Access Eagle River at Rapid Camp then it is about 3-miles up Eagle River to this drainage. Follow Icicle Creek till at least five grade 3-4 cicles are located up in this drainage.
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.
Mad Dog, grade 3, 75: The first ice reached about a Ό mile from the parking lot which can be an easy cruise or a nightmare on thin ice and rock. Dont let the grade fool you as this thin smear of ice can be quite technically hard with no protection until reaching the half-way point where a #10 BD Stopper will slide perfectly into the crack. If you find the fixed Stopper please do not consider it booty and leave it fixed for others to use until the season is late or the ice is thick. This climb has lots of top rope action with a walk to the top and a walk off.
Scratch Your Way Up, grade 4, 80: About 10 feet to the right of Mad Dog and the protruding rock, scratch your way up a straight line on frozen veggies till reaching small candlestick ice hanging from the roof. Takes three #6 Bugaboos and two Bulldog ice pitons (which wont hold a fall) for protection. Technically and mentally much harder than grade 4 but too short for a stiffer grade.
Champipple, grade 2, 75': This cicle is found on the left wall just past the confluence with Thunderbird Creek. It very rarely forms but when it does, moderate ice to a steep pillar and sometimes its an overhung free-hanging curtain. This climb receives afternoon sun once February arrives and the upper pillar can turn sun rotten very quickly.
TJ Swan, grade 3, 75: This pillar rarely connects to the bottom but when its there, a chandeliered vertical freestanding pillar. The last few winters has seen thick easy ice with so much traffic one can almost ascend sans tools on the pockets left by climbers.
CJ Dove, grade 3, 80': Forms off the same roof as TJ 15' to the left. Climb steep mixed-veggie ice to a waist diameter size freestanding pillar.
Sweet Wine Turns to Sour Vinegar; grade 4, 225: About a mile from the parking lot on the left side of the canyon, look for a hanging pillar about mid-height up the wall under a bulge of wide yellowish color exit ice at the rim of the canyon. Start on frozen veggies with short sections of ice blobs. Get hard and large for the crux, which can be either a free hanging smaller-than-your-waist size pillar or a thin smear of ice. Above the crux climb the bulge of ice to the rim and the tree. Rack up with thin crack pro: Knifeblades, Bugaboos, ice hooks and many different length slings along with a couple 10cm stubby screws.
Pickled Cherry, 230', grade 3: About 15 up river from Sweet Wine, find the groove and climb on frozen veggies which may have some thin ice. Climb the steep wall on the left, traverse left on mixed terrain to reach the same yellowish bulge of exit ice to the canyon rim as Sweet Wine. There can be a thin smear of ice on the right wall above the groove but the exit is very difficult. Several Knifeblades and Bugaboos.
Thunderipple, 125', grade 3: This climb looks much stiffer than it actually is but do not take the grade lightly. The first 25' is moderate angle frozen moss with no gear until reaching an arm size tree on the right. From the tree, climb thin ice that gets thicker and steeper until topping out. Traverse left to the fixed anchor. A few Knifeblades and two 1.5" - 2" pieces will find a home in the rock on the right. Pitch 2, 75', grade 4. From the fixed anchor, climb the fist size crack that may or may not have ice until reaching the caynon rim. Bring several hand and fist sized cams and/or hexes. For a complete alternate finish to the caynon that requires 70m of rope, from the arm size tree lean right and climb the finger size crack that also may or may not have ice.
Ripplethunder, 135', grade 4: Also looks very stiff for the grade. While the climbing is not that difficult, protecting it is. On the left hand wall of the creek in the right hand bend of the creek just before Ripple, look for the thin but wide smear of frozen veggies with yellow/brown ice. Ascend the low angle slope on frozen moss using a tree or two for protection is required until reaching the steep wall. Above the wall climb moderate frozen veggie/moss until reaching the steep curtain of ice. Knifeblades, Bugaboos and Spectres but a few stubby screws may find home in ice.
Wine Loco, grade 2, 170': Consists of frozen moss that could have some thin ice in a shallow groove that ends at an arm sized tree. Just past the right sweeping bend of Eklutna River, look for the tree at mid-height on the left wall and the well pronounced groove. This climb is probablay the easiest of the dirt climbs. Several thin pins and plenty of slings for veggie protection.
Ripple, 180, grade 3: The most climbed cicle in Alaska and it is a huge chunk of ice. A 25 curtain steepest on the left to a big ledge then moderate ice which is steepest on the right to bolts. To add difficulty start in the cave. There always seems to be a wet streak that migrates side to side on this cicle which continually builds ice and repairs the damage by climbers all winter.
grade 4, 250': This climb is the most spectular thin ice climb in the Eklutna River area. It takes the rarest of the rarest years for this line to have ice. In fact, I have only seen ice on the ramp one year (1998) over the last decade since the mid to late 1980s when ice was consistently there. When it does form up, this line is just beyond superb. Or you can get hard and go up sans ice. Between Ripple and Boonesfarm, on the left side wall of the river, look for the long left trending ramp. Start on frozen veggies using shrubbs for protection to reach the ramp. Climb the ramp to the caynon rim. Best with long half-ropes and a good selection of rock pro for the ramp.
Boonesfarm, grade 2, 220': This is a superb climb starting with moderate low ice to a steep bulge. There is an old bolt found before the bulge that some parties us as their first or second anchor. Then climb moderate angle ice with a short bulge and then moderate ice to more bolts on the right. The crux can be a thick pillar or a thin smear. Rap from the upper bolts but give much attention to where the rope runs over the rock.
California Cooler, grade 2, 90': This almost never formed cicle is the gem of the canyon. 1998 was the last year it had ice. Starts with very thin ice in a dihedral groove, a mixed-veggie ice traverse to fangs of curtain ice hanging from the rim.
Annie Greensprings, grade 2, 200': Moderate ice up to the vertical chandeliered curtain which is hardest on the right, to easy ice and then two short bulges. While the initial curtain is short it can be intimidating when it cracks and creaks and will not take solid protection. Has been attempted sans ice but the lack of gear and a small-softman on a large-hardman climb backed off. The rock wall on the far right is the scene of top-roped mixed action.
The Dam, grade 2, 50': Located two miles up the canyon, the left side is the standard route and as you traverse right the climbs get harder. Belay / rap from metal girders on the bridge.
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.
Blue None, grade 3. 250: Just past the end of Eklutna Lake at the bridge, instead of staying on the mail road trail, go up the East Fork of Eklutna River for about 3 miles. This area has several cicles all worth the effort but this cicle is the prize.
Serenity, grade 3, 500: The first ice reached and seen from the wide open area and cabin. This cicle looks like a non-descript climb with the long sections of deep snow but it does possess 3 quite steep pillars.
Iron Curtain, grade 3, 500': Seen from the wide open camping area and cabin, bush whack up hill to the short curtain of ice. Above this is a long snow climb to a pitch of ice then the crux curtain.
Dirty Harry, grade 2, 200': About ½ mile farther past the cabin and flat camping area. In good years it forms as a huge single sheet of ice with several different lines. The standard line goes up the center with moderate ice to the crux curtain.
Miller Might, grade 4, 600': The first cicle encountered on the left wall heading toward the glacier. A massive chunk of ice and a superb big ice climb.
Eklutna Man, grade 5+, 650': Could be the area pure-ice get large cicle. Climb several pitches of difficult mixed terrain to the upper ice pillars.
Mitre Might, grade 5+, 1000: An inverted Y with long moderate ice up to a steep 200 pillar. The route does continue another 500' up a snow and ice gully, above the crux pillar, for those who dare. One story even reports they climbed all the way to the summit of the Mitre, thats a get large climb.
Hats Off to Herman, grade 5, 500': Several curtains of steep ice to the crux pitch about half way up. For more action, climb the mixed line to the right that meets the main cicle just under the half way crux curtain.
Freers Tears, grade 4, 300': A thick cicle of ice on the right side of the glacier up high in a col.
4000 Miles of Heatbreak, grade 6, 225': Access Freers Tears and climb rotten over hung ice to a pillar. Currently the absolute get large climb but there are several mixed works in progress.
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 dont give climbers a bad name.
Blitz, grade 2, 100: This is the right side cicle and is a gully climb ending with a curtain. Bush whack through mangled Devils Club to the start of the gully. Ascend this low angle gully to the curtain which is hardest on its left.
Henrys, grade 2, 150: A fairly wide flow of ice in which the main line goes straight up the middle on moderate ice to a large bulge of fairly steep ice. Far left the grade goes down slightly and the far right the bulge is very steep and at times, a non-connecting curtain can be scratched up.
???, grade ?, 90': I have never seen this free hanging cicle but the tales are too many to ignore its existence. From the top of Henry's, head left to the next drainage to find this free hanging pillar that rumors to be nothing short of, its your lead.
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.
grade 2, 150': The first main cicle reached about 20 minutes from the bridge.
grade 3, 75': This pillar can be seen on the right of Hunter Creek about forty minutes from the bridge. Find a small tributary and fight your way up the devils club till reaching the pillar.
grade 2, 450':
grade 2, 400':
Hollowhead, grade 4, 325: On the left, this is the first big ice found. Climb 200 of low angle snow and ice to reach the base of a massive steep pillar. The pillar consists of hollow ice and is very technically hard on the left side. Then a section of moderate ice with a short bulge to the exit pillar which is shorter but just as hard as the initial pillar.
Lost in Space, grade 3, 100: On the right, this is a unique cicle at best. The initial ice is moderate with a bulge to a wide massive curtain, quite easy on the right yet very stiff on the left. A short traverse of frozen veggies is required to reach the anchor tree. At times, another separate short pillar will form at the top ending in the alder shrubs.
Danger Will Robinson, grade 3, 110: This climb hangs on the wall above and right of Lost in Space. After the initial ice, stay far right into an aclove and climb a very thin smear of ice to a huge tree.
Lost Ice, grade 3, 150: On the left, ascend a 200 gully of ice and snow to reach this curtain of ice hanging from the rim on the canyon.
Found Ice, grade 3, 100: After climbing the gully of Lost Ice, traverse left through the shrubs to reach this curtain of ice that can be thinner and somewhat harder than Lost Ice.
Pee'd in the Bivi, grade 3, 450': On the left, start on a steep curtain of thin ice that may not take a screw. Then 200 of moderate ice with 3 bulges and finish with a candlestick pillar of ice protecting the top. No easy way down.
Split Finish, grade 3, 450: On the left, after 50 of steep snow, climb the steep curtain to a long gully of moderate ice. The left finish is the easiest while the right can be quite stiff.
Lost Chord, grade 4, 200: On the right, an immense hunk of blue ice that is another odd cicle at best. Straight up the middle this cicle is a solid grade 4 but climb the far right side it is significantly harder in technical grade. It can be done in 2 pitches with 60m ropes from rivers edge to the tree at the base of the final pillar which will spare the leader. Belaying from a bulge of ice climbers left just before the ice gets steep will allow a single pitch or use 70m ropes.
A# Chord, grade 4, 150': Starts on a steep short pillar found at rivers edge just to the right of Lost Chord. Climb the pillar then scratch up thin ice and frozen veggies until traversing left to reach the belay tree at the base of final pillar of Lost Chord.
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 Harrys 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.
Harrys Big Adventure, grade 3, 500: The ice flows right to the edge of the river in a huge wide curtain with several starts and even a rock outcropping for the hard and large. Several more curtains with moderate ice in-between. There are two separate full rope length exist pitches both worthy of climbing. The anchors can be weird among the shrubs or anchor at the base of the curtains which will short pitch the ascent. The last rappel from shrubs will leave you above the initial curtain well short of the bottom using 60m ropes.
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.
Starbright, grade 4, 350: Located on the far left side of the amp, climb the initial curtain of ice to reach the upper pillar hanging from the overhung rim of the canyon. This cicle rarely connects to the lower curtain.
Slim Jim, grade 5+, 400: This is the ice seen hanging from canyon rim at the fork of Hunter Creek. It is actually a separate finish to Starbright unless a miraculous season would connect it to the lower curtain. From the upper pillar of ice of Starbright, traverse to this very stiff pillar of ice.
Christmas Tree, grade 5, 330': This is the main cicle inside this amp which sits on the right side and forms with some regularity. Almost all cicles in this amp connect someway to the wide first pitch curtain of ice of this cicle. Climb the steepest line up the initial curtain then a series of moderate bulges to a steep pillar that ends on a solid ledge. Continue up the crux candlestick pillar and then traverse a rock ledge to the canyon rim and tree. Rappelling is just as hard.
Candlestick, grade 5, 250: Start on the same initial steep pillar of Christmas Tree but instead of ascending the bulges, take a straight line up to the other pillar just to the right. The actual climb ends here so rap from the ice at the top of the pillar. Or, for those large and hard enough, finish to the rim by scratching up overhung rock which contains little to no ice and would up this cicle to a high side grade 6.
Tinsle, grade 5, 250: Once again the climb the initial pillar of ice on Christmas Tree then a 150 pillar hanging to the far left.
Ornament, grade 4, 200: Even further left is this 75 pillar.
Many drips and smears are waiting a very bold first ascent on ice which does not connect and poor rock that lacks protection.
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.
Squeem, grade 4, 100: A thin smear of vertical ice.
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.
Jonny's Quest, grade 5/6, 425: Climb steep ice to a curtain of thin mixed ice to a tree anchor on the right. From the tree, make one to three moves on rock to reach the non-connected separated free-hanging curtain of ice that required a pull-up, a heel hook, a lock off and then a wobbly tool stick to mount. Above the crux the ice is dead vertical and was quite chandelier on the first attempt and successful ascent, and is a long way to the rim on pumped arms.
grade 4, 225:
grade 4, 250: Moderate ice to long steep flow, looked interesting.
grade 4, 225:
grade 3, 150:
grade 2, 165:
A quarter mile past the second amp.
High Noon, grade 2, 125: Quite steep and sustained for grade 2 but very thick and enjoyable.
This is the last climb up this fork at least until the glacier is reached.
Log Jam, grade 2, 70: Very obvious, climb the ice that starts at the jammed log between the arm span width walls of Hunter Creek.
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.
Too Much Fun, grade 3, 600: Climb a cone of snow to a bulge of ice then a long gully of moderate ice to the base of a wide curtain. Watch for rock fall in the gully during sunny days and a falling pillar of ice from the upper curtain.
Shashimi Ice, grade 3, 650: A long gully of moderate ice with a few bulges of steep ice.
Lots O Fun, grade 3, 650: Another gully of moderate ice with bulges of steep ice and a steep pillar at the rim of the canyon.
No Fun, grade 2, 180: One more gully of moderate ice.
The Narrows, grade 3, 200: The ice starts right at the rivers edge next to the Grotto with a wide curtain of steep ice, hardest of the left then more moderate ice in a gully.
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.
grade 4, 300: Climb moderate ice in a gully to a steep curtain of ice.
grade 3, 400: One more long gully of ice with bulges of steep ice.
Queen O Spades, grade 6, 220: The queen of Hunter Creek, climb moderate ice to the base of a 150 pillar that is everything grade 6 ice has to offer; hooking airy candlesticks on marginal pro. A ballet dance for the most large and hard.
Veggie Hopper, grade 3, 225: A thin smear of ice fused with frozen veggies to a half way ledge at the base of a pillar.
Ice Grip, grade 3, 170: On the right, several curtains of ice hanging off rock steps to a steep pillar of fairly stiff ice.
I have not been any further up this fork but hear there are several more climbs past the next deep pool of water.
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.
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.
Octave, grade 4, 250': Moderate ice to a 50' vertical curtain and ends with a steep pillar.
My Favorite Martin, grade 4, 300':
An hour and half in finds a gully of ice on the left. Climb it to find three grade 3 cicles and short but steep grade 4+.
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.
Dumb Peasants Follow Their Stupid King, grade 5, 1000': Straight up the gully of Castle Mountain. The skill crux is mid height on steep mixed terrain and poor gear and the roll-the-dice and gamble crux is the exit snow. Rapping the route is ill advised. An alpine rack with short and medium screws, #6 Bugaboos, medium size nuts and one large hex. Two 18" pickets would be helpfull. Traverse the summit south-east for about 2 miles until able to descend down moderate terrain. Bringing a stove to hydrate is wise and headlamps are a must. A lightweight bivy sack or sleep in your pack will allow a trickle charge for the long descent.
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.
Road Kill, grade 4, 325: Viewed from the headwaters of the creek at the bridge, the upper pitch can be seen hanging high in the distance but this cicle is not found in the Hicks Creek drainage. Ski up Hicks Creek for about an hour to hour and half until finding a wide low angle flow of ice on the left. Climb this flow of ice and follow the drainage for nearly a mile until under the cicle. A steep section of thin ice to a somewhat lower angle exit pillar.
About a half-mile past the large flow of low angle ice that drains the creek of Road Kill, the canyon narrows. On the left wall there is a full-rope-pitch verglass groove that leans left in the rock buttress. If you love Scottish type mixed scratching with rock pro this groove is a nightmare-o-fun. Take a hand full of #6 Bugaboos, doubled-up medium sized nuts and Aliens with plenty of long slings.
Dancin' in the Ruins, grade 5+, 450': Located in the amphitheater 5 miles from the road. Starts 200' above the river with a vertical smear of thin ice to thicker but still steep ice. The crux is a vertical candlesticked pillar which ends just below the rim of the canyon and the trees. Either build a rap or get large and climb to the canyon rim, very stiff on loose rock. Just to the left is a deep ice-choked groove that has thicker ice so it is a tad easier to climb and might be the best descent by rappelling from ice anchors. Parts of the amphitheater are a real threat to avalanche.
Shambooled, grade 3, 180: In the same amphitheater theater with Dancing in the Ruins, this one pitch climb is on the far left side of the amphitheater, climb a corner of thin ice to a gully of thicker ice.
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.
Threshold of a Dream, grade 4, 150: A steep cicle with a cave located at its base. The climb is under a huge avalanche path.
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.
Sublimation Wall, grade 3, 200': The first big cicle found and is almost as wide as it tall, this yellowish color cicle has numerous lines.
Rhythm and Blues, grade 4, 250': A 170 ribbon of ice in a corner to a series of curtains.
Double Take, grade 4+, 170': The first pitch is a narrow free standing pillar 45 foot in length to easier ice.
Kantellia, grade 4, 300': A huge chunk of ice.
Robo Pick, grade 5 / 5+, 200': Could be the test piece, with a wicked candlesticked curtain.
Thag o Miser, grade 4, 210': A cicle of several curtains.
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.
Separate Member, grade 3, 200: A cicle of yellowish colored ice with wind-bells of ice protecting the top.
The Claw, grade 6: A direct finish of Separate Member over the huge wind-bell roof at the top. Very technical.
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!
Hide and Seek, grade 4, 425':
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.
Lil Kahuna, grade 4, 165: A lower angled first half to a steep curtain. A long approach for a single pitch of ice but its something new.
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.
Jacket of Yellow, grade 4, 275':
Yellow Honey, grade 4, 300':
Iceycomb, grade 5-, 300':
Hornets Nest, grade 5, 325':
Got Stung, grade 5+/6-, 310': Once the dagger of free-hanging ice is ascended, the name should be changed to include Stinger which represents the free hanging stinger of ice that of course stung.