Hale Bop / Turnagain Arm (Alaska, USA)

Author: Felix
When an exploration trip was posted on the Anchorage Adventures Meetup group it was a no-brainier: exploration equals fun.
I had a couple of offers for a lift and ended up getting a lift with Donna to our car pooling location at Carrs. After some quick introductions and meeting some people I had only talked with online, we were on our way south to the Kenai Peninsula. With the onset of winter the peaks along the Turnagain Arm were again sprinkled with a layering of snow. It was cold, but the rising sun revealed clear skies that promised a gorgeous blue bird day.
Sunrise in the Turnagain Arm
There were a number of lakes along the roadside and the number of swans swimming in them was surprising. In one I counted 26, one less than I had counted the day before on the drive to Crescent Lake.
Soon we were all gathered at the parking lot at Lower Summit Lake. After Patti joined us we numbered 15 and with the brisk air we were all keen to get walking. As we crossed the bridge I stopped to admire the reflections in the lake and then hurried to catch up with the end of the line disappearing into the trees.
Amazing reflections on Lower Summit Lake
We were quickly bushbashing but it wasn’t bad at all, only a couple of spots being a little annoying. I found it interesting how there was no effort put into keeping the group together and quickly people splintered into groups of varying sizes. I ended up walking with Kneely, who provided good company and has many years of bushwalking in Alaska. We dropped down into the creek between the two ridges which were our options of reaching our target peak. We stopped to inspect what looked like an abandoned gold mine. Lots of equipment was left sprawled all over the place and it looked like there was no intention for them to return. The creek was partly frozen and the banks provided good walking so we ascended whilst admiring the small ice stalactites and other formations in the waterway.
A small gully on the left looked clear of vegetation so we started up. Half way up we spied a number of other sub-groups. Some trying to reach the ridge we were aiming for whilst others were heading up the ridge on the other side. We soon reached the top were we had a rest and met up with some others. The views were pretty spectacular, and now that we had gained the ridge the going would be easier.
Enjoying the amazing weather and accompanying views!
Kneely, happily walking along the alpine tundra
Kneely silhouetted against the sun at a high point on the ridge
As we continued up the ridge we came across this interesting feature were there were two parallel ridges with a slump in the middle. I wonder how it formed? The bedding seemed mostly vertical so maybe part of the ridge sunk… but that doesn’t seem to fit properly… never the less it was an interesting feature.
Cathy and Kneely on the other parallel ridge
As we gained altitude we began walking on sporadic snow, as I looked up I began to worry it would stop me from gaining the top. I caught up with Patti for the climb up the last steep section. We followed the steps the others ahead of us had kicked in and moved more slowly, testing my footing carefully before moving on. If I had crampons/micro-spikes I think I would have put them on.
The snow on our goal making me a little nervous…
Just below the summit.
A closer ‘just below the summit’
Soon we were at the top! It was amazing how quickly we had got there – the good company I guess! The views were fantastic! You could see the water in the Turnagain Arm, some inviting peaks to the North East that were silently calling to me, you could even see a small section of Lower Trail Lake. Following the ridge along for a short way confirmed that we were on the highest point, and as others joined us, we sat down for some lunch.
And we’re there!
Views from the top
Wow! Look at that view!
Instead of retracing our steps, the consensus was to descent via the other ridge. I had seen people from our group on it so knew that most of it was okay and the top section to the peak, safer than the way we had ascended. Down we went enjoying the views we hadn’t seen as much of on the way up.
We came across footprints from the other half of the group, and continuing down paused to watch a couple of bald eagles soaring effortlessly below us. A flock of ptarmigan also swept past us a couple of times, almost like a flurry of snow.
Descending the other ridge proved easier than the way we had ascended
Cathy descending the last of the snow
Some bum-sliding down the heath and we were soon under the hemlock were we located a small camp. I carried out a bit of rubbish and a tomahawk that had been left behind.
Against all odds, we came across the other half of the group (except for a couple who had turned around earlier in the day), and reunited continued down the gentler slopes to the cars.
What a fantastic day! Thanks to everyone who came along!

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