The views above treeline on Mt. Ripinsky, and especially from the panoramic north
peak, are awesome, rivaling anything I've seen from
the summit of 14ers in Colorado like Mts. Elbert and Massive.
When I had my first views down to the Lutak Inlet, Lynn Canal,
Portage Cove, and Chilkat Inlet on my way up the south side of Mt. Ripinsky,
surrounded by snow-capped mountains with glaciers in every direction,
I had about the same sense of joy and wide-eyed wonder that Dorothy probably
did when she landed in the magical Land of Oz.
View south from the north peak;
Chilkat Inlet and Takhinsha Range to right (west),
Lutak Inlet, Lynn Canal, and
Boundary Range to left (east)
Beautiful little pond near a
large snow patch between the north and south peaks;
Takhinsha Mountains in the
background, on the other side of the Chilkat River.
Just spectacular! I couldn't wait to see what was around each curve
or over each false summit.
And I didn't have to climb 12,000-14,000 feet in elevation to see
great water and mountain views. Timberline in this area of Southeast
Alaska is 3,000 feet or less.
More flowers, fewer and shorter
trees and shrubs as I neared "tree line"
Not that the climb to the two peaks was easy. It wasn't. It was just a
lot shorter than the trek up any of the Colorado 14ers I've climbed and
I wasn't oxygen-deprived.
After I read the three trail descriptions in the "Haines Is for
Hikers" brochure I chose the most popular route up the mountain from the
end of Young Rd. on the northeast edge of town. It's called the Skyline
Trail. The rugged trail climbs about four miles across the south peak to the
I marked my out-and-back route in yellow below:
There is another peak that is higher at 3,920 feet but I didn't go that
far today. It's another 2.8 miles beyond the north peak, where I turned around.
If we're ever here again it would be interesting to take the 7-Mile
Saddle Trail out-and-back from the north side of the mountain to this peak (3.2 miles
one way), or do the 10-mile traverse from the northern trailhead to the
southern one. With that option, I'd need Jim to drop me off at one end
and pick me up at the other.
Slope full of columbines and
other wildflowers overlooking Lutak Inlet
The brochure states that all three trails up this mountain are for "fit
and experienced hikers only."
Jim basically said, "Have fun!" and chose to ride his bike
closer to sea level instead. The distance was too long for Cody, and I
can't hike safely with Casey on a leash on steep, rough terrain, so I
did the hike solo.
Looking back at the end of the summer I can say that this was my
second or third favorite hike in Alaska. The rest of this account is from
notes I wrote a few hours after my hike.
This was our second perfect-weather day in a row in Haines --
sunny, mid-60s F. overnight to low 80s F. during the day. That's warmer
than normal for mid-June. There was minimal wind today, even on Mt.
Ripinsky's summit, and the humidity was in the 20s, extremely low for
this coastal area.
The thought occurred
to me several times on this mountain that three years ago on this date,
I wouldn't have been able to climb it because of too much snow.
That was a
record-setting snow year and I was unable to hike some of the trails I
wanted to hike in Alaska, especially in June. Although I had to hike
through some snow today it was easy and made the trek more fun.
Patch of snow between the south and north peaks
Because of the high temps and low humidity in Southcentral Alaska this
year there are two large wildfires that began yesterday and are spreading rapidly. The
worst is near Willow; it has shut the Parks Hwy. off and on for
several miles, not only creating havoc for residents and tourists but
also destroying forests, houses, and other structures.
Yesterday Jessica, my Chilkat River float guide, mentioned the give and take,
good news-bad news of Alaska weather.
Pretty flowers in a sunny spot a little below
In high snow years there is plenty of moisture, fewer bugs in the
summer, and people who love snow (or are in the snow business) are
happy. However, there is higher risk of flooding in the spring and
In low snow years the tourists and residents are happy with early spring
and summer weather but the bugs are worse and wildfires are more likely.
It's interesting that we've seen both extremes in 2012 and 2015.
HAVE OPPORTUNITY, WILL CLIMB
I checked off the last item on my Haines 'To Do" list today --
climbing up to the 3,690-foot north summit of Mt. Ripinsky.
I have been looking out the window at that mountain for seven days.
Gotta go climb it!
Today I got to look down from the north and south summits and part of
the high ridge above treeline at our camper. The next two pictures of
our campground were taken well above treeline on Mt. Ripinsky:
Looking down at Haines and Portage Cove
Yup, that's our camper and truck! Quite a
different perspective . . .
It is easy to spot the Haines Hitch-Up RV Park from high up because of
its location and layout. Our Cameo is white, easy to see against green
grass, and I knew its position in the campground.
Jim wanted to use the truck today so he dropped me off at the main
Ripinsky trailhead at the top of Young Rd. in Haines. The hike to the
north peak registered 3.9 miles on my GPS. I had a total of 8.05 miles
because of wandering around the summit and going off-trail to see some
mountain goats and views. Total elevation gain and loss was about 7,000
This is a rather difficult trail, partly because of the rough roots and rocks
through the forest and
partly because of some steep sections after the trees thinned out. It reminded
me of the worst of the Appalachian Trail in Maine and New Hampshire.
Fortunately, I kept going and was rewarded with fantastic views once I
got above most of the trees.
The trail starts off pretty nice, with lots of new, slip-resistant bog
boards and steps from about 4/10ths to 6/10ths mile into the hike. I saw various
styles and configurations of boards, some that I haven't seen before.
sections like this don't last long.
I took this
shot going back down the mountain.
After that, the trail becomes more challenging. Here are a couple
The forest was pretty most of the way, with lots of evergreens and
bright green leaves on the deciduous trees and shrubs:
I enjoyed the climb a lot more when I got high enough to start seeing
the surrounding mountains and water in Lutak Inlet, then Portage Cove,
through or over the trees:
View of Portage Cove and Lutak Inlet
L to R: Portage Cove, Mt. Riley and Haines,
The trees, understory plants, and wildflowers
morphed noticeably as I climbed higher and higher.
I reached the sub-alpine zone at or before 2,500 feet.
There were lots of flowers in open spots at that level and above treeline
-- yellow buttercups, white marsh marigolds, sweet clover,
and mountain cranberry, blue lupines, purple violets, pink Kinnikinnick, and some others.
Above and below: whole hillsides were covered
in lupines and other flowers.
Lupines were at their peak at one elevation (above)
but just starting to open higher up (below).
Even before reaching treeline I could see the south and north peaks,
although I didn't know for sure that it was them until I came back down.
There are a couple false peaks on the way up.
I ran into the first remaining patch of snow in a pass below the south
Looking up to the south peak
View east to Lutak Inlet
Looking back at the snowfield
On the steep slope to the south peak, looking down
at pools of snowmelt and the Chilkat River
View south to Haines and Mt. Riley from the south
peak of Mt. Ripinsky
There is a survey marker identifying the south peak so hikers know where
Continued on the
panoramic views from the north peak and wildlife photos
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup
© 2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil