Denali AKA Mt. McKinley


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Continued from the previous page.


After I reached the south peak I saw a couple more steep pitches down, then back up again -- and more snow -- to reach the sign at the summit of the north peak (3,690 feet):

Looks like fun. Let's go for it!

I wasn't tired yet, I had plenty of time, and the weather was great so I kept going, knowing some of the later descent would be tough on my Granny Knees.

I'm so glad I continued up because the views and wildflowers just keep getting better and better. I felt like I was as high as some of the surrounding mountains with glaciers, although that was probably just an illusion.

I went through another large area of snow and could see other smaller ones that haven't melted yet:


There are several pretty pools of water in the last half mile; one had blue snow, like a glacier:

The water in Lutak Inlet and Portage Cove (Haines' harbor) were a beautiful turquoise blue:


From the eastern slope of Mt. Ripinsky I could see most of Chilkoot Lake, the river coming into it, and the river going out of the south end of the lake into Lutak Inlet but I didn't get all of that in one picture.

The Chilkat River (below) and the Lynn Canal to Skagway are cement-colored from all the glacial silt that hasn't settled yet:

Chilkat River, looking upstream

Chilkat River water becomes more blue as it mixes with water south of Haines.

It took me 3:50 hours to reach the north summit. This is the final approach to the sign that marks the top:


Considering the rough trail, scenic views, and 440 photos I took during this hike, most on the way up, that's a decent time! The "Haines Is for Hikers" brochure estimates the ascent at 3-5 hours, so even with all the distractions I was right in the middle.

While on the north peak I spent about 20 minutes taking photos, eating, and talking on the phone to Jim and my brother.

View NE toward Chilkoot Lake

View north toward Peak 3920

View NW up the Chilkat River

View SW to mouth of Chilkat River; I'll talk about the mountain goats (arrow) shortly.

View south toward Haines (can't see below the mountain from this vantage point)

View SE to Lynn Canal and Lutak Inlet

I was unable to find a survey marker on the north peak like the one on the south peak but I discovered this old, rusted iron tube on the side of the rock outcropping.

I couldn't get it open. I assume it holds -- or used to hold -- a trail register for hikers to sign:

Then I dropped down off-trail to watch four mountain goats on a snow bank above the Lutak River:




Long hair and nimble footwork allow the goats to thrive in the chilly alpine climate, where the steep, rugged terrain offers them protection against predators.

Bears also head up to the higher elevations on the mountain in the spring to feed on emerging plants but I didn't see any of them today, just their scat on the trail. I called out "Hey, bear!" about every 100 feet through the forest. I also saw moose hoof prints several places farther down in the woods and near Moose Flats.

The only other wildlife I saw was a ptarmigan that stayed close to me, perhaps in an effort to protect his or her brood:

I practically had the whole trail to myself all day. I saw only one couple with a lively golden retriever going up as I was coming down, about a mile from the summit.

If you hike with a dog on Mt. Ripinsky, take extra water for it. Today there were only a couple creeks with minimal water in the woods, two small, muddy moose ponds, and several pools of water from melting snow above treeline. Later in the summer and fall there may be less water.

Looking down at Lutak Inlet and a small pond in a low area

It took me about as long to get down the trail as to go up.

For one reason, I hiked off-trail for a while in the tundra when I came off the north peak so I could get closer to observe the mountain goats.


After I got back on the trail I had to be even more careful of my knees on steep sections.

Two trekking poles helped a lot. I didn't fall but I did slip several times on slick roots and loose rocks. My legs were like Jello the last couple of miles. I'll be sore tomorrow.

Pretty view down to the south peak

I got down about 5:30 PM. I had a terrific phone signal on top the mountain but a poor one in the wooded areas. Jim got my message re: when to pick me up, though. He and Casey surprised me about a quarter mile from the end.

I was glad to be done but still on a "Rocky Mountain high" and very glad I chose to hike this trail and go all the way to the north summit. The views were worth the effort.

Given the opportunity and knees no worse than they are right now, I'd definitely do it again. 

Next entryscenic two-day drive from Haines to Valdez, including the rest of the Alaska Hwy. through the Yukon

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil