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Thread: Pioneer Peak

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    Member Torg84's Avatar
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    Default Pioneer Peak

    Hello,

    Looking for for some information on the Pioneer Peak trail. Trail head location, trail conditions, how long it takes...

    Anything at at all would be helpful. Thank you!

    Dan

  2. #2
    Member Gr is for Greg's Avatar
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    I'm assuming you want the hiking trail up to Pioneer Ridge rather than the more technical and challenging, but shorter hike up the scree slide. Trailhead is out the old Knik River Road. Head out the Glenn, past Eklutna. Take exit for Old Glenn Highway just before the bridge over the Knik River. Take that several miles and then turn right onto the Knik River Road just before going across the bridge over the Knik. If at any point you cross the Knik River, you messed up. The trailhead is on the right about another 2-3 miles (I think). It's decently marked, but I did drive past it the first time.

    From the trailhead, the trail is well traveled and marked, and there are no other major trails I know that might lead you astray. The trail can be a little muddy and buggy lower down. The switch-backs are nice, making it not too steep, but is steady. The whole way to the Ridge is a steady climb of 1000' per mile for 5 miles. That's not crazy steep, but it is a steady and long ascent. Muddy areas drop away along with trees at about 1.5 miles and 1500'. As the trail passes up into and eventually through the tundra, the trail will begin to be marked with cairns (rock piles), but you don't really need these.

    At 5 miles and a little more than 5000' of climbing, the trail brings you to Pioneer Ridge. If you've had enough, this is not a bad spot to have a snack and turn around. The views up the Knik Glacier and surrounding Chugach are amazing. You can easily see Mt. Marcus Baker, over 13,000' the tallest mountain in the Chugach, weather permitting of course.

    If you decide to push on, turn right and continue up the ridge. It's pretty flat for about a mile and a half, even dropping down a little as you pick your way along the ridge. There is a little bit of scrambling / bouldering, but not much, and you can typically drop to either side of the ridge to get off the rocks and onto a sheep trail. It's cool to see all of the sheep trails criss-crossing the slopes, mostly on the southern side of the ridge. Look for rock ptarmigan up in the rocks too.

    The final ascent up to the south summit is a little more technical, but not really dangerous if you choose your route carefully and (this is the biggest thing) you aren't resistant to turning around when a route dead-ends. I've done some pretty dumb things before by not wanting to turn around, when there was a much safer route just down and a little around. It's not worth it. It's about an 800' ascent with a couple chutes that require a little care. I've found the best route is to go straight at it as much as possible and hang to the north (right on the way up, left on the way down) when you encounter something that makes you pucker.

    The south summit is about 6350'. The north summit is a little higher, 6398', but it is NOT recommended to attempt it without helmets, ropes, bouldering experience. I know folks who have done it without gear, but I think there are others who have died trying to get to it. My advice, enjoy the south summit and don't worry about the fact that the north summit is 40' higher.

    Hope that helps. - Gr
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    Member Torg84's Avatar
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    Greg,
    That was perfect! Thanks so much for the info.

    Dan

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    Member Torg84's Avatar
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    About how long does it take round trip??

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    Member Gr is for Greg's Avatar
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    Highly dependent on how fast you hike. People can be all over the map as far as that's concerned, not just for actual hiking pace but for how often you stop to look around, take pictures, check out wildlife or rock features, etc. I'd plan to start early and spend the whole day at it. First time I did it, it took us 10 hours or so, and I wouldn't call it a leisurely pace, but we didn't necessarily rush. I did it later that same summer with someone in much better shape than myself who had a time commitment, and we did the whole thing in 5.5 hrs, but that was with me breathing so hard I couldn't speak the entire way up and full-out running down, no breaks, not even at the summit. If you are just doing the ridge, plan for 6-8 hours. -Gr

    Quote Originally Posted by Torg84 View Post
    About how long does it take round trip??
    My signature is awesome.

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    I have hiked twice on this trail this summer, but due to limited time only made it to the second table. On a good sunny day, the view is something to behold. It takes me about 2.0hrs to get to the second table, which I think is about mile 2.2 or so. Watch for the muddy going through the alders, a little past the 1K marker. Also watch for the rock face just before the second table. It is not bad, one just needs to pay attention to their footing. There are also a couple 'geo cache' spots long the way for those that pursue that endeavor.
    Be safe and enjoy.

  7. #7
    Member Roger45's Avatar
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    All excellent comments so far, and the description was great. The first part is real easy and can be just a fast trip that takes you just past a huge boulder and get to the first table. There is a sharp switchback at this point and the second table is a short jaunt, I recommend going at least to the second table, which can be missed if you are not looking. You pop out of all trees and the trail makes a sharp 90 degree turn that goes straight up a ridge line for a couple of miles. At this point, look over the hill and towards the down river of the Knik and you will see the table a few yards down. This is a fantastic area to take pictures. If you only want a one to two hour hike, this is a popular turn around. If you go up the ridge line you will find two more tables (unless vandals have destroyed them). There are no less than 100 false peaks on the way ;-) Between the third and fourth tables is a little fresh water stream, but it is heavily used by sheep, so if you plan on getting water, boil it! At the 5300 foot mark there is the last table and usually a large snow/ice field year round. It is very flat in this area and is a good place to hydrate and have an energy snack IMHO. As said before, the trail follows a relatively flat ridge at this point that is fast and beautiful to follow. About half way along, on the left is Goat Creek Valley and you have the opportunity to take some great pictures. Video is fun as it looks like it is a knife edge you are walking on. At the end of this the final climb begins and it starts with some simple scree and sharply rises. If you are not in great shape, legs are cramping, not feeling great, don't go any further. Going down hill is much harder on the knees and legs, so use your best judgement on "if" you should go forward or call it a day and head down. The 5300 foot level is a great place to camp out too. Give yourself all day the first time, plan on a minimum of 5 hours if you are in great shape, 12 hours if you are in moderate shape and 2 weeks if you are a couch slug :-) It is a fun hike!
    "...and then Jack chopped down the beanstock, adding murder and ecological vandalism to the theft, enticement and vandalism charges already mentioned, but he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you're a hero, because no one asks the inconvenient questions." Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather

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    Member sheltm's Avatar
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    No less than 100 false peaks along the way.... can't wait for my first trip up!

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