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Thread: Backpacking in Late May/Early June

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    Default Backpacking in Late May/Early June

    Hey all,

    The wife and I are planning a 7-8 day backpacking trip to Alaska at the end of May or first week of June. This will be our first time there so we are very excited. That said, we've had difficulty narrowing our destination choices. Right now we like the idea of doing Kesugi Ridge and Crow Pass. However, we are worried that May/June will be too early in the year to do these trails. We're also concerned that these areas may be too popular or crowded.

    Anyone have any insight or suggestions? Here's some basic info on what we've been looking for:

    - Great mountain and valley views
    - Varied terrain and plant/wildlife
    - Glacier sightings, the closer the better
    - Relative seclusion (ideally, we wouldn't see any other people at all)
    - Opportunities for some non-technical mountain climbing

    We are both in good health and fitness so that isn't much of a concern. Also, we've had experience hiking and camping in Colorado....though we are certainly not survival experts by any means.

    Help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Those two hikes are absolutely great, but you will certainly encounter snow. The earliest I have done Crow Pass is mid-June. When I did that we were in the snow for about 3 miles, basically at the top of the pass through to the decent of about the first 5-700' into Raven Valley. It's totally doable, but there will be some slipping and sliding. You will not see too many people on the hike, though there will be some within 3 miles of each trailhead. You also may encounter a couple of bear hunters on the Eagle River side, though that's doubtful.

    I'm not sure about Kesugi that early on, but again I'm guessing that you would be dealing with snow. If you can push your trip back 2 weeks or so you'd be better off snow-wise, but you'd probably see more people as well.

  3. #3

    Default To give you an idea

    Here in Anchorage at sea level, we are typically not allowed to bike on the trails until June 1st due to them still being soft and wet from ground thawing out. Most trails that have any kind of elevation gain will put you into the snow anytime before July (some will through the entire year). This doesn't mean they are not good to hike, but just be prepared. Figure that travel will be much slower and you may only be able to reasonably travel in the first half of the day before things soften up when you get higher. Depending on where you are, you could easily have 60-70 during the day and freezing temps at night.

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    Default Early Season Options

    Even early June can be early for some places in Alaska. I have been on Kesugi but not in the early season. It does get more visitation however as it accessible from a roadside trailhead.

    Regards

    Greg
    Last edited by Webmaster; 02-14-2008 at 06:24.
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    Member AlbertJohnson's Avatar
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    Yeah, i was going to hike the Chilkoost Trail in late May, but found out there may have been WAY too much snow. Course you DO skip the state bird at that time of year.

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    Thanks for the thoughts so far.

    We're kind of locked when it comes to our travel days. If we had it our way, this would be planned for around August or so. Sadly, late Spring is the best we can do.

    Just how much snow should we be expecting? Like are we talking about inches? Feet? YARDS ?

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    Member northernalberta's Avatar
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    I would think in early june, you'd get by okay for the most part with good waterproof boots, gaiters, and rain pants. I would expect some slop in the shadows, like a lot of mud & slushy snow up to even waist deep, but then clear sailing on the hillslopes that receive direct sunlight. I'm not a big fan of getting rained on while trudging through waist-deep slush, that's why I gave up june backpacking here in Alberta. But I know june is typically nicer in AK.

    I expect to be up there again june 8-15, geez I should do a mid-week backpacking trip while I'm there...

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    Quote Originally Posted by northernalberta View Post
    I would think in early june, you'd get by okay for the most part with good waterproof boots, gaiters, and rain pants. I would expect some slop in the shadows, like a lot of mud & slushy snow up to even waist deep, but then clear sailing on the hillslopes that receive direct sunlight. I'm not a big fan of getting rained on while trudging through waist-deep slush, that's why I gave up june backpacking here in Alberta. But I know june is typically nicer in AK.

    I expect to be up there again june 8-15, geez I should do a mid-week backpacking trip while I'm there...
    Waist deep? That's an awful lot of slush.

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    Member garnede's Avatar
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    A frien of mine did Crow Creek in late may and said there was 3-4 miles of snow averaging knee deep and waist deep in places. He said that the light weight plastic running snow shoes would have helped in the deeper snow. The majority of the trail will be quiet at that time of year.
    It ain't about the # of pounds of meat we bring back, nor about how much we spent to go do it. Its about seeing what no one else sees.

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    Hmm, we don't own any snowshoes unfortunately. Then again, 3-4 miles out of the total trail of 14 or so miles doesn't sound too bad.

    Would Kesugi Ridge potentially have less snow since it has more sun exposure (at least I think it has more exposure)?

    Also, does all this snow make the trail more difficult to follow?

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    I've crossed Crow Pass when there is ample snow, and it's rarely an issue. Travel in the morning or early afternoon and you should be fine. You won't sink more than a few inches in most of the snow that time of year, as most of it is highly compacted even if deep. The trail will become apparent once you get off the snow patches while dropping down into Raven Valley. You may get off it by a ways, but it won't matter as you'll be well above treeline.

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    Member northernalberta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gustavus View Post
    Waist deep? That's an awful lot of slush.

    Well.... slushy snow. I have pictures to prove it!

    Would you guys say there is the same snowpack this winter as the last, or more, or less?

    I backpacked Resurrection Pass last year on june 21st and there was no snow, and I'd kinda like to mountain bike it around june 12th this year if it's not too muddy.

    My time spent in Alaska has now been reduced to punctuated visits, unfortunately, so I can't always choose the best time to do these trips...

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Pretty heavy snowload in the Kenai Mountains and Western Chugach Range, not as much as usual in the southern Talkeetnas. Additionally, there didn't seem to be much in the central AK Range when I was up in Cantwell last weekend.

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    Just a thought,

    You might consider the Kenai Peninsula for that time of year. I hiked from Seward to Hope in the first week of June. The Resurrection River "trail" was a deadfall tree mess, a nightmare for hiking, but when we joined up with the Resurrection Pass trail all was great. This area does have people around usually, which is a negative. The positive would be that you'd have plenty of opportunities to hike off the beaten path and you might be able to find some snow-free ridges to scramble up.

    I've been on Kesugi in the third week of June and it was passable. Just a guess, but it seems like late May/early June would be too early for that one. The advantage of Crow Pass over Kesugi is that while Crow Pass would probably have more snow up high, you spend a lot less time and distance at those elevations than on Kesugi ridge, which is almost entirely at those elevations.

    Have fun!

    Paul

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    Default snow melt

    Quote Originally Posted by northernalberta View Post
    Would you guys say there is the same snowpack this winter as the last, or more, or less?
    .
    It doesn't seem like it but the overall snowfall this year was greater than last and more than normal. It seems hard to believe because we had several melt cycles this winter where a lot of snow melted. It's always hard to predict when routes will be open though.

    The amount of snowfall in the winter is only half of the equation. Just as important is what sort of a spring we have. If it's a cool and cloudy spring then even if the snow pack is not that deep it can seem to linger forever. And even deep snow melts fast if the spring is a really warm and sunny one.
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    Well, after months of planning and such, we're about all set to head out. We finally have almost all of our equipment. The only thing left, funny enough, is to pick the specific trails we want to do. We have 8 days and 7 nights, so we're hoping to do three trails.

    We've basically set out a list of trails we like and will make the final decision a couple days before we leave (based on weather/snow conditions). We also bought some snowshoes that we'll take with us in case snow levels don't improve. Our ideal trip is (roughly in order):

    - Caines Head Alpine Trail w/ a loop back through the lower trail
    - Exit Glacier & Harding Icefield (I'm hearing this may be a no-go due to the amount of snow...hopefully it will melt more in the next two weeks)
    - Kesugi Ridge

    Also on the list, as backups, are:

    - Crow Pass
    - Lost Lake
    - Devil's Pass w/ loop through Resurection Pass and the Summit Creek Trail

    We're going to try to keep a decent pace...12 to 15 miles per day...so we can complete three or so trails. Not sure if that's doable given the weather conditions, but we can always cut it down to two if we're moving too slowly.

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    Default Kesugi

    Ive hiked Kesugi many times beween little coal creek and troublesome creek. From the north, by first week in june, you will definantly run into snowpack in sheltered valleys and ravines but its usually really dense snow and you can walk right on top. Most of the hike is in open alpine and it gets good exposure so the majority of it should be snow free. Early June is a great time to hike Kesugi IMO. Keep your eyes open for brown bears up there. Alot of the snowfields are really easy hiking and nothing is better than rolling in snow when your sweating and its 80 and sunny

    BTW the best way to hike that trail IMO is to go in at little coal creek and hike it south. Little Coal has the easiest access to alpine, although Ermine lake trail is good too. YOu can drop back down to the highway at Ermine lk trail, byers lake trail or all the way back to troublesome creek (which is a long hike, i think about 20 miles)

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    Quote Originally Posted by dkwarthog View Post
    Ive hiked Kesugi many times beween little coal creek and troublesome creek. From the north, by first week in june, you will definantly run into snowpack in sheltered valleys and ravines but its usually really dense snow and you can walk right on top. Most of the hike is in open alpine and it gets good exposure so the majority of it should be snow free. Early June is a great time to hike Kesugi IMO. Keep your eyes open for brown bears up there. Alot of the snowfields are really easy hiking and nothing is better than rolling in snow when your sweating and its 80 and sunny

    BTW the best way to hike that trail IMO is to go in at little coal creek and hike it south. Little Coal has the easiest access to alpine, although Ermine lake trail is good too. YOu can drop back down to the highway at Ermine lk trail, byers lake trail or all the way back to troublesome creek (which is a long hike, i think about 20 miles)
    Good to know. When I called the ranger station, the woman said there was something like 40-50 inches of snow on the ridge - kinda made my jaw drop. Turns out we will be there the last couple of days of May so maybe by then it will be a little less extreme.

    We were planning on starting from the Little Coal Creek trailhead. I had heard there was a company that will move your car from the trailhead to Byers Lake for you. Anyone know anything about that?

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