Climbing buddies? Eklutna Traverse March 2010
I have been trying to get an Eklutna Traverse trip planned with some friends for the last couple years. As of now, not been able to get the plans to stick. I was hoping to get some more information about the route, as well as the condition of the glacial route in early spring. I have also heard that someone solo skate skied the route in a day... anybody else hear that? If that is the case, is there a route that is realistic to make solo? I do have lots of glacier travel, crevasse rescue and climbing experience, but limited time "roped up". I have flown the route and it definitely looks like a good chunk of the route is accumulation zone, and that is what makes me wonder if a solo trip can be done. As far as the huts along the way, I know they are maintained by AMC, but are they for anyone's use? If I was planning to ski the route, would it be better to go Girdwood-Eklutna, or Eklutna-Girdwood? Seems to me that climbing up to Girdwood side would allow more gentle cruising down to Eklutna Lake, would that be an accurate assumption? Are there any side summits that I am going to want to try that I should allow layover days for? And finally, is anybody out there with "roped up" and crevasse rescue experience that would be interested in making a run in early March 2010? Anybody out there wish any answers for me, I would really appreciate answers and input. Anybody interested in joining up please let me know as well. Thanks so much for everyones time and input.
okay I will try to hit this point by point -
the route has been skate skied in a day, multiple times. i believe it has been done solo, but i'm not positive. however, the only way this is remotely possible is to go in the summer, when the snow has settled down to a hard crust for fast skiing. In March you're looking at short daylight, cold temps, and deep powder. i have snowshoed it, which was a mistake. i would strongly recommend skis with climbing skins or preferably waxless backcountry skis with climbing skins for the steeper sections.
In March there should be a lot of powder snow everywhere along the route. the snow is generally deep, but some sections get blown bare, particularly on the Eklutna Glacier. as far as solo, that's a personal decision, but I wouldn't do it. I fell in a crevasse the first week of April on the Eklutna Glacier. late in the season (when skate-skiing would be possible), the glaciers should be pretty bare and danger zones should be more obvious.
you are right, much of the route is accumulation zone. having had some bad experiences with crevasses, I no longer unrope anywhere on a glacier if the ice surface is hidden by snow, but I did parts of that trip unroped. the upper Eklutna and Whiteout Glaciers are relatively safe. We were unroped on the upper Eagle Glacier as well, but that area just doesn't feel as safe and I wouldn't do that again.
The huts (except the APU hut above Girdwood) are maintained by the MCA. Because they are within Chugach State Park, they are for anyone's use (as opposed to other MCA huts which require membership). On the other hand, joining the MCA is cheap ($10-20 I think) and is a great way to support hut maintenance. The huts are first come, first serve. The APU hut is private and will be locked or occupied.
I would strongly recommend going from Girdwood to Eklutna - you will get most of the elevation gain out of the way the first day and spend a lot more time pointed downhill.
there are many easy peaks to summit along the way, so the side trips are up to you. you can climb Hut Peak from Hans' Hut easily and you won't need a whole day for that. Insignificant and Whiteout Peaks are also easily accessible with skis/snowshoes from the traverse but would probably require a day (you could get both in a day if you wanted to). Allowing an extra day or two for side trips also gives you some weather days if necessary - it's called the Whiteout Glacier for a reason.
sorry to say I can't go this year, but let me know if you have any more questions. good luck!