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Thread: Matanuska Reak vs. Pioneer Peak

  1. #1
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    Default Matanuska Reak vs. Pioneer Peak

    I am originally from AK and bringing some friends up from Louisiana to see it for their first time. We are only going to be there for one week and I am expected to show them some of the best of Alaska on a budget. I was planning on taking them hiking (obviously), but I'd really like to climb something with an actual summit. The questions ae these:

    1) Which of the two is an "easier" hike? Matanuska Peak or Pioneer Peak? And are either of these doable for your average ambitious flatlander or am I aiming for dissapointment attempting either of these with amateur to novice hikers? Is it doable in a day with said hikers?

    2) Is there some other 4-6k peak that is accessible from Anchorage that will entertain all of us while not being too challenging for an amateur?

    We are planning on staying in Anchorage, but we may venture in the Seward/Kenai direction and I have friends to visit in Mat-Su, so we'll be out that way also. We are going at the end of July.

    Any help is appreciated. Its been a long time since I've been back and I don't know my way around as well as I used to.

  2. #2
    Member Roger45's Avatar
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    Easier is a relative term

    A couple of years ago I did a round trip up Matanuska Peak in 6 hours. Round trip for Pioneer Peak 13 hours.

    Mat Peak, park at the end of Smith Road. Head up dirt road...a few hundred yards up the trail is a big sign pointing you up a trail on the left. Great trail, steady uphill climb, and adds at least a mile to your trip, but do not take any of the left trails that head up Lazy Mountain (2 or 3 I think). If you stay on the dirt road, you end up at a water diversion project in short order. More flat areas on this road than on the "real" trail. Stay to the left of the stream and follow the trail up the wide canyon to a well marked fork in the trail. This fork is where the two trails come together. Head to the base of Mat Peak up the valley where you will find a picnic table. Last water just beyond...once over the water the trail starts going straight up. The higher you go, the steeper and more boulders. On a sunny day, great views! From the parking lot to the picnic table is a fun hike 1 1/2 to 2 hours for me one way. No trekking poles or crampons needed. From there up I like my poles and frequently add instep crampons as I am too old to fall .

    Pioneer Peak has a parking lot off the Old Knik Road. Great trail from the start that zig zags for the first few miles through all the trees and stuff. It takes me about an hour or so to get to the first picnic table (been a couple of years). At this table you take a 90 degree turn and traverse a short way to the second picnic table on the spine of a ridge that you follow to 5300 foot level. The second table is easy to miss if you turn up the spine and not look over the edge and down on the right (you head up and left). As you look up the spine you will find about 2 dozen places that look the the crest coming up. Nothing difficult, just a long pull uphill. The 3rd picnic table is at about 4,500 feet level or so if I remember right. Usually some water running by, but it gets a lot of sheep traffic so I have avoided drinking it. At 5300 feet there is a big plateau with the last picnic table and an ice field. Great place to rest up and have a snack. For the next mile or so the trail is relatively flat as you follow a narrow spine until you have the last climb up to the top of the south peak (less than 1,000 feet higher). Do not try to go to the North peak from the South unless you have technical gear. Wow, what a view from here!

    As to your last question...almost every hill you pass between south Anchorage and the Valley will have a trail to the top. One of my favorites for a simple trip is up to the top of Bear Mountain. You take the Peters Creak exit and head uphill, kind of a PITA to get to the trail head, but worth the trip IMHO. Head down the dirt road, watching to your left for the small trail. Take that left and you wind your way up through the trees. There is a small fork up this trail that is easy to tell you head to the right and up a draw like area. You head up this draw and when you come out on top you head to the left where you can look back down towards the Glenn and at the whole northern part of Cook Inlet. You can expand this trip by heading towards the next few peaks, always knowing that you can head back to the dirt road on the right that goes up this valley about 20 miles. Fun trip.

    Hope that helps some.
    "...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

  3. #3
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    Default Conditioning?

    I tend to hike quite a bit, and although I'm far from the condition I was in 10 (or even 5) years ago, I consider both Mat and Pioneer to be a lot to take on without some other climbs under my belt earlier in the season. If I did them without some prior mountain training time, I'd not be walking much for a few days. :-) There are others that might be a better fit. Bear Mountain was mentioned. Rainbow or McHugh on the Turnagain Arm also come to mind as well as the climb from Crow Creek (Girdwood area) to the top of Crow Pass. If I were in your shoes, I'd take them to the twin peaks trail from the Eklutna Campground. Climb to the pass and you see the backside of Pioneer. Lots of sheep up there. I posted a couple pics I took up there a few years back in the following thread.

    http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...325#post185325

    On the other hand, you know better than anyone what kind of shape they're in, and the difficulty of a hike from one person to another varies greatly. You can read more about both hikes on alaskahikesearch.com with the following links.

    http://www.alaskahikesearch.com/Hikes/Pioneer.htm

    http://www.alaskahikesearch.com/Hikes/Matpeak.htm

    -Mitch
    Last edited by Carnivore; 06-17-2010 at 13:52. Reason: added info
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  4. #4
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    if you want to summit one of the two, then go up byers (matanuska) peak. getting to the true summit (N) of pioneer requires a bit of technical climbing on an exposed ridge and is not for the faint of heart, especially after being fatigued by the very long ridge ascent.

    mcroberts creek trail (to byers peak) is not nearly as strenuous as the pioneer ridge, and would be a very good choice, though it is a bear of a climb compared to some others.

    Nearby lazy mountain would be a good initial hike to judge your friends' fitness before attempting a "real" mountain.

    Williwaw lakes would be a good choice as well, which presents optional mountaineering side trips while enjoying alpine splendor from a lower elevation.

  5. #5
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    Don't forget about the Bodenburg Butte! Sure it's only 800 + feet but it may be a good warm up for your guests. Good view of Knik Glacier to make it worth while.

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