Mt McKinley: winter solo ascent

This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
Post Reply
User avatar
Chip Down
Posts: 2294
Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Mt McKinley: winter solo ascent

Post by Chip Down » January 23rd, 2021, 10:05 pm

Did you know there's a Mt McKinley in Washington? Well, not exactly, but there's a McKinley Ridge, so I'm calling the high point Mt McKinley. The summitpost page shows just three attempts, one of which was by Don Nelsen.

McKinley Ridge is immediately north of the Bluff Mountain trailhead, and can easily be accessed from same. Of course, you'll need a Jeep to access that trailhead. I've done it in my Element, and in an Outback, but it always leaves me sobbing. So this time I dropped my car at the bottom of Rd 4104, where it leaves 41. Road 4104 eventually follows McKinley, below ridgecrest, and rejoins 41 at Bluff Mountain trailhead. Road 4104 is even less drivable than 41, but that's okay, I have some new-year-resolution calories to burn. There are several unmapped variants, and one mapped variant that doesn't exist, so it's a fun little adventure. I saw tire tracks, but trust me, this isn't a road for your Civic.

There are two high points on McKinley Ridge, nearly the same elevation. I gather the southern one is a smidge higher. It's a miserable bushwhack, but at least it's short. Once you get to the top, you're rewarded with a view of trees. Fortunately, the northern summit is easy to attain, and it's more scenic. The south summit is really just for the obsessive, and those seeking bragging rights.

From the north summit, I saw a couple appealing peaks to the north. A little research revealed they're closer than they look, and easy to access. I'm calling them Roosevelt Peak and Lesser Roosevelt peak. They were much more rewarding than the Mt McKinley summits.
Attachments
0.jpg
1.jpg
2.jpg
Dead-end roads are rarely this charming.
3.jpg
The crest of McKinley ridge (it's not always this open).
4.jpg
St Helens from Roosevelt.
5.jpg
Little Roosevelt viewed from Big Roosevelt.
6.jpg
Along the way to Lesser Roosevelt's summit.
7.jpg
Lesser Roosevelt's summit.
8.jpg
This was one of those hikes that actually added to my to-do list.
9.jpg
Forecast said it would be cold, so I took two coats.

User avatar
Bosterson
Posts: 2135
Joined: May 18th, 2009, 3:17 pm
Location: Portland

Re: Mt McKinley: winter solo ascent

Post by Bosterson » January 23rd, 2021, 11:04 pm

What a bizarre coincidence that I almost ran into you on McKinley today. :D I actually saw what was probably your bike and shoe tracks in the snow up there, as I got to the summit at 3pm. I started up FR 41 and quickly lost interest in another hour of slow driving over muddy potholes, so I turned around and parked at the Snass Creek trail, which connects to 4104 at its top. I did a little thrashing for fun and to shortcut some of the road a few times, then started up the 605 road to the north summit of McKinley (not realizing that even was a summit - did it have a view?), then started circling my way up the south summit off trail from the north (dumb). On my way down I headed down the south aspect and immediately found what were probably your footprints, and followed those down a little user trail to the open slope above the road - a *much* better route up than the stupid thrash I did from the north. The concentric circles of trees alternating with open areas (which seemed like old roads but weren't) - those are from the hill being replanted after the Yacolt burn 100 years ago? Strange little area - TKO (ahem) or someone should organize a work party to go pick up the mountains of plastic bottles, beer cans, and other trash out there. But again, how totally bizarre we almost ran into each other on the same dinky hill in the middle of nowhere! FYI: I was using the Caltopo mapbuilder map, which labels it "McKinley Ridge," but the USFS and USGS layers seem to call it "Ulmer."
#pnw #bestlife #bitingflies #favoriteyellowcap #neverdispleased

User avatar
Chip Down
Posts: 2294
Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Re: Mt McKinley: winter solo ascent

Post by Chip Down » January 24th, 2021, 8:39 am

Damn shame I didn't know about Snass Creek. That would have been a better start, eventually connecting to my route. Oh well, still fun.

Imagine if we had passed each other with just a nod, and then only later realized who we had met.

Having a little trouble with this:
Bosterson wrote:
January 23rd, 2021, 11:04 pm
... then started up the 605 road to the north summit of McKinley (not realizing that even was a summit - did it have a view?), then started circling my way up the south summit off trail from the north (dumb). On my way down I headed down the south aspect and immediately found what were probably your footprints, and followed those down a little user trail to the open slope above the road - a *much* better route up than the stupid thrash I did from the north.
I followed the deadend spur road from 4104 to the north summit, then back down, and at a relatively clear spot at the saddle between N and S, I bushwhacked southbound to the south summit (PITA). To get back down, I aimed for the same route, but ended up veering left/west a bit, and had to correct. But it was bushwhacking the whole way. I was never on the south side of the main south summit. Unless there really is a trail on the south side, which somebody else walked up and left tracks in the snow, I think one of us is confused. Come to think of it, it's certainly possible both of us are confused. I can mark up a map in more detail if you'd like, or you can do so if you wish, or perhaps you aren't as troubled by this as I am.

User avatar
drm
Posts: 5450
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: The Dalles, OR
Contact:

Re: Mt McKinley: winter solo ascent

Post by drm » January 24th, 2021, 10:00 am

Mt. McKinley in Washington shouldn't be confusing, because there hasn't been one in Alaska for some time.

User avatar
Don Nelsen
Posts: 3898
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Vancouver, WA

Re: Mt McKinley: winter solo ascent

Post by Don Nelsen » January 24th, 2021, 1:20 pm

Chip Down wrote:
January 23rd, 2021, 10:05 pm
Did you know there's a Mt McKinley in Washington? Well, not exactly, but there's a McKinley Ridge, so I'm calling the high point Mt McKinley. The summitpost page shows just three attempts, one of which was by Don Nelsen.
Ah yes, I remember it well! A little bump in the terrain with row upon row of trees separated by deep bear grass. Nice views, though. Looks like I should have taken a look at Roosevelt too. Thanks, though, Roosevelt's now on my increasingly longer short list.

I hiked it with Kelly Wagner on March 10th, 2015, driving my old SUV, thoroughly trashing it.

Here are some photos I took that day:

The summit of McKinley:
Image

Looking towards Silver Star:
Image

Little Lookout Mt. and Lookout Mt.
Image

Google Earth image showing those odd concentric rings of trees:
Image

Thanks for the opportunity to reminisce on a drizzly day.

dn
"Everything works in the planning stage".

User avatar
bobcat
Posts: 2199
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Re: Mt McKinley: winter solo ascent

Post by bobcat » January 24th, 2021, 5:08 pm

Yes, the Roosevelt peaks are far more enticing.
Bosterson wrote:
January 23rd, 2021, 11:04 pm
The concentric circles of trees alternating with open areas (which seemed like old roads but weren't) - those are from the hill being replanted after the Yacolt burn 100 years ago?
Yes, they seem the same age as those on Silver Star above Hagen Creek - but I think those were only planted in the 60s or 70s. Were they noble firs?
Bosterson wrote:
January 23rd, 2021, 11:04 pm
TKO (ahem) or someone should organize a work party
Wrong state for TKO. And trail organizations don't go off trail or on road to pick up garbage. I once met a couple of guys who trundled up to a trailhead also being used as a garbage dump and cleared it of all the stuff, but they were a lone pair of angels, not part of any organization.

User avatar
Bosterson
Posts: 2135
Joined: May 18th, 2009, 3:17 pm
Location: Portland

Re: Mt McKinley: winter solo ascent

Post by Bosterson » January 25th, 2021, 12:18 am

John:

Yep, nobles all over the place up there. You can see them in my summit view:

McKinley view.jpg

I actually found a freshly windblown treetop branch lower down and hiked along crushing its needles between my fingers and huffing them. I've finally realized what noble needles smell like: mandarins!

Good point about TKO vs WTA for Washington - I forget that crossing the river matters for such jurisdictional things, since the whole area out there is our collective backyard. I thought about bringing a crew back to collect all the endless detritus, but I'm sure it would just be replenished by new trash this summer. This is a camp I found up on the hill by the 603 road above 4104 - surely these bozos will come back:

camp.jpg

Chip:

Here's a map: I cut the switchback on 4104 going up (easy until I started having to crawl under the branches of the noble plantings, would not do again), then took the road down to the 605 spur to the little saddle (where I found bike and boot prints in the snow), and thrashed south to the summit. From there I figured I'd try to find a less thrashy route heading more southerly, immediately found bootprints, and followed them down a very clear, non thrashy route that seemed to follow a game trail or faint user trail (sorry, it was heading SW, not S), until I popped out into a steep meadow right above the road. The red dot is the actual GPS marker of where I caught the road again; the blue line is a hand drawn approximation, as I wasn't taking a track.

summit map.jpg

DN: thanks for the sat photo of McKinley's summit! Those concentric rings are super bizarre seen aerially, and were quite perplexing trying to thrash through them and finding the repeated beargrass alleys - I've never off trailed anywhere like that before.
#pnw #bestlife #bitingflies #favoriteyellowcap #neverdispleased

User avatar
Chip Down
Posts: 2294
Joined: November 8th, 2014, 8:41 pm

Re: Mt McKinley: winter solo ascent

Post by Chip Down » January 25th, 2021, 12:49 am

Okay Bosterson, thanks for the map. I should have realized when you referred to the clearing, you meant the steep beargrass meadow above the road. I was wondering if you meant the clearing at the saddle, which is where I started my ascent of the north slope (slightly east of your route, but just as unpleasant). And because you didn't do a nice straight traverse, and I was all over the place on my sloppy descent, it's easy to see why I found it hard to picture your route. The only question is the user trail you mentioned. I must have barely missed it, or just didn't notice it.
drm wrote:
January 24th, 2021, 10:00 am
Mt. McKinley in Washington shouldn't be confusing, because there hasn't been one in Alaska for some time.
I almost hesitated to pollute search results with my whimsical topic title, but then remembered nobody looking for climbing info on that other mountain would type McKinley in their search.

Post Reply