After a few days of rain down in Anchorage, UAA grad student Greg McCann and I were hoping for some promising accumulations of snow in the higher elevations of the western Chugach peaks. While the snow was much less than we had hoped for, the wind more than exceeded our expectations.
Much to our chagrin, there was at best two inches of snow during our hike up Rendezvous Ridge above Alpenglow ski area. The thin layer of snow poses few problems when walking on tundra, but creates significant hazards when ascending or descending rocky surfaces and scree or talus slopes. Sticking to ridges is the safest way to minimize your risk.
As typical in the wintertime, Anchorage was enshrouded in fog and low-lying clouds. Half-way up Arctic Valley Road on Ft. Richardson land, we broke through the clouds with views extending to Mt. Susitna in the west. Just before the ski area, take a right turn and park just before a locked gate.
From here, you can follow a dirt road as it winds through the willows to the base of Rendezvous Ridge. Later in the season when the snow is thicker, don’t get suckered into cutting straight across the willows as the snow doesn’t pack in well and you’ll find yourself knee-deep or higher.
The winds became cold and steady just as we approached the main northwest-southeast ridge. Strong blasts were coming over from the Eagle River side of the ridge and from the peaks in the central Chugach State Park.
Taiya, my four-legged hiking partner who was on her first hike after recovering from torn-ACL surgery, kept seeking shelter behind boulders on the ridge. I elected to join her and add an extra layer of clothing for warmth. Peaking out from behind the protection of the rocks, there were nice views of Cantata Triangle peaks to the southeast and clear views of the Talkeetna Mountains to the northeast.
After a few photos and a quick assessment of the risk for frostbite, we elected to bale off the ridge down one of the ski slopes. This was a safe evacuation route given the low snow, but later in the season, high winds could create wind-loading on the leeward side of the ridge and put you at risk for triggering an avalanche. In that case, you would need to descend the same way you came up.
At about 1,500 feet of vertical rise, Rendezvous Peak is a nice alternative to Flattop when you want a change of scenery. If you’re looking for a longer trip or greater challenge, this trip will merely whet your appetite.
Rendezvous Peak is 3 miles round trip and takes less than three hours, making it a good half-day trip. To suggest or join a trip, e-mail: [email protected]