Peak 5350 (Talkeetna Mountains)

April 24th and 25th 2021

A nameless summit of ~5350′ south of the Denali Highway near the Susitna River crossing and north of the surveyor point called Way Benchmark. This was a good simple trip with Sean Marble and likely my last ski trip of the year.

Welp, it was after changing one flat tire that Sean and I arrived at the trailhead of a 4wheel/snowmachine trail at Snodgrass Lake. We stayed on it for about 2.5 miles until coming to the rather wide Butte Creek. We crossed it on an intact snow bridge and were then soon picking our way up through the underbrush. I don’t think it was super dense, but it was isothermal. We wove between some little mounds and eventually got to the base of the drainage that’d take us into the north bowl of Peak 5350. We napped for a while before continuing up. We were surprised to find the snow going up the drainage to be bulletproof. Sometimes your ski traction would slip unexpectedly and explosively and you’d need to come to a fragile, static balance else you slide an inconsequential but cumbersome slide for who knows how far.

We continued up like this, naturally gaining the north ridge and to the saddle on the north ridge of Peak 5350. A bit above the saddle at around 5000′, we ditched our skiis and made way for the summit. In ski boots and without crampons, I don’t think either of us really wanted the weight and awkwardness of skiis on our backs. This meant we wouldn’t be getting a ‘true’ ski descent, but we were more than satisfied with what we would safely be getting: a summit and a view or two.

The ski descent of the west face was great and giddy. Spring skiing is vibe. At 3100′ we came to an island of tundra and made it our home for the night. We walked barefoot on the tundra, its feel and smell issuing a nostalgia for the soon-to-be season; summer. Sean realized he had his boot liners on the wrong feet, explaining some of the days discomfort. We enjoyed a lazy evening marooned on the tundra with nothing to do but soak in the beauty. According to other people, the night of April 24th had a really good aurora show. I must’ve missed the peak of it but, between dreams, I managed to wake up and hold my camera steady for one ok aurora photo.

Sunday morning, we wound down to Butte Creek. From the summit of Peak 5350 I remembered looking up the creek and noting no open sections. I must’ve been fooled by a continuous snow bank on the opposing side, or view obscured by a canyony feature, or something -because when we got to Butte Creek it was like totally open. We took off our boots and waded across once. As we went downstream we found ourselves wanting to switch sides more often to avoid schwacking. Fortunately, snow bridges somehow become more widespread as we went downstream (odd but welcomed). We followed the creek until reaching the previous days’ single crossing. Followed this back to the car, arrived back to Fairbanks at a respectable hour.

Green line ascent of Peak 5350. Skied down the back side starting near red X
Easter Egg! This is Peak 6000 in the Clearwater Mountains north of Swampbuggy Lake (first climbed by surveyors in 1950). In April 2020 we (Zack Siemsen, Alexa Dobson, Zach Nicholson, and myself) went up the purple line dubbed Large Intestine with hopes of skiing the blue line dubbed Small Intestine. After reaching the summit and making it down to the start of the Small Intestine, we found the snow recessed too far in the semi-canyon, not getting enough sun to soften, and as a result: too hard of snowpack for us to ski. We made our way back over to the Large Intestine and skied that to get down instead.

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