Kenny Lake and Tonsina Daytreks

It’s been a while since my last blog post here. Partially due to these rather eventless Kenny Lake/Tonsina trips being next in queue, and partially due to demotivation over how far behind I am (It’s December and I’m still stuck in a backlog of June trips). Well, with some less than mediocre weather in Anchorage keeping me off my skis and homebound, I’ve developed a guilt-born itch to tackle the backlog of trips before a new onset of 2022 trips push me yet further away from being “up to date” (a status I’m convinced is unachievable for both me and this website).

So while neither of these trips particularly thrilled me, I’ll just hop back on the ole’ writing train and try to enjoy the ride…. In summary, the Kenny Lake daytrek affords the most uninterrupted views of the Wrangell giants (Drum, Sanford, Wrangell, and Blackburn) than, I believe, topography allows from any other vantage. The Tonsina daytrek was…. … eh. We will just have to get there when we get there.

June 17th 2021: A Kenny Lake Daytrek

Two 6000’ers loom high to the south of the Kenny Lake community: Peak 6250 and Peak 6150 (My GPS recorded a high of 6167′ on Peak 6150 and 6260′ on Peak 6250). Peak 6150 lies at the head of Hundell Creek and Peak 6250 is an area high point to further west. After the annual company dipnetting trip on the Chitna, I turned my eyes to these guys.

The schwacking down low wasn’t super dense, but accompanied by bugs I didn’t pause until I had successfully made it out of the trees and onto the rockslide on the northeast ridge of Peak 6150. When I am solo, I also speed through the tree sections on account of bear paranoia. Now I’m no bear biologist, so I don’t know if this serves to help or hurt my odds of a hypothetical bear run-in; but its just my nature to react this way. Although the rockslide area was open from the trees and a breeze helped with bugs, the rocks weren’t as nice as I’d hoped. On the way down, I would choose a beeline through the trees straight for the road instead of repeat the rockslide. Well anyways, I kept on poking my way up the ridge. There was an uncharacteristic and short steep section, which I booted footsteps into hard snow for, and from there I was on a plateau and back to doing what I do best; ridgewalking.

Chugach Peaks to the South

And walk I did. Right past a weather station and on toward Peak 6150. On Peak 6150 I found an indistinct but possible carin. Moving on to Peak 6250. Along the way, I found an orange surveyor triangle planted firmly in the ground, but nothing at the summit. There are two possible summits rivaling closely in elevation. So I walked to both. Both my water bottle level and my GPS ruled the eastern one as higher.

I later would learn from Steve Gruhn of 2020 ascent of Peak 6250 by Dave Hart and Renee Ernster, and Peak 6150 by just Dave on the same trip. Dave reports finding carins on both peaks, boot footprints near the top of Peak 6250, and a jacket near the top of Peak 6150.

The way back to 6150 was dull, except the inside half of one of my boots decided to spice things up by splitting open at the sole seam. I couldn’t even be mad; of all the trips to have had this happen on, I could think of many worse times and places! The sturdy boots had served me well up till now. The views all along had been spectacular, but the skies seemed more cloud-free on the way back. I raced the fading daylight back to the plateau with the weather station where I found my best vantage for photographing the Wrangell giants. Looking at Blackburn, I searched for the 8900′ Aydon Peak I’d been atop only a few days prior, but I couldn’t distinguish it. How can you pick out cookie crumbs like that from the foot of a massif like Blackburn? Way in the distance I could see, from floor to summit, the 3 vertical miles (16,000′) of rise on Canada’s Mount Logan. If you want to have a knockout day with a telephoto lens, this plateau is a fine place. I’ve never been more jealous of a weather station.

Me, happy as can be on the weather station plateau

June 18th 2021: A Tonsina Daytrek

I’ll start with the disclaimer that the following photos are from my iPhone, not my Sony A6000. I forgot it on this trip and at the point I realized this omission, I was already off and well on my way and I didn’t feel like returning for it. Well, for this daytrek I had an inside scoop from the local mail-runner, Erin, on her favorite spot for a hike. The location is due east of the north end of Tonsina Lake and the nearest named peak is the surveyor point Bow benchmark, which was on my agenda. She showed me the trailhead for it up at a gravel pit starting at 2500′ a few days prior. I’m a sucker for good accessibility! Well, I had been doing an online class every morning Monday through Thursday for this month of June, so I didn’t get a jump on the trailhead till about 10:30am. But a jump on it I did, rising quick over the first two bumps then dropping to keep from wasting elevation before rejoining the ridge again and en route for Bow Benchmark. After a couple hours of ‘one step in front of the other’, I finally got on up there and I beheld the surveyor’s dilapidated tripod and their etcetera’s of etcetera. From my photo roll however, I don’t posses any pictures of any iconic round surveying emblems. So I’m inclined to believe I don’t have a photo of it because it didn’t exist, so I’ll speculate as step further and wager that these surveyors didn’t sport the traditional surveyor fetish of hammering shiny ornaments into every hillsides they set theirs looking glasses on. Suppose its only natural, folks in the greater Glenallen area are more in the business of extracting shiny ornaments from the hillsides instead (mining gold). But sheooot! Reckon that’s enough farting in the wind for one paragraph; I’d better get on with this damn hiking story or I won’t have enough gas left in the tank for keeping the sleeping bag warm tonight!

From Bow Benchmark I went n’ chartered a course on to the next two peaks a stones throw further south; Peak 5310 and Peak 5325. From Steve Gruhn, I’d come to learn these peaks also had been graced by the feet of Dave Hart and Renee Ernster, except as an out-and-back trip, and in the year 2019. Following in footsteps…. weeeell shoot, they do say great minds think alike!

On the way over to these peaks some rain came in and out, but mostly I was just starting to feel the extended fatigue from previous days hikes setting into my legs. Which reason was it for? I don’t know, but my eyes sure gazed longingly at the pipeline access road down below. It would be a lovely godsend back to my car. Problem is; a mighty fine patch of brush sat fat and heavy between me and that pipeline.

You know that thing where you convince yourself the bushwhacking won’t be “thaat bad”, and then by the time you realize just how godawful it actually is, it is actually easier to keep on going through it than it is to turn around? Yeah? Well, I played that sneaky little trick on myself here and ohhohooohhoh; I fubbed me self reaaaal good this time! I wish my mind thought a little more greater and a little more alike Dave and Renee’s out-and-back on the ridge idea. But now I’d made my bed. Something about sleeping in it.

Something about sawing logs too! I was seeing so much sign of bear poop in there, the highest density I’d come to see all summer, that it had me slicing through the trees faster than you could believe. Whatever takes your mind off of the pain and makes it go by faster is good I guess? But to set the record straight for anyone thinking of replicating this; don’t. The bushwhacking really was so bad that if I could do it again, I would choose to double back on the ridge. Down in the flats of the bushwhacking, water ran overtop the woodland floor a couple times and I took off my boots to wade it. And from the satellite imagery I shouldn’t have even had to cross a stream. On the pipeline access trail, mosquitos had me sweating in the safety of my rain jacket, gloves, and (thank God) my headnet. The breezy ridge would’ve been nicer. Back on the other side of the pipeline access gate my legs were done. I phoned Erin and thankfully she agreed to come drive my defeated ass the 3 miles and 750 vertical feet back up to the car.

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