Saturday, May 31, 2014

Memorial Saturday: Mt. Juneau

After eight years of living in Juneau, we finally hiked Mt. Juneau. We wondered why we hadn't done it sooner, the views throughout the hike are stupendous - rather than a hard slog through trees and it's really a quick jaunt - not a 10 hour ordeal like some other alpine hikes I know. 

We drove to the Perseverance trail head and started with only one other car in the lot.

 We had wonderful views of Mt. Roberts and downtown almost the whole way. 

Of course then dark clouds rolled in and I remembered that every other time we've planned or attempted this trail, the weather didn't cooperate. That's the trouble for us; if the weather looks good in the valley, it's not necessarily good downtown.

I've heard that the trail is so much better now that Trail Mix put in switchbacks, reducing the tough scramble up the steep slope. 

This was our first real hike of the season and I just plum didn't trust myself or my shoes. The trail crosses a couple of waterfalls and during spring melt this was enough to set my teeth a-chattering. Mr. X walked straight through. I did more of a scramble.

Despite the hot temperatures and sun we had throughout May, several snow sheets were still in place. I don't mind the one below in which there is a bit of grass at the end. Those other sheets that end in a sheer drop-off were not my favorite.

A nice view of Gastineau Channel to Stephen's Passage.

For most of the hike it also felt like we were on our own, hiking by ourselves. We did leapfrog some Portuguese hikers a couple times, but they ended up skipping this snow sheet and heading up the old trail - straight up the mountain. I was was wishing we had tried that route on the way down.

Once on top we explored the old wreckage left from a proposed Mt. Juneau tram (pre-Mt Roberts). The building was full of four feet of blown snow.

We sat down in some mostly dry heather to chicken salad pita sandwiches and chocolate and almonds overlooking the mountains of the Juneau icefield.

The wind gusted and it was cold. Another hiker had warned us on his way down that it was cold and he was having trouble warming up. I was glad that we had packed layers since I had been removing all the clothes I could on the way up, but when my thumbs went numb, I was happy to pile on my hat and neck gator and jacket.

On the way down we greeted a number of hikers on the way up. Several asked if they were almost there or how many snow sheets there were. One wanted to hike the ridge line to Granite Creek Basin, but I mentioned that there was a cornice on the ridge since they were worried about the snow sheets. Apparently some hikers in town wouldn't be dissuaded by that, but if you're worried about snow sheets, you probably would worry about a cornice, at least that's my logic.

It seemed like Mr. X knew everyone out for the hike. A number of people stopped did a double take and said, "Hey, that's [Mr. X]". When we got back to the parking lot it was overflowing. A popular day to be out and about.

I was glad that on the way down I had regained my hiking confidence and I hope this season will be a stellar one.

Ebner falls as seen from Perseverance Trail

After returning from our trip to Hoonah and Tenakee, I learned that a woman went missing that weekend on the neighboring Mt. Roberts and major search occurred through the holiday weekend and beyond. The loss is startling and distressing. It's made me wring my memory in the hopes that I remember something or someone on the mountain, but we didn't see anyone matching her description and in reality, we were probably a day late. It's a reminder of how precious life is and the risks of going in the back country even if it's less than a mile from downtown.

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