On Memorial Day (May 28th), Yvonne and I hiked in and climbed Koktoya in a day. We left our house around 11 and by 11:30 were at the trailhead. We had just pulled up and turned off the truck when I looked up to see a black bear and cub staring right at us. We froze and she casually turned and disappeared into the woods. After a couple of minutes we nervously got out of the truck and looked around to see if she was still around. Satisfied that she had left the trail I dug out the packs while Yvonne rifled though the truck until she found the bear spray which she tucked into an exposed back pocket of her pack.
We shouldered our packs and started hiking talking loudly and shouting "Hey Bear" every other step. We had gone about 200 yards when we turned a corner and I looked uphill to see mama black bear and three cubs meandering up the hill not 50 feet from us. We immediately jogged down the trail yelling at the top of my lungs. When we saw she wasn't coming after us I crept back uphill a little way to get a better look. Mama bear saw me and stood up to give me a look over so I turned and high tailed it up the trail!
Eager to put some miles between us and the bear we put our heads down and started booting up the trail, making good time and hiking the 8 1/2 miles to Koktoya Pass in about 4 hours. Steve Ghruhn says the view from the col south of Koktoya has the prettiest view in Chugach State Park so we eagerly trudged up to the col where we were greeting to an amazing view of the Western Chugach. We lingered for a while checking out the sights and then turned and began scrambling up the south ridge.
The south ridge is a fun climb - it begins a mellow hike but after about 500' it turns into an airy scramble where you tiptoe around a series of gendarmes. However, our progress was soon blocked by a rather steep tower we didn't want to climb up and over. There was an easy route in snow bypassing the towers, but we were wearing sneakers and hadn't brought our ice axes so we tuned and descended about 500' to where we could traverse a gentle snow field and then ascended the south face to the summit.
The final summit ridge was a spectacular scramble with the entire western Chugach at our backs. The east face of Koktoya drops off sharply to Ship Creek and the mountains rise sharply out of the valley. It truly is an awe inspiring sight!
We were on the summit by 5:30 where we lingered for almost a half hour before turning and retracing our steps. We quickly descended the south face, filled our water bottles in a creek at the base and then once again put our heads down and trudged the 8 1/2 miles back to the trailhead which we reached the trailed at 9:30.
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