On March 4th, 2006 I climbed the northeast ridge of King Mountain with Thai and Jody. King Mountain sits on the south side of the Matanuska River just south of Chickaloon and features an impressively steep and accessible north face that is a great late winter climb. The summit of King is 5809′ and you begin at 800′ and pretty much gain 5000′ in 1.5 miles. It’s one of those great climbs where when you sit down you can see your car in-between your crampon points.
We started around 9:00 am and were back at the car by 7:30pm. The route beings with a bushwhack up a steep hill for about 1000 feet until you reach a broad bench. Luckily we had Thai (the human trail-breaker) with us so the initial portion, which I’ve heard can be a bear, was actually quite easy as we followed Thai’s steps up to the bench.
After we reached the bench we traversed climbers left to a gully and then booted up and left about 2000′ to a narrow couloir which deposits you on the broad northeast ridge. Once on the ridge it is about 1500′ of step kicking to the summit ridge.
The northeast ridge deposits you at the far eastern end of the summit ridge which looks a little intimidating but is actually quite mellow (you can bypass the gendarmes by scrambling climbers left). On the top we were greeted to a spectacular view of peaks in all directions with the massive summit of Skybuster towering above us to the southwest. We then turned and carefully downclimbed the ridge then headed down the rest of the route.
King Mountain, North Couloir to Northeast Ridge – 3rd Class, 5,809′
This is a great late winter climb when you’re tired of yo-yos at Turnagain and the usual ice routes. People do climb it in summer but it seems to me that getting across the river and dealing with brush would suck. Thus I’d say March is the best time because the river will be solid and the days long enough. The wind usually howls down the Matanuska River so once you’re above tree line the snow should be dense enough for step kicking.
Route: To climb King you drive E on the Glenn. About 2-3 miles before Chickaloon the road cuts next to the river and there is a large boulder on the right side of the road (side nearest the river). Park here – cross the river and aim for a low angle rib that cuts up and left from the river. Follow this up through the first 1000′ of trees. It’s not very steep but slow going. However if you hunt around you can find a decent route. This will take you up until you pop out on a large scree field. Head up the scree field (it will turn into an ave debris zone) all the way to the base of this huge couloir (almost another 1000′) which zooms all the way to the summit and is inbetween two large black cliff bands. At this point you have 2 choices: continue straight up the couloir or traverse left. If you continue staight up be aware that you will be in bomb alley for 4000′ more feet. The route is sweet but the bottom is littered with rock and debris so choose wisely. (Google Maps shows where you park, the scree field and the gully.)
If you traverse left, traverse for about 500′ to a small couloir heading up and left. Head up this for almost 1000′ and it deposits you on a NE facing shoulder. Then head up the shoulder traversing across rock and snow bands to decent snow ribs. Ascend for another approx. 2000′ to the E ridge. Once on the east ridge follow the ridge to the summit bypassing the gendarme on the left (S) side of the ridge. Descend your route.
Gear: Ice axe, crampons. The route is steep and a fall would be bad news so you must be comfortable ascending and descending steep snow.
Time: It took us about 10 hours; I’d say anywhere from 8 to 12 depending on the snowpack.
Be sure to look for Ger McDonnell’s memorial somewhere on the summit ridge.