These are notes from climbing Nest Peak, Bird Peak and Peak 1445. I climbed Bird in June 2001, Nest and Bird in August 2018 and 1445 in August 2018 and after multiple trips back there I figured I’d share my notes on access to the area.
All of these peaks are fun hikes with minimal difficulty. Nest and Bird have short sections of Class 3, but there is little exposure and the sections only last for short distances before reverting back to Class 2. Nest has a wonderful ridge that you traverse with beautiful views of Turnagain Arm, while Bird towers above all the surrounding peaks and gives you a great view of the Kinglets, Upper Bird Creek and all of Penguin Ridge. Peak 1445 kind of sits down below everything but it is nice to get into the headwaters of Penguin Creek which feels very wild despite being just one ridge shy of the Seward highway.
These peaks, while within spitting distance of the Seward highway, are fairly difficult to access due to poor trails that have seen little brushing within the past 10+ years. The trail leading up Penguin Creek valley is open to ATVs and is easy travel, but the second you reach the closed to ATVs section the trail reverts to an overgrown corridor better suited for short stocky bears then lanky humans. The California Creek trail leading up to Gentoo / Penguin Ridge is good early and late season, but tends to get overgrown as soon as mid-July. There is also faint trail that connects from the base of Nest over to the valley below Bird, however by August the trail is virtually unusable. When I climbed Bird in June the trail was reasonable – but when I climbed it in August it was really difficult to follow.
As for the routes: Nest Peak is the peak that lies northeast of Penguin Peak on the north side of Penguin Creek. Access this route from the Bird Creek (Penguin Peak) trailhead. Hike or bike 3 miles to the base of the peak (be sure to take the east trending Penguin Creek fork instead of heading all the way up Bird Creek). At mile 3 you’ll reach the end of the section open to ATVs and the trail will suddenly transition to body width trail through spruce and alder. Follow this for 1/2 mile until you reach the first open meadow / avalanche path (around 1200′) where you will turn and start working your way uphill. There is minimal brush as the trail is decent up until this point and the avalanche path is mostly grass that quickly transitions to tundra. Ascend this for 2500′ until you reach the ridge at 3800′. Once on the ridge follow the ridgeline all the way to the summit.
Bird Peak is accessed the same way as Nest, the difference being that you want to continue along the Penguin Creek trail for another 1/2 mile past the turn off to Nest. Next you will want to start working your way up the hillside aiming for a bench on the south side of Nest. Go up and over this bench and drop down into the valley between Nest and Bird. Ascending early and sidehilling across the south face of Nest gets you above treeline faster which is nice given the trail is pretty much impassable at this point. Once in the hanging valley hike up to 2700′ and take the grass ramp that ascends to the ridge prior to south of Point 4840′ (the bump on the ridge south of the summit of Bird). In early season is possible to hike up and around the corner and take the snow gully on the West Face all the way to the ridgeline, however this is a pretty steep gully and you’d want crampons / ice axe for it. Once on the ridgeline follow the crest all the way to the summit. The true summit is actually the bump farthest east and you can bypass the Class 3 near the western summit by staying low.
Peak 1445 is the bump that lies at the headwaters of Penguin Creek. It is an easy hike with no real difficulties other than distance and elevation gain. To get there hike up the California Creek trail all the way to the Gentoo Ridge. Next hike north on the ridge (towards California Peak) for 1/4 mile until you can find an easy spot to descend into the valley to the west. Most of the ridge is steep but if you keep looking eventually you’ll find a scree ramp that will drop you down into the valley south of California Peak. Descend this valley staying high on the north side until you can sidehill around all the way to the east face of 1445. At 3000′ you can ascend an east facing ridge to a col just north of the summit. From there it’s easy walking to the top.
All that said one should consider the distances and time when attempting these peaks. Below is a table below showing mileage and elevation gain/loss stats for climbing the peaks one at a time or combining them in different ways.
|Bird TH > Nest > Bird TH
|Bird TH > Bird > Bird TH
|Bird TH > Nest > Bird > Bird TH
|CA Creek TH > 1445 > CA Creek TH
Likewise if you’ve opted to climb both Nest and Bird you might as well continue the traverse and climb 1445 as well since it only adds 2.5 miles / 3500′ to the day. The descent off Bird peak down the Southeast Face is mostly scree and you should be able to drop all the way to the valley fairly quickly. From there take the mellow West Ridge to the summit of 1445. This entire traverse is 17.5 miles / 11,800′ and you get to climb 3 peaks and spend most of the day above treeline and have a decent trail for both the approach and descent. It’s really the only way to do it. There is ample water in each valley and if you get benighted or tired you can always bivy in the tundra for a few hours and continue when you’re refreshed.
|Bird TH > Nest > Bird Peak
|Bird Peak > 1445
|1445 > CA Creek TH
Summer is just around the corner. If you can time this traverse when the scree-fields are still snow-covered then you should be able to cruise it. If you opt to attempt the full traverse get in touch with me – I’d love to hear how it went!