North Suicide (North Ridge & East Ridge)

North Suicide lies at the head of Rabbit Valley and is one of my favorite after-work jaunts in the mid-summer when sunlight lingers until 11pm.  You can leave the trailhead late afternoon, bike to Rabbit, hike up both North and South Suicide and be back in time for dinner. Elsewhere I’ve written up route details for other routes I’ve done on North Suicide but I wanted to share some additional details and photos from my two favorite routes: the North Ridge and East Ridge.

Alpenglow on the Suicides.

North Ridge

The North Ridge is one of the nicer close of home Chugach scrambles and can easily be climbed after-work in mid to late summer.  It is advised that you wait till later in the season for the route to be mostly dry so as to avoid any snow and runoff on the route. There are a couple sections where novices will want a rope, but climbers familiar with Chugach rock will not find many difficulties.

The route can be approached from either Powerline Pass or Rabbit Lake.  From Powerline Pass hike due south up the ridge above the pass.  This puts you on top of Peak 4500’ / South Powerline Peak.  From there all you have to do is scramble down the ridge until you reach the col at the base of the North Ridge.  From Rabbit Valley bike or hike 4 miles to Rabbit Lake. Leave your bike at Rabbit Lake and continue on foot around the northeast side of the lake aiming for low point of the North Ridge.

Heading around N side of the lake aiming for the col in the distance.

The scramble to the col. Steep Class 3 and often wet rock.

Eric at the col looking up at the route.

The crux of the route is gaining the ridge. If coming down from Powerline you will avoid the wet moss / rock that you have to ascend if climbing up from the lake, however you’ll have to deal with other difficulties (mainly downclimbing exposed Class 3 rock and hiking back up 1500’ of scree to gain Powerline after coming down from the summit). If approaching from Rabbit there are several route options, but just about all of them require exposed scrambling on wet rock / moss.

Dusty high on the North Ridge.

Once you gain the ridge you will find a short section of shattered and exposed Class 3+ rock. The rock looks worse that it is and once past this crux the route gets easier. Just prior to the summit there is another short section exposed Class 3+ rock but near the summit the rock is quite solid which makes the climbing easier.  (Here’s a link to a helmet cam via from Nate Bannish on the route.)

Dusty just above the col starting the ridge proper.

Eric high on the North Ridge.

Last bit of scrambling to the summit.

To descend drop down the standard (Southwest Gully) route.

On the summit just before sunset.

Down the SW gully.

This is a really fun route on decent rock.  I climbed the route in late August with Eric Parsons and Dusty Eroh and with bikes we were able to do it round trip in about 4 hours.  To gain the ridge we all opted for different routes and all were more or less the same in difficulty.  Eric and Dusty ascended a steep gully that was higher up the ridge while I ascended an easier gully closer to the col.  Eric and Dusty’s route put them on the ridge above the short section of shattered Class 3+ rock whereas my route out me below it. Once on the ridge we had enjoyable steep scrambling with awesome views of the lake below.  We summited right before sunset and ran down, getting to our bikes right as the sun was setting.

Dusty heading home.

This route is highly recommended for people who are comfortable on steep Chugach (i.e. loose) rock with lots of exposure.  It would also be a great introductory route to take belay someone who is not familiar with Chugach climbing and exposure.   For the mountain runners out there:  this route is part of a huge traverse that links Flattop / Peak 2 / Peak 3 / Flaketop / Ptarmigan / N Suicide / S Suicide / Indianhouse.  Lots mileage, elevation and Class 3 / Class 4 rock.  I know it has been completed at least once – get on it!

East Ridge

The awesome ridge walking just below the summit (around 4700′).

This rarely traveled route allows you to quickly get into the alpine and travel a full two miles along a ridge as you gradually ascend from sea level to 5000′.  The route starts at the Indian Valley Trailhead, follows Powerline Pass for 2 miles and then quickly gains the East Ridge on open slopes with minimal brush.  The route can be downclimbed, however a better plan is to continue hiking up and over the summit and descend to either Falls Creek or Rabbit Valley for a full traverse.  This route could be climbed all year but if you climb it in early fall (September) the route will be dry and the grass will have died down which will make it much more enjoyable.

GPX / Google Earth overlay showing the Powerline trail and path to gain the ridge.

GPX / Google Earth overlay showing the top portion of the route and the descent down the SW gully.

To access the route, park at the Indian Valley trailhead and hike up Powerline Pass trail (not Indian Valley trail!) for approximately 2 1/2 miles until you reach the base of the East Ridge (around 1500′). You will know you’ve reached the base of the East Ridge when the trail begins to drop steeply down to the creek between North Suicide and Homicide. At this point begin picking your way through the hemlocks aiming up and right towards the ridge. In 1/4 mile you’ll reach the ridge at which point keep working your way up the ridge until you finally climb above the hemlocks and alder. The bushwhack is minimal and you will be in open meadows within 20 minutes of leaving the trail.

Yvonne low on the E Ridge.

Around 3000′ on the E Ridge.

Short rock step around 3000′.

The route ascends the East Ridge. At times the route is blocked by short rock bands but you can generally avoid the steeper sections by traversing left and then gaining the ridge again after you bypass the difficulties. Around 3500′ there is short section of steep rock that requires some scrambling, however if you hunt around you will find a decent sheep trail ascending through a notch near the crest of the East Ridge. Higher up the ridge gets narrow but the hiking is easy and looking down at Turnagain Arm is amazing. Eventually you’ll crest a bump and find yourself at the top of the Northeast couloir. At this point continue up until you can gain the normal route to the summit.

Approaching the 3500′ rock band (top left corner).

The awesome ridge walking around 4000′.

To descend the fastest option is to probably descend the route, however descending the Southwest Gully and hiking out to Canyon Road trailhead makes for a fun day. You could also hike up and over South Suicide, descend Falls Creek and hitchhike back to your car.

I climbed this route with Yvonne in late September 2018 and we had excellent dry conditions for the entirety of the route. We left the Indian trailhead and in an hour had hiked the 2.5 miles to the start of the route.  30 minutes later we were above the trees and on the ridge proper. 2 1/2 hours later (4 hours total) we were on the summit and 2 1/2 hours after that we were at Canyon Road (10.75 miles / 5,340’ elevation gain / 6.5 hours total).

Last steps to the summit.

Yvonne on the summit on a perfect September day.

The ridge itself had one tricky section where we scrambled up a steep gully – however if we had taken a longer more circuitous route to the south we could have bypassed the gully.  The rock band at 3500’ ended up having a nice sheep trail that cut directly through the steepest part (left to right) and the final shattered rock-band (around 5000’) was easily bypassed to the south.

A brief linger on the summit and then a descent of the southwest gully and a pleasant evening stroll put us at Canyon Road where we stuck our thumbs out and were picked up by the first hiker driving past.

The East ridge was the 5th route I’ve climbed on North Suicide and immediately became my favorite route on the peak.  It is pleasant in that you almost immediately start climbing  whereas all other approaches require around 6 miles of travel before you start ascending. Likewise the long ridge was incredibly aesthetic with beautiful views of Turnagain Arm over your shoulder. Combine the East Ridge with a traverse and on your way back to the car at Indian stop for BBQ at the Armpit for an epic day.