Bounty Peak (6,810’) lies at the very head of the East Fork of the Eklutna River and the ridgeline that makes up the peak forms the boundary between the Eklutna drainage, where water flows into Eklutna Lake / Eklutna River, and the Whiteout Glacier basin where water drains directly into the Knik. The peak is just barely discernable from Eklutna Lake and for the most part hidden until you gain the upper reaches of the East Fork, or can spy it from surrounding peaks on the Eklutna Glacier.
Historically the peak hasn’t seen much activity. The first ascent was accessed from the Eklutna Glacier via the West Ridge. The only other known route, the East Ridge was climbed 20 years later in July 1989. The magnificent North Couloir saw its first recorded ascent in March 2021.
The lack of attention is probably due to the difficult approach and the fact that larger 7000’+ peaks like Baleful and Troublesome overshadow the peak. Regardless, it’s a beautiful peak and the ridgeline separating the Eklutna and Whiteout drainages makes for a stunning contrast between the lushness of the East Fork and the jumbled cascading ice that is the Whiteout Glacier.
For routes on west or south side, Bounty is approached via the standard Eklutna Glacier route. The glacier is fairly cracked up west of the summit of White Lice so you will have to traverse to the far west side, but after a mile or so the crevasses ease off and you can venture back to the center of the glacier. Aim for the broad pass between Antarctic View and Polar Peak and then descend the Whiteout Glacier until you can access the route(s). For routes on the east or north sides the peak is accessed via the standard East Fork of the Eklutna trail which consists of a 10 mile bike ride followed by a 10 mile hike. The route is arduous and hard to follow at times. It’s very brushy and has a long section of loose class 3. There are also a lot of bears. (It’s great.)
First Ascent: April Allen, Grace Finger, Grace Hoeman, Ned Lewis, Chuck Pease, Jr., John Samuelson, and Hans Van der Laan; September 21, 1969
Rating: Class 3+
This was the first ascent route. Hoeman’s party approached via the Eklunta Glacier and after Ned Lewis fell into a crevasse (Ned claims he didn’t fall very far into the crevasse – only about armpit depth) they opted to camp on the glacier and wait out the inclement weather. The next morning the skies cleared and they ascended the West Ridge presumably gaining it somewhere in the vicinity of Point 5930’ which has snow covered slopes that can be ascended to the ridge (and at the time was still glacier). They descended the South Face.
At 2:45 we had a view of the cirque to the “Bounty” Creek side of the peak and decided to approach our climb from the opposite side. Ned, shortly after, fell into a crevasse. Heavy overcast and light blown snow was being encountered. At 4:30, a view of the east side of the peak was taken from the head of the Eklutna Glacier.
Wind, fatigue and the still distant peak encouraged us to camp at 5:00pm with snow still falling nicely. After various glops were shared in the 4-man tent, bags were unstuffed early and three retired to the cozy warmth of a 2-man. The long sleep till 7:00 am was taken with mixed feelings. Prior to that time, weather looked ominous and then suddenly, was fantastic!
A conference was held and we were off at 9:00 am for the peak, in two teams. At 11:00 after running across Whiteout Glacier and up the lower ridge, Grace, John, Hans, and Ned found themselves looking up from the base of the summit pyramid. With a bit of scrambling and puffing they on the summit at 12:05 via the west ridge.
– Ned Lewis and April Allen, Scree, November 1969
Of special note to this ascent is that Grace Hoeman, John Samuelson and Hans Van der Laan climbed together. These climbers made numerous ascents throughout Alaska (including several in the Eklutna region), and two years after their ascent of Bounty the three were descending the steep snow slope below Pischler’s Perch (a mere 6 miles away from Bounty), when the slope avalanched. John was above Grace and Hans when the fracture occurred and was carried and partially buried. After he dug himself out, John searched for 2 hours but never found his companions. Han’s and Grace’s bodies were recovered later that summer (accident report and first hand account published here).
John Samuelson survived the avalanche and continued to climb and ski until his death in November 2018. He worked as ski patrol at Alyeska and was a finish carpenter and cabinet maker. His climbing accomplishments include the first ascent of Skybuster (Ice Cream Cone) in the Western Chugach, a winter attempt of Foraker’s Southeast Ridge, and the first ascents of Redoubt’s West Summit followed by a ski traverse to Double Glacier and an ascent of Double Peak (click for pic) as well as ascents of Denali and Blackburn in the 70s. An obituary in the Girdwood paper described his exploits: “He was an early pack-rafting enthusiast, soloing the Winner Creek to Twenty-mile River route. A bold ice skater, he was known to take plunges through the ice, sometimes up to his neck, and then calmly climb out and skate for miles back to his car despite sub-zero temperatures and stiff head winds. He spent hundreds of days telemark skiing on Turnagain Pass. In his 70’s, he rafted down the Grand Canyon.”
First Ascent: Willy Hersman, Jim Sayler, Randy Howell; July 4, 1989
Rating: Class 3+
This route ascends the long eastern ridge-line starting from the Brittle / Booty col. Ascend to the col via rock slabs and glacier remnants, and then either follow the ridge-line to Booty (loose Class 3) or drop down to the glacier and ascend moderate snow slopes to the summit of Booty. Once on the summit of Booty (6700’) you will need to climb a sub-peak of Booty before descending the base of Bounty. At the top of this sub-peak descend a loose gully on the south side to reach scree slopes that will allow you to descend to the base of Bounty’s East Ridge. Ascend this ridge, trending south when the rock gets steep. Most of the route is Class 2 or 3, however the final few hundred feet to the summit of Bounty is exposed Class 3+ on loose rock. Reverse the route to descend. This is a long taxing route. From camp at the base of Brittle the route, round trip, is 14 miles with an elevation gain and loss of 7400’.
First (recorded) Ascent: Abe Meyerhofer, Garth Schulz; March 7, 2021
Rating: Steep snow
This is the stunning couloir that splits the North Face. To quote Willy Hersman, the North Face has “an unmistakable giant cross, running perfectly from the summit to the base of the face, visible for miles.” There were unsubstantiated rumors that this route saw a helicopter assisted ascent / ski descent in recent years, however the first recorded ascent of this route was by Abe Meyerhofer and Garth Schulz on March 7, 2021 who approached via the frozen East Fork of Eklutna River and found perfect conditions top to bottom.
The crux of the route is reaching the base. It is best approached in late winter when you can ski on the frozen East Fork of the Eklunta all the way to the base of the glacier. By late April this will have melted out and you’ll be forced to wade across the river multiple times and deal with thick brush / isothermal snow.
Ascend the glacier to the base of the couloir, cross the bergschrund at the safest spot and then boot 2000′ up the route. The pitch is steepest right at the bergschrund and the very top (around 50), whereas the majority of the route averages around around 40 degrees.
When Eric Parsons and I climbed it in May 2021 we endured terrible isothermal conditions to the base of the route. Once on the glacier we found decent snow and the bergschund required a bit of wallowing to safely cross. Once in the couloir itself we found deep stable consistent snow for most of the route. We carried skis but cached them halfway up the route because we didn’t feel we could safely ski due to being fatigued from the approach. On the way down the bergschrund crossing required a bit of creativity and we dodged some massive rockfall – however for such a huge route we found it to be relatively straight forward.
Unclimbed (?) Routes
This is an early season route that would gain the glacier on the northwest side of the peak and then climb steep snow / ice to gain the West Ridge. This would be an interesting route if you’re trying to climb Bounty and then continue over to the Eklutna or Whiteout Glacier. Expect lots of brush on the approach and gaping crevasses on the route itself.
This rib is a striking feature when viewed from the Northwest. It’s a 2000’ steep band of rock, ice and snow that rises sharply from the hanging glacier on the north side to the summit. It would be remarkably loose and difficult route – but maybe someday someone will give it a go.
Notes from an ascent of the East Ridge
It was August 15th and my daughter started school on August 19th. That gave me 4 days to climb something before I went back to a weekend only climbing schedule. I petitioned my regular list of partners to join me on a Bounty ascent, but no one bit. So after much angst I packed my bags and set out for a solo ascent.
A 10 mile bike ride around Eklutna lake and then repacking for the slog up the East Fork. The trail is good for about 3 miles, then it gets overgrown and becomes difficult to follow. At times the trail disappears altogether and you end up fighting your way through thick brush until finally reaching a nice open perch above the river at point 2190’. At one time this used to be a decent trail, but lack of maintenance and warm summers that have fueled alder growth has eaten away at what little path there once was. What’s left consists of twisted game trails with occasional sections of old trail and a cut branch every now and then to keep you on track.
Above the perch at 2100’ I caught my breath, inhaled some water and tackled the 1500’ grass slope until finally staggering onto the sheep and goat highway that traverses the western slopes of Peak 6530’. And finally 7 hours after leaving the parking lot at the point overlooking Baleful Creek. And two hours later up and over the sub-ridge that splits the valley before settling into camp in the basin below the east face of Brittle 9 hours later. 21 miles and 4700’ – and half of that on a horrible “trail”. I was exhausted.
I had been told that I could hike the ridge to the summit of Bounty and would never have to set foot on the glacier – which would make it a relatively safe solo venture. However sitting in camp and looking up at the long undulating ridgeline gave me second thoughts.
Up early the next morning and I spied two hikers on the ridge above me heading up. Where were they heading? A quick breakfast and then up the moraine, broken slabs and shattered ridge until finally gaining the col south of Brittle. An hour to the col – and then slowly picking my way carefully along the shattered ridge. In the distance I could see the two climbers out on the glacier moving along quickly and cheerfully while I slowly picked my way around blocks that fell with hardly a touch. The flat glacier looked inviting, but I was solo and while I could manage tettereing blocks, I couldn’t really manage a crevasse fall. So across the ridge I crept.
I was eventually forced out onto the glacier for a short distance due to steep unstable rock. But the crevasses were easily avoidable and I was able to traverse to the edge of the glacier and walk on bare ice so I didn’t have to worry about holes. Then a long scree slog to the false summit of Booty followed by a beautiful rounded summit stroll to the actual summit of Booty.
It should be noted that Booty has a wonderful early season glacier route that ascends the Northwest Glacier. Gain the route by dropping to the basin below the west face and then start working your way up the glacier that pours off between the two summits. By mid-summer this route becomes impassable, but early season (June) it is supposedly a fun and interesting route.
A short break on the summit of Booty and then hiking again. Down off the summit and then 600’ up a long scree slope to a false summit and then a 700’ steep decent down a south gully of point 6200’ to a long scree slope to finally reach the base of Bounty.
It was here that I finally caught up to the two other climbers – which happened to be people I knew – Azriel Sellers and Tina Boucher. Az, Kathy and Tina had hiked in to climb Baleful, but had decided to not go over the pass and climb Bounty instead. Kathy had climbed Bounty a few years back so she opted to stay in camp. I was surprised that I had been able to catch Az, who is known to be rather speedy, but one look at his immense pack made me realize Tina had loaded him down on purpose to slow him down. Az then proceeded to dump the unneeded items for the final summit scree slog; rope, glacier gear, crampons, ice screws and a large jacket were tossed in a pile. In the bottom of his pack was a liter of bourbon that he thought about leaving, but it was decided that he’d like a celebratory summit slug and tossed it back in. With his pack a fraction of the original weight he took off, leaving me and Tina staring in amazement as he bounded up the rock unhindered by weight.
The final 1100’ slog up Bounty took a little over an hour. About half of it was up steep scree that eventually transitioned to exposed rock where we traversed along ledges on the south side of the peak before finally tiptoeing along the airy ridgeline to the summit blocks.
And then basking on the summit in the August sunshine. The original register was still on top in the original glass bottle. It was the first entry I’ve found with Grace Hoeman’s original note. The few other entries were from the regular Chugach crew from over the years like Willy Hersman, Jim Sayler, Wayne Todd, JT Lindholm, Dave Hart, Kathy Still (Az’s mother) and Ben Still (Az’s uncle).
Az took his celebratory shot of bourbon. Tina and I declined. We then began the long trek back to camp. Down, down and down and then up, up and up. 12 1/2 hours, 14 miles and 7500’ later I staggered back into camp exhausted and hungry. A nice night of sleep and then reversing the 20 taxing miles back to the parking lot.
Some route notes:
- Give yourself a full day to get into camp. It takes roughly 10 hours to reach the meadows at the base of Brittle. The route is exhausting.
- Camp somewhere in the vicinity east of Brittle Peak. There are a lot of great campsites down low next to small tarns, but there are also a lot of bears milling about eating squirrels and berries.
- Once on the ridgeline you could save a bit of time by dropping down to the glacier and hiking in the snow instead of picking your way across the rocks – however this would mean you should carry a rope since the glacier does have a few holes.
- The eastern ridgeline to Booty looks harder than it actually is. The lower part is one step up two steps back scree but after you’re about halfway up the rock gets more compact and the hiking gets easier. This option allows you to climb Booty with minimal crevasse danger. For the decent the scree makes for wonderful and fast plunge stepping.
- Fill your water bottles in the snow near the top of Booty. The final hike to the top of Bounty is hot and dry.
- At the top of the sub-peak west of Booty (point 6200’) scramble south until you find an obvious gully dropping down and west. Drop about 500’ down the gully and then work your way climbers right on sheep trails back to the ridgeline.
- As you approach the top of Bounty trend climbers left to avoid the steepest parts of the ridge.
- And finally… take your time. This is almost as remote as you can get in our state park. Enjoy the view and the wildness surrounding you. Savor your time in these mountains.