Bounty Peak (East Ridge)

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 has attracted a lot of attention over the years, but there have been no recorded ascents and there is a chance it is still unclimbed.

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.

Approach

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.)

Routes

West Ridge

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

Looking down the West Ridge from the summit of Bounty.

West Ridge viewed from Pellet Point. September 2020.

Todd Kelsey on Hut Peak (April 2018). The West Ridge / South Face of Bounty is visible top right.

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).

Grace Hoeman and Jill Johnston. Jill is near the opening of the tent on the left, and Grace Hoeman is lying on the ground, to the right, with her head against a backpack. Grace and John Vincent Hoeman papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.

Hans van der Laan. Photo courtesy of the Hans van der Laan Brooks Range Library / Brooks Range Trust, a collection of literature on the Brooks Range founded in the memory of memory of Hans van der Laan, a mountaineer and promoter for the preservation of the Brooks Range Region.

Original summit register with Grace Hoeman’s note from 1969. (Note the incorrect year & included the original proposed name “Bountiful”.)

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.”

John Samuelson as a kid somewhere in the Chugach. Photo courtesy of Randy Brandon.

John at basecamp below the NE Ridge of Mt Blackburn. 1974. Photo courtesy of Randy Brandon.

Somewhere in the mountains. 1980s. Photo courtesy of Randy Brandon.

John Samuelson skiing in Turnagain Pass. 1990s. Photo courtesy of Randy Brandon.

East Ridge

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’.

The entire East Ridge of Bounty. Photo from White Lice, July 2020.

Typical travel along the ridge.

Route profile.

Unclimbed (?) Routes

North Couloir

This is the stunning couloir that splits the North Face. To quote Willy Herman, the North Face has “an unmistakable giant cross, running perfectly from the summit to the base of the face, visible for miles.” There are unsubstantiated rumors that this route saw a helicopter assisted ascent / ski descent in recent years, however no one has stepped forward to confirm those rumors.  The park boundary is just west of the summit of Booty, so a legal heli-assisted ascent/descent would involve a drop off near Booty, however any drop off within the state park would be illegal and would result in huge fines for the heli-operator.  The route is 1800’ top to bottom with a giant bergschrund at the bottom. The route itself looks very steep – but relatively straight forward in terms of few difficulties other than glacier / snow conditions; the crux would be figuring out a timeframe where you have decent conditions for the lengthy approach as well as the route / descent.

North Couloir from Baleful Pass. July 2019.

Chugach State Park boundary.

Northwest Glacier

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.

Northwest Rib

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.

The entire east ridge of Bounty. The route starts on the rocky ridge on the far left of this photo and follows the ridgeline all the way to the summit of Bounty (obvious summit on right). Photo from Kelly Peak, September 2020.

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.

Heading in. Obligatory bike-packing pic at the East Fork bridge.

Snack break at point 2190 above the East Fork.

Looking up valley at Bounty (peak center left).

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.

Tundra snack break above Baleful Creek.

Dinner. This year I went ultralight and stopped bringing a spoon.

North Face of Bounty. Even in mid August you can still see the N Couloir.

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.

Booty Peak. The glacier route right up the middle would be a great late spring route.

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 the moraine and rock slabs below Brittle Route takes the ridgeline right of the glacier on center left.

Looking down Troublesome Glacier. I work with a woman whose husband (Justin Savidis) leads dogsled tours on here in the summer.

The ridgeline to Booty.

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.

The scree ridgeline to Booty. Looks worse than it actually is.

The glacier route. Az and Tina crossed the glacier and took the rocky skyline.

Az and Tina nearing the summit of Booty.

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.

East Face of Bounty Peak.

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.

Inner Lake George.

Hat Trick Mountain.

Az and Tina on a sub-peak of Booty.

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.

Az & Tina below the final section of the East Ridge.

Az with Whiteout Glacier and Pass Out Peak in the background.

The final scree slopes up 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 icefall below Hat Trick Mountain.

Tina above the Whiteout Glacier.

Whiteout Glacier.

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.

Az nearing the summit.
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.

Tina nearing the sub-peak of Booty.

Some route notes:

Northwest face of Booty.