Raggedtop Mountain (5,215′) lies due north of Girdwood and is situated between Crow Creek (to the east) and California Creek (to the west). It has a distinct south facing bowl that can viewed from the resort and a craggy ridgeline. There are two distinct summits – North being the taller and true summit, although it is at most 15′ taller than the South summit. Both summits can be easily reached (by different routes) – but a traverse requires an exposed traverse on loose rock.
The first recorded ascent of the peak was on June 12, 1960 by Ed Gendzwell, Keith Hart, Gene Wescott and Buck Wilson. Gendzwell and Hart were long time Girdwood locals who made multiple ascents of the surrounding peaks. The summer before Hart had made the first recorded ascents of Hibbs and Berg, and a week after climbing Raggedtop, Gendzwell and Hart made the first ascent of Highbush. Gendzwell, Hart, Wescott and Wilson wrote up short snippet in the July 1960 Scree:
Ragged Top Mountain (5,175′) five miles northwest of Girdwood village was climbed on June 12, by Ed Gendzwell, Keith Hart, Gene Wescott and Buck Wilson. The route was from ‘the Cache’, near Milk Creek bridge, thence across Crow Creek on avalanche debris and up the easy north ridge. The west summit of the mountain was reach in three hours and fifteen minutes. A small cairn was built.
– Scree, July 1960
Note that given the ease of the North Ridge there is a good possibility that the peak was climbed by miners at the turn of the century. Crow Creek saw an influx of activity at the turn of the century with the first claim staked in 1897. Between 1898 and 1906 the Crow Creek Consolidated Mining Company operated a protective placer mine and employed 20-30 men. The mine was sold in 1906 to another company and a series of owners continued to operated in the region until the beginning of World War 2. All told the mine produced an estimated 45,000 ounces of gold! The Crow Creek mine lies at the base of the North Ridge so there’s a good possibility someone hiked up there years ago.
The peaks sees a fair amount of winter traffic – but skiers should note that due to various factors the peak is known to harbor weak layers and over the years numerous incidents have occurred. The worst incident being a fatality in January 2006 when Anchorage skier Joel Schihl was caught in an avalanche in the bowl southeast of the South peak. CNFAIC has a full write up on the accident and media coverage of the avalanche that I’ve linked to below along with several other avalanche incidents on this peak:
- January 2006 (Avalanche / fatality)
- March 2020 (Avalanche / people involved)
- March 2021 (Avalanche / people involved)
- December 2022 (Avalanche)
Likewise skiers should be aware that there is a sizable portion of private land at the base of of the peak. If you want to access the peak without trespassing you need to utilize one of the trails on the south side of the peak, or follow the route that ascends Crow Pass trail and gains the valley between Raggedtop and Magpie. There is sliver of public land that you can use to access the east face – however winter parking is limited and the locals are understandably angry if you walk across their property. If you do choose to visit in winter, park at the end of the road and carry a large shovel in order to excavate a parking spot. Please don’t park on the road! If you access the east face, make sure you’re not walking across private property. Both Gaia and OnX have private land layers that you can toggle on/off in order to see where the access point is.
Aside from the East Face route mentioned above there are two main access points for Raggedtop. The “Ragged Top Trail” gains the South Ridge and is accessed via a small social trail that forks off the Iditarod trail near the Winner Creek parking lot on Crow Creek Road. This trail climbs steeply through the woods that is for the most part easy hiking.
The Magpie / Raggedtop bowl route gains the North Ridge and is accessed by hiking up Crow Pass trail for about about a mile where you descend to Crow Creek to gain an avalanche gully that leads to an overgrown bench where you can backtrack to reach the valley. This route is best attempted late spring / early fall as it tends to get overgrown quickly. Every time I’ve done this approach I’ve seen a bear so make noise and carry spray.
First Ascent: Ed Gendzwell, Keith Hart, Gene Wescott and Buck Wilson, June 12, 1960.
Rating: Class 2
This was the first recorded ascent route. It is a is a moderate and enjoyable Class 2 hike where the only difficulty is the brushy traverse to gain the base of the route. Access the base of the route via the Magpie / Raggedtop bowl route. Once in the valley below the peaks aim for the low angle ramp that leads to the Northeast Ridge. Once on the ridge follow it to the summit. When the Northeast Ridge joins the North Ridge there are a few sections of exposure but it is easy walking.
First Ascent: Unknown
Rating: Class 3+
This route is gained after you reach treeline via the “Ragged Top Trail”. Once on the ridge the route curls around until finally gaining the South Peak. You can save a little time by descending off the ridge and climbing straight up the South Face – but it’s not as enjoyable as staying on the ridge proper. The South Peak is a little shorter than the true (North) peak and to climb the true summit, downclimb a little ways to gain a scree ramp that leads out onto the West Face. Traverse the West Face for almost a mile climbing up and down to avoid steeper rock until reaching a point where you can ascend a ridge to the summit. This route has a lot of loose exposed rock and requires a bit of route finding.
Raggedtop Traverse Notes
I traversed Raggedtop via the South > North routes in early September 2022. You can do this route in light running shoes if the snow is melted out – otherwise you want decent boots since the final patch of snow below the North summit is rather steep. The day I climbed it I started in Girdwood and biked to the start of the trail where I stashed my bike in the woods and hiked up the trail to gain the South Ridge.
I had previously climbed the South Peak with Yvonne and on that day we had mostly stuck to the ridge – which is a wonderful hike. At the summit I had scoped out the route – but we had opted not to attempt it due to snow on the route. This time I gained the ridge then dropped into the bowl and cut straight across to gain the ridge that leads to the traverse across the West Face. This direct option saved me about a mile / 500′ of travel.
Once across the bowl and up the scree slopes I reached the start of the traverse. This time the route was dry and I felt comfortable in running shoes. I started across – tentatively kicking steps across the soft scree. The start of the traverse is easy – it’s wide moderately angled scree slope and there is a faint goat track you can follow. However after a few hundred feet you reach steeper rock and for the rest of the way the route requires you to climb up and down multiple exposed gullies and traverse steep loose sidewalks.
This traverse took me about an hour and was far scarier and trickier than I thought it would be. The rock was abysmal and for some reason I had neglected to bring a helmet – which meant I slowly traversed under a mile of loose rock that was constantly raining down. I made several route finding mistakes which meant I spent a lot of time climbing up and down (see the rendering of my gps track above) and there were a couple sections where I was forced to trust a single rock point to make a move (a scenario I try to avoid in the Chugach).
Eventually I reached the far ridgeline that lead to the summit. A short steep scramble up a loose gully deposited me on a ridge with better rock that I was able to take to the summit.
A short snack on the summit and then I continued down the North Ridge. Compared the route I had just completed the North Ridge was a relaxing enjoyable route. There was a short section of exposure at the top and some loose rock where you turn to gain the Northeast Ridge – but it was easy going and I descended the entire route in about 45 minutes.
Upon reaching the valley I continued across the bench and finally reached the avalanche path. I started to descend but noticed a black bear at the base of the gully. I sat in the brush where it couldn’t see me for 15 minutes hoping it would move on – but it wasn’t moving so I finally stepped out and started yelling and thankfully it took off running.
Then down the gully to the Crow Pass trail and down the trail to the road. I walked for about a mile until a local kindly picked me up and let me ride in the back of his truck for a couple miles back to my bike. And finally back on my bike and gliding downhill into Girdwood.
And that’s it. A great late summer outing! The traverse is a tad sketchy but combining it with a bike ride and a full traverse down the North Ridge makes for a great day. Total stats from Girdwood is 18.5 miles / 6,066 ft of elevation gain. It took me just under 8 hours – but I hitchhiked about 2 miles down Crow Creek road which saved some time. Several people have done this route and have reversed the traverse to go back down the South Ridge. I don’t recommend reversing the route – you spend a lot of time in a rock fall zone and the route isn’t that pleasant. Instead go up and over and walk/hitchhike back down the road to your car / bike. Maps are below. Public GPX tracks can be found on Gaia and Peakbagger. Enjoy!