Notch, A1, Mystery, Pipet & Yudi

North and east of Girdwood there are 5 prominent peaks that cap the Glacier Valley skyline. Sometimes referred to as the Skyline Peaks the peaks are (from south to north): Notch Mountain (3087’), A1 (4900’), Mystery Mountain (5300’), Pipet Peak (6000’) and Yudi Peak (6540’). From a climbers / skiers perspective they range from 3 hour after-work jaunts (Notch) to 12+ hour ski-mountaineering objectives (Yudi) – as well as everything in-between. The skiing can be fantastic at times – but given the distances and elevation gain to reach the summits you’re more likely to encounter a mixed bag of conditions and will probably ski everything from blower to breakable during your outing(s).

Girdwood pano. Taken from Goat Ridge April 2023.

Linking multiple peaks – or a full traverse – requires a range of skills and is a much sought-after objective for skiers and mountaineers. The first recorded traverse was in July 2000 when Tim Kelley and Jim Renkert linked together a traverse from Goat Ridge to Winner Creek. They ascended Goat Ridge on a July evening and reached the Nordic Training Center at 2am where they spent the night. The next day they traversed the Eagle Glacier to the Yudi / Sparrow col where they had to downclimb and rappel to reach the Pipet Glacier. They then contoured around Pipet to gain Mystery and eventually A1 and Notch 1.

In August 2019 Matt Green made a complete traverse where he climbed all 5 peaks solo. Green’s account 2 describes a straight forward climb all the way to the summit of Yudi. He then endured a cold bivouac on the summit followed by a difficult downclimb to reach the Eagle Glacier. If you’re interested in a summer traverse it’s a great resource.

Yvonne and I attempted the traverse once in July, but the bushwhack (to reach Goat Ridge), avalanche danger and a crevasse fall dampened our enthusiasm so we turned around at the Eagle / Pipit col.

Yvonne on the “trail” leading to Goat Ridge. Note that this trail hasn’t been brushed out in 15+ years and sees little traffic. You will encounter old growth devil’s club and grass over your head.

Goat Ridge in the summer is pretty mellow. You can bypass the ridge and scramble up scree slopes climbers right of the ridge (look for old cairns).

Yvonne on the ridge between Goat and Yudi.

Yudi in July! The bergschrund is no joke.

Looking down at the Pipit Glacier in July. This col is the lowest point between Yudi and Sparrow and it’s easy to reach from the Eagle side and requires a short down-climb to reach the Pipit. It’s fairly crevassed below the col and probably has a giant moat by August.

The col leading from Pipit to Yudi Glacier. Some people go over this, some go up chutes closer to Pipit. Once you reach Pipit the route will be mellow the rest of the way.

I don’t know who, or when, this traverse was first skied – but you practically start the traverse in the Alyeska parking lot and hundreds of strong skiers have stared at the obvious line for decades, so I imagine it was completed a long time ago. The day we climbed Yudi a group of 5 from Girdwood started shortly after us and took 2 nights / 3 days to do the traverse. They skied to the east of Yudi where they found a chute with a rap anchor at the top (possibly  Kelley’s anchor).  The chute was filled in and they were able to ski to the Pipit Glacier and then they ascended a pass between Yudi and Pipit to reach mellow glaciers on the west side of the ridge.  They then connected ridges all the way to Notch. If you are interested in beta, track down Jamie Brown or pester Mark Goldberg (@mark__au_berg) at Chair 6 and they’ll give you tips.

I’ve climbed and skied all the peaks on separate trips and this post is a collection of route notes, historical asides and photos to help people who are interested in climbing/skiing them – either separately or as a partial (or full) link-up.

A note about these peaks:  This is not a wilderness area – it is a highly trafficked commercial zone.  Chugach Powder Guides (CPG) holds a permit to cat ski in the Notch area and you will likely see both a snowcat and snowmachines going up and down the road ferrying clients and gear. A1, Mystery and Pipit are go to areas for heli-skiing and you’ll likely see both tracks and/or helicopters. Likewise the upper Eagle Glacier is a common touch-and-go zone for private pilots practicing their ski landings and the upper Eagle is also a flight path for heli-ski companies ferrying clients to Lake George. Skiers should be aware that they will probably be around motorized users all day – and most likely find old ski tracks in zones favorable to skiing. If this bothers you switch goals to something in Chugach State Park where motorized access is not allowed in alpine zones.

Kakiko RL approaching the summit of Notch – February 2020.

Notch Mountain (3,087’)

Notch Mountain is the minor peak that lies 2 1/2 miles northeast of Alyeska. The eastern bump of the peak is commonly referred to as Sunny-side. Both names are common names, the source of which is unknown.

Looking at Notch from Goat Ridge. Note the cat road – also note the cat raod that traverses through the trees towards A1. This is a very popular zone & with if snowcat is operating it will probably be tracked out. Click here to see a zoomed-in view of the tracks. April 2023.

Details of the first ascent of the peak are also unknown, but the peak was likely climbed at the turn of the century when miners were exploring the Girdwood area. In 1903 a miner named George W. Davis staked a claim off the first tributary of Glacier Creek above Crow (the creek that drains the Notch / Sunny-side bowl) which he named “Paystreak Creek”.  Gerrit Verbeek has a full writeup of this historical account on his website Chosslore.  A few years later Girdwood miner Axel Linblad staked a claim off Winner Creek.  He constructed a footbridge across Glacier Creek a gravel road up to his claim at 60.9792, -149.07080. The mine operated from 1917 -1923  during which a total of 39 ounces of gold was claimed 3. Given the proximity of these claims, it’s likely that Davis or Linblad scrambled up the near-by peak to survey possible claims. Linblad remained in Girdwood for years where he managed the Girdwood mines at Crow Creek. He built a cabin just off California Creek which still stands 4. The avenue next to the Health Center / Chair 5 was named after him.

Kakiko high on Notch. In the background is the beautiful Raggedtop bowl.

East face of Alyeska. This run comes into condition every few years. Access by going over Max’s and up the West face below Teacup Bowl. Ski the sun-lit face to the bench then drop steep trees to the Winner creek trail. The top part is very exposed and the lower tree skiing is wild.

Traversing from Notch towards Sunny-side. There’s a short rock band you need to work your way through – but it’s easy skiing.

On the sunny ridge and heading towards Sunny-side.

Notch is a popular ski zone that is accessed via a snowcat road maintained by CPG. The land that the cat road follows is a mixture of municipal and federal land and CPG has held both state and federal permits to operate in the area since the mid 90s (the lower cat road and most of the upper road leading to the hut is muni land 5 ).

Avalanches and unexploded ordinances are possible.

Not much is to be said about skiing Notch. We ski it in a regular basis because you can drop off the kids at ski school, ski to the top and get back to Alyeska before school lets out. It an easy 2 hour ski to the top and if you opt to do the traverse you can easily pick your way across the ridge to Sunny-side.  Better yet – ski a tree-run down Notch then take the eastern cat track up Sunny-side for an afternoon tour down the western slopes back to the cat track.

Notch Mountain (Traverse)

This is an mellow tour with great views.  It can get crowded and is often tracked out (especially if the snowcat is running), but if you venture past the end of the cat road you’re generally on your own.

Approach: Park at the Nordic loop lot and ski the cat road towards Winner Creek. Cross the bridge and follow the cat road to the peak.

Route: For Notch ascend the cat track to the end and break trail to the summit.  The ridge narrows towards the end but is straight forward. To traverse the peak, drop slightly off the northeast face and sidehill back to the ridge.  Once back on the ridge it’s an easy ski to Sunny-side.

Gear: Skis & avalanche gear.

Distance / Time: Our traverse plus bonus run was 11 miles / 4,700′. It took us just under 5 hours roundtrip.

Anthony Larson off the summit of A1 – March 2020.

A1 (4,900’)

The next peak down the skyline is A1. From Girdwood the summit of A1 is partially blocked by Northstar – which is actually a sub-peak of A1 – but if you look closely you can see the small glacier peeking behind the rocky outcrop of Northstar.  Like many local peaks the history of this peak is murky; the name probably refers to the Bell 205 A1 helicopter – a common helicopter used in heli-skiing – and the name was probably coined by Paul Crews who was one of the pioneers of heli-skiing in the mountains around Girdwood 6.

The Southwest Face / Southwest Ridge of A1 from Sunny-side – February 2020. Note that Northstar (the rocky peak on the left) appears bigger but it is actually 200′ shorter.

Details about the first ascent of A1 are unknown – but it was probably sometime in the mid-80s, and given Crew’s explorations in the area there’s a good chance it was helicopter assisted in some way. In the October 1993 Scree Tim Kelley mentions he found a small cairn atop the peak when Tim Miller, Bill Spencer, and he climbed it on June 13, 1993:

While ascending this peak we were surprised to find a monument in a small col several hundred feet below the summit.  The plaque was in memory of Thomas Ellis who died in 1982. The monument commanded astounded views of Girdwood and the Western Chugach to the east and the coastal Chugach and Kenai peaks to the south. On top of the peak we found a small cairn.

– Tim Kelley, October 1993 Scree

Thomas A. Ellis (1950-1982) was from Girdwood and a paramedic with the Anchorage Fire Department. He died in a helicopter crash near Tanana on April 11, 1982 7. An account of the crash published in the Daily News Miner, Fairbanks is copied below:


A Tundra Copters pilot at the controls of a helicopter that slammed into a mountain northeast of Tanana Sunday did not radio for help before the crash, the general manager for the Fairbanks air taxi service said this morning. “Right now, it’s unknown,” Craig Fielding said of the accident’s cause.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash that killed pilot John A. Russell,32, of Fairbanks; Thomas A. Ellis, 32, of Girdwood, and Gary McKenzie, 28, of Anchorage.

Jon Osgood, who heads the Alaskan NTSB office, said this morning that he had yet talked with investigator Dick Stella and that cause of the accident is unknown. Stella and a technical representative for Hughes Aircraft traveled Tuesday to the accident site, 19 miles northeast of Tanana. The victims’ bodies were recovered Tuesday by a State Trooper and Tundra Copters employees.

Ellis and McKenzie were Anaconda Copper Company employees. They left Fairbanks Sunday morning for a one-day trip to the Ray Mountains to set up a prospecting camp, an Arco spokesman said. The Ray Mountains are located 50 miles northeast of Tanana.

Susan Andrews said that Ellis, formerly a paramedic with the Anchorage Fire Department, was employed as a safety consultant; and McKenzie was a seasonal employee who had been hired as camp manager for the prospecting camp. The pair were expected to return to Fairbanks Sunday night but when the helicopter had not returned by 7:30 p.m., it was reported missing. Fielding said.

Fielding who is also a pilot, located the wreckage about 3 p.m. Monday after landing at the Anaconda camp. Overcast skies and poor weather hampered earlier search efforts, he said. Fielding said he followed a flight line from the camp toward Fairbanks. He spotted the helicopter above timberline on a mountain about an hour later. It was destroyed and apparently lost its rotor blades on impact, he said.

Fielding also said that Russell had apparently left McKenzie and Ellis at the camp while he shuttled explosives from Tanana to the mining camp, before returning to get them and bring them back to Fairbanks. Fielding said Russell was an experienced pilot and had never had an accident. He had been flying with Tundra Copters since 1977 and had logged more than 4,000 hours flight time, Fielding said.

– Daily News Miner, Fairbanks, Alaska, Monday, April 19, 1982

I’ve been up A1 several times via both the Southwest Ridge and the Southwest Face. Even though it tends to be tracked out from heli-traffic the tour makes for a fun day. The Southwest Ridge is a much more enjoyable route – however it does add a little time and distance due to meandering around rock outcroppings on the ridge. Beyond the distance / elevation stats and standard avalanche assessment there isn’t really much to add.

Anthony on Southwest Ridge just after dropping off of Sunny-side.

Anthony weaving his way up the Southwest Ridge.

Another view of the East Face of Alyeska. You ski the sunlit face to the bench and then drop the treed slope that is in-between the two gullies. When we skied it the trees were holding deep faceted snow and as we skied past them tree wells would open up behind us!

Anthony high on the Southwest Ridge.

Isaac en route to A1 – March 2021. Note the old heli tracks.

Loads of heli tracks on the Southwest Face.

Louis approaching the top of A1 via the Southwest Face route. March 2021.

Anthony off the top of A1. March 2020. This was right when COVID was starting and CPG had shut down operations. Anthony is a doc and told me I was more likely to die skiing than from COVID so we went skiing.

A1 (Southwest Ridge / Southwest Face)

A1 is a slight step up from Notch in terms of time and distance. The Southwest Face is the prime slope angle for avalanches, so choose your day wisely. Note that the peak is heli-skied on a regular basis so you’re unlikely to get fresh tracks – but the tour and views are wonderful (especially if you opt for the Southwest Ridge approach).

Approach: Park at the Nordic loop lot and ski the cat road towards Winner Creek. The cat road splits at the Notch cutoff and then splits again shortly after you begin the climb to Sunny-side.

Route: To take the ridge route, ascend to the top of Sunny-side and then follow the Southwest Ridge all the way to the summit.  This is a wonderful long mellow ridge route with beautiful views and enjoyable skiing. To ascend the Southwest Face take the cut-off that leads into the woods just above the Notch / Sunny-side junction.  This deposits you in the valley at the base of the Southwest Face which you can then work your way up. Ascending via the Southwest Face is more direct and generally faster – but also more avalanche prone. To descend most people ski the Southwest Face back to the cat road – however you can also easily traverse back to the ridge.

Gear: Skis & avalanche gear.

Distance / Time: The Southwest Ridge is 15 miles / 6,000′ RT.   The Southwest Face is 13 miles / 6,000′ RT.  Both routes took us around 8 hrs.

Isaac Swanson off the summit of Mystery – March 2021.

Mystery Mountain (5,300’)

Continue further north along the skyline ridge and the peak you reach is Mystery Mountain. Mystery can just barely be seen from Girdwood due to the majority of the peak being blocked by Northstar – but if you know where to look you can just see the pocket glacier that clings to the Southwest Face and the rocky peak next to it. It should be noted that Mystery is not an official name and the peak is sometimes referred to as Hendrix Peak due to the couloir on the West Face that looks like a guitar (the Hendrix Couloir).

Southwest Face of Mystery from A1 – March 2021. Note the choke / lower couloir.

The Hendrix Couloir on the West Face of Mystery. Photo taken at the frozen lake – April 2021. Of note is the shoulder lower left – which is the pass you must go over to access 5 Glacier / Pipit.

The first recorded ascent of the peak was by Tom Choate who, in an April 2001 Scree, mentioned that he climbed Mystery Mountain in the 1980s. When asked about the peak, local mountain historian Steve Gruhn recalled a 2002 ascent with Choate:

When Tom and I climbed Mystery Mountain with Dwight Iverson on July 4, 2002 (and again on July 7, 2002), he mentioned to me that the name came from one of his “mystery mountain hikes.”  Tom would advertise hikes in the Scree with only a mystery destination.  As I recall the tale, in the 1980s Tom led a trip to what is now known as Mystery Mountain, but the only other participant on the trip stopped short of the summit.  They had approached from Glacier Creek, not via the ridge route that we did in 2002.  The name came from Tom’s “mystery mountain hikes.”

– Steve Gruhn, personal communication, April 21, 2023

I climbed and skied Mystery Mountain with Aaron Holmen and Isaac Swanson in March 2021. We linked both A1 and Mystery and then skied all the way down the Southwest Face to the basin below Northstar.  It was an absolutely amazing day in the mountains and I dubbed it the Magical Mystery Tour because everything about the day and route was perfect (“The Magical Mystery Tour / Is waiting to take you away”).

The day we climbed it Isaac and I started early because Aaron was having car trouble and said he’d meet up later.  Issac and I toured up A1 and reached the summit just as Aaron was coming across the ridge. We dropped down the Southwest face, where Aaron joined us and then traversed a bench across the southern slopes to gain the drainage between A1 and Mystery (CPG regularly skis this drainage down to to Berry Pass).  We then worked our way up the Southern slopes until finally gaining the South Ridge which we followed to the summit.  The South Ridge had a layer of rime ice that was disconcerting because it would routinely collapse with a loud whumph – but the danger was easily avoidable and we managed to work our way to the summit without issues.

Isaac down the South face of A1 looking for the bench that will allow us to traverse towards Mystery.

Aaron skiing up the south face to gain the ridge. In the background is the unnamed lake that formed after Twenty-mile Glacier retreated.

When skiing for miles and miles it is imperative to bring along a strong 20-something skier to break trail.

The ridge from A1 to Mystery. It probably goes but we were playing it safe.

Aaron and Isaac on the South Ridge of Mystery. The prominent peak middle right is Highbush. A year after this trip Aaron and I went & skied Highbush on my 49th birthday!

We dropped our skis at the top of the of the Southwest face run and scrambled the remaining short bit to the summit where we looked around, snapped photos gazed at the 10 miles of terrain we’d need to traverse to get back. Then back to the skis and clipping in. There were about old 8 tracks down the meat of the run, but wind had partially filled them in, and the run ended up being pretty much perfect.

Looking back at A1 from the summit of Mystery. We dropped down the South Face and regained the ridge well to the left to avoid the rock bands. A shorter variation of this tour is to ski the obvious ramp that drops to the lake.

Looking North towards Pipit and Yudi from the summit of Mystery. To climb Pipit you must go up the glacier in the foreground (5 Glacier), then climb up and over the bump at the top of the glacier to gain the Yudi Glacier. The summit of Pipit is the peak in the middle of the frame.

Selfie on top of Mystery.

Point 4155 in the Twenty-mile drainage. This peak was the scene of a tragedy in July 1896 when Edward Kennah fell into a crevasse while attempting to traverse the peak. Kennah was wedged so tightly he couldn’t move and despite efforts his partners were unable to rescue him and sat next to him until he died. Gerrit Verbeek republished the Seattle Post-Intelligencer August 16 1896 article in the May 2021 Scree p. 16. A clipping about the accident from the Aug 15, 1896 New York Times can be read here.

Below the Southwest Face the run necks down into a couloir with a choke at the start.  This run was more secluded from the wind and the tracks were unavoidable – but it was still a great run.  This pitch ended on the frozen lake at the bottom of the bowl where the heli had picked up all the clients – so below the lake we had untracked powder dropping all the way down into the bowl below Northstar.  And then back up to the A1 cat road cut-off and eventually back to the cat road and skate skiing back to the car.

Isaac down Mystery.

Aaron down Mystery. Note Isaac at the bottom of the run just above the choke.

Isaac down the choke.

Tracks down the choke April 2021 (not our tracks and not the day we skied Mystery).

Isaac dropping the run below the lake & headed towards the Northstar Bowl.

After you ski down from below Northstar it’s all downhill – except for the uphill. (If you look closely middle left you can see our skin track heading towards A1.)

Mystery and A1 (from Goat Ridge). The upper SW face of Mystery is hidden but you can see the choke and the run below the lake (the lake is the in upper bowl).

The lower run of Mystery from the lake (top left) and down past the Northstar’s North Buttress. The Northstar couloir is in the cirque climber’s right of the rock buttress. Legend has it that Jonny Moseley once straight-lined the couloir!

Northstar Bowl. The valley behind the ridge in the foreground is A1 valley – and the ridge center frame is the SW Ridge of A1.

A1 & Mystery (Magical Mystery Tour)

This is an absolutely amazing tour that truly takes you away. That said – it requires a significant effort due to the distance and elevation gain / loss – not to mention the route finding to get from A1 to Mystery plus avalanche assessment on multiple slope aspects and angles. To put it in perspective – when you reach the top of A1 you’re only a 1/3 of the way done – and you’re only 1/2 way when you reach the top of Mystery.  That said – the tour up the South Ridge of Mystery is amazing and the Southwest Face / lower chute run is one of the best in the valley. Mystery often gets heli-skied, so if you’re headed there expect to find tracks both on the upper face as well as in the lower valley below Northstar.

Approach: Follow the same route as you would to approach A1.

Route: This lollipop tour starts with an ascent of A1 then takes the ridge to the summit of Mystery. You then ski the Southwest face and drop down to the base of Northstar until returning to the cat road. To get from A1 to Mystery you can attempt to boot down the ridge (shorter but harder) or you can drop south until reaching a bench on the South Face of A1 that you traverse towards the drainage between A1 and Mystery – and then ascend the long South Face/Ridge of Mystery (longer but easier). Both routes deposit you on the the South Ridge which you follow to the summit.  To descend, ski the Southwest Face to the obvious choke at the base of the run.  Next drop the choke to the frozen lake (61.00737, -148.97216). You’ll then continue skiing west until reaching the bowl below Northstar.  Next trend northwest until you have to put skins back on in order to regain the skin track  / cat road.

Gear: Skis & avalanche gear / ice axe. Technically this is a glacier route – so there’s the slight chance of a bergschrund – but few would bother carrying a rope for this slog (see Kennah’s story above).

Distance / Time: This is a 20 mile / 8,500′ route.  It took us around 10 hrs.

Eric Parsons trenching to the summit of Pipit – April 2021.

Pipit Peak (6,000’)

Continuing down the ridge the next peak with 500′ of prominence is Pipt. Pipit Peak was named by Tom Choate who made first recorded ascent of the peak in 1993. The name was in keeping with the bird theme of the upper Eagle (Finch, Bunting, Roost, Golden Crown, Sparrow, Yudi, Longspur and Raven).

Pipit Peak lies in the middle of the skyline and is difficult to reach.  Most parties have climbed the peak as part of a longer traverse either from A1/Mystery or via the Eagle Glacier/Yudi – however while skiing in this zone I had snapped several photos of a possible route to Pipit and was keen to give it a try.

Pipit Peak from Goat Ridge (April 2023). The route ascends 5 Glacier on the right (hidden behind ridge) and gains the ridge at the bump middle of frame to gain the Yudi Glacier. You then traverse the upper glacier to gain the South Ridge / Face.

First attempt was with Louis Sass in March 2021. We made it up the cat road, across to the A1 valley and then started down towards Northstar. As we started the traverse towards the Northstar Bowl we stopped to reevaluate the exposed traverse. The possibility of persistent slab and the knowledge that two different skiers had triggered avalanches on nearby north aspects a few days prior gave us pause, so we dug a pit. A pit indicated persistent slab was still present in this location, so we pulled the plug and skied elsewhere that day.

A week later I went back with Eric Parsons.  The snowpack had healed for another week and this time we quickly ascended the cat road and skied to the traverse to Northstar Bowl with no issues. At the bottom of Northstar we put the skins back on a began breaking trail uphill – our goal being the frozen lake at the base of the choke. A short detour up the wrong pass put us on top of a steep impassible col (frozen lakes are hard to identify in the winter!) – but we quickly realized our mistake and  soon made our way to the correct lake and up the the correct pass.

Closeup of 5 Glacier Pass. Gain the ridge just above the frozen lake, descend slightly and then climb back up to gain the center bump. You can then easily descend to the glacier.

Uncropped version of the previous photo. You can see the lake (middle right) and the glacier you must ascend to reach the upper pass to Yudi Glacier.

Atop the pass (5 Glacier Pass) we re-evaluated our route. We had started the day rather late (10am) and were going to be crossing a steep southern slope that had evidence of recent point releases above at 2pm. The traverse required dropping under a slope capped by rocks warming in the sun and it was above a steep drop with cliff bands.  Not ideal. However, despite being sunny, it was still cool and we hadn’t seen actual releases yet so opted to go for it.  One at a time down into the terrain trap and then quickly climbing up the other side to reach a bench above the glacier (5 Glacier). Then skins off, glacier gear on and a few hundred foot drop to the base of the glacier followed by a long hot 2 mile slog to the top of the glacier.

Eric starting across the pass.

Looking down at the abyss you have to ski above. Not really a fun zone.

Eric on top of the bump above 5 Glacier.

As we neared the top of the glacier our enthusiasm began to wane.  We had traveled 10 miles / 8,000′ over 7 hours without even catching glimpse of the peak we wanted to climb. It was 5pm, light was getting flat and we needed to reverse everything in order to get home. A brief discussion about being prudent and bailing was had – however this discussion was quickly forgotten when we reached the top of the bump at the head of the glacier and saw the summit a mere mile and 600′ above us.

Off the pass and starting up 5 Glacier.

Part way up 5 Glacier. In the background you can see our tracks off the pass.

Eric nearing the bump that we will descend to Yudi Glacier.

We put our heads down and slogged to the summit which we reached at 6pm.  The final 25′ was a steep pitch of thigh deep snow and Eric trenched a path to the top which I quickly followed.  A brief photo-op and then reversing the route.

Looking west towards Girdwood from the top of Pipit.

The top of Pipit was rock hard that transitioned to breakable. It was the worst snow I skied that season.  If you could call it skiing… more like a combination of slide-slipping and stepping downhill.  A few hundred later I was able to traverse hard skiers left back to our tracks and make a few turns in the breakable crust before pulling off the skis and booting  back up to the pass to 5 Glacier.

Eric booting back up to the bump to gain 5 Glacier. Note our beautiful tracks off the summit.

We had ascended 5 Glacier in beautiful afternoon sun when the snow had been perfect soft snow that I was looking forward to skiing.  Unfortunately the afternoon sun had warmed the glacier too much – and by the time we started down at 7pm much of the powder had transitioned to breakable.  So we endured 2 miles of breakable – traversing way left and right in search of soft snow (that we never found).

The climb back up to 5 Glacier Pass went quickly and the cooler temps made the traverse back to the lake uneventful and safe.  Then dropping down below the lake and down Northstar Bowl and back up to the cat road eventually reaching the Nordic lot at 9:45pm making for a very long day!

Down 5 Glacier.

Back on the bump and about to traverse across the ave zone to reach the 5 Glacier Pass.

Back at the lake. Miles to go before I sleep.

Pipit Peak (South Face)

Pipit Peak is a major slog with a lot of elevation gain and loss. You’ll travel for many hours before even seeing the peak. The traverse up and over the pass to reach 5 Glacier has significant avalanche exposure from above and you must traverse over an obvious terrain trap. Once you reach the glacier there aren’t any real difficulties until finally reaching the summit block which requires a short pitch of exposed steep snow. In short – this is an arduous route with mediocre skiing, however the scenery, especially upon reaching the upper Yudi Glacier, is spectacular.

Approach: Approach as you would for the Southwest Face of A1. Once out of the trees trend south and tour around the ridge as if approaching Northstar.  Next work your way up towards the lake (61.00737, -148.97216) at the base of the West Face of Mystery.

Route: Once at the lake work your way up to a gap due west of the Hendrix Couloir. The pass you’re aiming for is at 61.00869, -148.97229. This is the objective crux of the route because you’ll have to determine (a) if it is safe to cross now and (b) if it will still be safe when you return 6-8 hours later. Descend off this pass aiming northeast towards 5 Glacier.  Once on the glacier tour 2 miles to the head of the glacier, then ascend the bump at the top to gain the Yudi Glacier.  Then traverse another mile to the South Ridge / summit. Reverse your route to get back.

Gear: Skis & avalanche gear / ice axe / crampons / glacier kit.  A 30m rope will suffice.

Distance / Time: 21.5 miles / 8,850′ RT. It took us 11 1/2 hours.

Isaac Swanson approaching the summit of Yudi – April 2023.

Yudi Peak (6,540’)

Yudi is the tallest of the skyline peaks above Girdwood. It is the most difficult the skyline peaks and requires a mixed bag of mountaineering skills plus decent weather and avalanche conditions in order to make a safe ascent. Lacking info about first ascents and I once again reached out to Gruhn for information:

Yudi Peak was named by Tom Choate.  Yudi is evidently the Dena’ina name for golden eagle, hence the location of Yudi Peak near all of the other geographic features in the area named after birds.  While researching the Hoeman collection at the Consortium Library, I came across a news clipping from the Anchorage Daily Times that indicated that Robert “Bob” Goodwin, Keith Hart, Mat Nitsch, and Charles Wilson climbed Yudi Peak in 1959.  And regarding the “Yudi” theme, Yudikench Peak was named after the Dena’ina name for a golden eagle’s nest.

– Steve Gruhn, personal communication, April 21, 2023

Yudi Peak (the snow covered peak on the right) from Goat Ridge – April 2023.

Isaac Swanson and I climbed Yudi in April 2023. It took us 12 1/2 hours to cover the 17 miles / 8000’ elevation gain/loss. We started at the Crow Pass (winter) parking lot at 8:30 and were soon following an old skin track up Surprise Bowl towards Goat Ridge.

The Goat Ridge route follows the creek for a ways and then turns off and ascends a northwest trending sub-ridge that 3,000’ later deposits you on Goat Ridge proper (at 4,200’). Once reaching Goat Ridge it’s another 2,000’ skin / boot to the Eagle Glacier.

Isaac on Goat Ridge (around 4200′) and about to transition to booting.

Heading up Goat Ridge.

We followed an old boot pack for a while but as we got got higher we began kicking steps in fresh snow. It was straightforward climbing and we never needed the crampons or ice axes and eventually reached the Eagle after 4 hours of travel.

We donned our glacier gear (but left the rope in the pack) and were soon skiing east towards the peak. On the way there we opted to take a lower pass to gain the eastern lobe of the Eagle Glacier. This ended up being straightforward and coverage was snow good so we never bothered with the rope.

Heading across the western lobe of the Eagle Glacier. On our way to the route we went over the low pass middle left of the photo. On our return we climbed to the obvious col center right and skied the face back to the Eagle.

Heading over the pass between the western and eastern lobes of the Eagle Glacier.

Through the pass, down a short slope to gain the main glacier love and then straight up to the base of Yudi.

Isaac dropping down onto the western lobe of the Eagle.

Heading towards Yudi. The East Ridge is the ridge above Isaac and accessed via the ramp on the left. The run down the North Face is the obvious ramp that trends skier’s right off the summit.

Satellite imagery had shown a huge bergschrund on the north face – but the recent spring snowfall (10’ in mid March!) had almost completely filled it in and we skinned up a ramp that lead towards the East Ridge and regrouped. We felt good about the crevasse coverage, so opted to keep the rope in the pack and space it out given the top convexity and the fear that we might encounter a wind slab near the ridge. Isaac took the lead and broke trail across the bergschrund and then up to the ridge.

Approaching the East Ridge. Northern aspects were holding beautiful low density powder.

On the East Ridge. In the background is the West Face of Sparrow Peak – a beautiful peak that begs to be skied!

The snow ended up being perfect and soon Isaac was on top and I was following his tracks in deep blower powder. We regrouped on the East Ridge and the rest of the route was easy skiing to the top.

The 1500′ West Face of Sparrow Peak.

Summit photos and a brief snack and drink and then checking out the ramp that dropped straight off the summit and down the North Face. Isaac dropped in and linked turns just as a cloud obscured the sun – turning the beautiful steep run into nondescript white fog. When I followed I was happy to have existing tracks! And then we were homeward bound. Returning we opted for another route – this time taking the pass just north of the sub-peak north of Yudi.

Isaac on the summit of Yudi.

Heading back to Goat Ridge.

Down a nice run to the Eagle and then the skin back to the top of Goat Ridge and then the long slow descent of the rocky portion of the ridge. Isaac skied the gully skiers left of the ridge, I downclimbed the ridge, realizing half way (and too late) that I really should be using my ice axe. It was a slow careful descent that seemed a lot steeper that what I had come up 8 hours earlier. Supposedly there is a rap anchor somewhere above the steeper rock step, but Isaac had the rope and was at the bottom waiting for me so I didn’t bother looking for it.

Last climb to the top of Goat Ridge.

On Goat Ridge about to drop into Surprise Bowl.

Down Surprise Bowl at sunset.

The final descent of the sub-ridge into Surprise Bowl was what I refer to as “ACL skiing” – a mixture of blower, breakable and hardpack. The type of skiing that is just waiting for you to misjudge a turn so you can blow out your ACL or knee or tib-fib. I misjudged a couple turns – but recovered quickly and a combination of kick-turns and side slipping soon had us back on the valley floor for the luge run down the creek and through the alders and back to the car.

Yudi Peak (East Ridge / North Face)

This is a spectacular ski mountaineering route with everything from exposed Class 3+ scrambling to crevasses, bergschunds and steep snow. Expect everything from a difficult ascent of Goat Ridge, route finding over tenuous crevasse bridges north of Yudi, the possibility of an open bergschund while gaining the ridge, plus significant cornice and avalanche danger. After you accomplish all of the above you’ll need to do everything in reverse. A true classic!

Approach: Ascend Goat Ridge via the common route. Once on Eagle Glacier, ski east until you can work your way around to the north side of Yudi (note our map and the two different routes we took).

Route: The route gains the East Ridge via a snow shoulder on the northeast side of the peak. There is a significant bergschrund on the north side that may require belayed climbing. Once you gain the East Ridge it is an easy ski to the summit (the cornices are huge so be wary). If conditions are good you can ski right off the summit and down a steep ramp on the North Face. Once back on the glacier reverse your route to get back. Note that there is a rap anchor on Goat Ridge somewhere above the rock step.

Gear: Skis & avalanche gear / ice axe / crampons / glacier kit.  A 30m rope will suffice.

Distance / Time: 17 miles / 8,000′ RT. It took us 12 hours.


Thanks to the numerous ski partners who joined me on these (10+) trips. In no particular order those partners consist of my wife, Kakiko RL, Anthony Larson, Alex Wilson, Louis Sass, Isaac Swanson, Aaron Holeman and Eric Parsons. Also thanks for Mike Records for beta on how to get around A1 to reach Mystery, and to Gerrit Verbeek and Steve Gruhn for historical notes and Tim Kelley for his Scree articles.


  1. Kelley, Glacier Creek Circumnavigation, Scree, January 2000. p. 6 []
  2. Green, A Harrowing Descent off Yudi Peak (6540 feet), Western Chugach Mountain, Scree, October 2019. p. 17 []
  3. USGS Mineral Resource Data System (MRDS) Deposit ID 10112887 []
  4. Glacier Ranger District, Chugach National Forest, Upper Turnagain Landscape Assessment p 32. []
  5. Heritage Land Bank 2022 p. 46 []
  6. Gerrit Verbeek was the one who clued me into this. He has been working on an article about Paul Crews and the Girdwood area which he will eventually publish on Choss Lore. []
  7.   National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Accident Final Report Accident #ANC82FA036[]