North Suicide (5,065')
North Face of North Suicide from Avalanche Peak.

North Suicide is the beautiful peak that sits above Rabbit Lake and can be seen from many parts of Anchorage.  It has a number of interesting routes to the summit from the moderate South Ridge walkup to exciting mix routes on the North Face.  It is a great afterwork hike in mid summer, or full day alpine adventure in mid-winter.

References: Scree January 2019.

Route(s)

East Ridge   

TYPE
Hike
Hike
RATING
Difficulty
Class 3
SEASON
season
May - Oct

First Ascent:  Unknown
Total Time:  6-8 hours.
Approach Time:  1 hour to base of East Ridge.
Climbing Time:  Up: 3-4 hours, Down: 1 hour.
Route Difficulties:  Route-finding; easy bushwhacking.
Equipment:  Hiking gear.

This is my favorite route on North Suicide.  The 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, followed 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.

Approach: 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.

Route: 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.

Descent: 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.


North Ridge   

TYPE
Scramble
Scramble
RATING
Difficulty
Class 3+
SEASON
season
Jun - Sep

First Ascent:  Unknown
Total Time:  1/2 day.
Approach Time:  1 hour to Rabbit Lake.
Climbing Time:  Up: 2-3 hours. Down 1 hour.
Route Difficulties:  Route-finding; exposed Class 3+ rock.
Equipment:  Hiking gear; helmet.

The North Ridge is a wonderful scramble up an exposed ridge with decent rock. It is one of the nicer close of home Chugach scrambles and can easily be climbed afterwork in mid to late summer.  It is advised that you wait till later in the season for the route to be completely dry so as to avoid any snow 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.

Approach: Park at the Canyon Road trailhead and 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.

Route: The crux of the North Ridge is gaining the actual ridge. There are several route options, but just about all of them require exposed scrambling on wet rock / moss. 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. Note that you can also gain the North Ridge by biking to Powerline Pass and hiking over and over South Powerline Peak (Peak 4500' just south of Powerline Pass) and then descending to the North Ridge. This option avoids the steep scramble to ridgeline but requires you to climb back up and over South Powerline Peak to get back home.

Descent: Descend the Southwest Gully.


Northeast Couloir   

TYPE
Snow
Snow
RATING
Difficulty
Class 3+; Steep Snow
SEASON
season
Feb - Apr

First Ascent:  Unknown
Total Time:  1 day.
Approach Time:  3 hours to base of couloir.
Climbing Time:  Up: 2-3 hours. Down: 1 hour.
Route Difficulties:  Steep snow; rockfall; short mixed step.
Equipment:  Snow & avalanche gear.

This is a steep dark chute that is only accessible after an hour plus detour from the closest trail. While climbing I was surprised to find so much rock in the chute. I know that couloirs are riddled with rocks during the melt / freeze transition cycle but for some reason this chute seemed to have more choss than usual. The large boulders blocking the chute had obviously at one point rolled down from higher up and the chockstone section and skinny ice runnel / rock step appear as if they quickly melt out. Once past the skinny section the couloir broadened and was good climbing and I didn’t feel like I was in a bowling alley - but for several hundred feet you’re in a bad rock fall zone. To make things worse - the skinny section is where the harder climbing is so you’re forced to go slower in the worse zone. Another thing I noted was that once up on the main route you’re looking straight down at the couloir and the route is exposed to hiker rockfall in a couple spots. Topping out on a well traveled route and discovering that you’ve just traveled up a route exposed to rockfall from careless hikers spooks me a bit. Thus for those reasons I can’t really recommend the route. The tour up and over the Suicides is aesthetic but a better route would be either the North or East Ridge.

Approach: Park at the Indian Valley trailhead and hike up Powerline Pass trail (not Indian Valley trail!) and hike until you reach the eastern slopes of Homicide Peak (around 2500'). At this point cut off and side-hill with minimal bushwhacking all the the way to the hanging valley and tarn at the base of the north face.

Route: The first 600' is moderate snow. The couloir is wide and we you can stay left to avoid the runnels that appeared to be more rock than snow. About 1/3 of the way up the route the couloir narrows and one has to climb over large boulders and through short rock bands. About 1/2 way up there are two rock steps including a large chockstone that requires you to scramble around to the right via a few rock / mixed moves. Beyond the rock steps the travel is straightforward steep snow. At the top of the couloir scramble up to join to the normal route (SW gully).

Descent: Descend the SW gully to Rabbit Lake / Canyon Road or descend the South ridge and hike up and over South Suicide to reach Falls Creek trail / Seward Highway.


Southwest Gully   

TYPE
Hike
Hike
RATING
Difficulty
Class 3
SEASON
season
Jun - Sep

First Ascent:  Unknown
Total Time:  1/2 day.
Approach Time:  1 hour to Rabbit Lake.
Climbing Time:  Up: 2 hours. Down: 1 hour.
Route Difficulties:  Scee; short exposed Class 3 step.
Equipment:  Hiking gear.

The Southwest Gully of North Suicide is the standard route up the peak.  It is an enjoyable afterwork climb in mid summer when you have endless daylight.  With a bike to/from Rabbit Lake you can work a full day, climb both North and South Suicide and be home before sunset.

Approach: Park at the Canyon Road trailhead and bike or hike 4 miles to Rabbit Lake. Leave your bike at Rabbit Lake and continue on foot around the southwest side of the lake aiming for the col between North and South Suicide. At the base of the col (Windy Gap) look up at North Suicide and just climbers right of the summit note the distinct Southwest Gully that ascends 1500' to just below the summit.

Route: From the base of the col climb straight up the Southwest Gully. The talus is loose and without snow it is easiest to stay climbers left of the gully and ascend just along the rock wall. Near the top the gully splits. Take the climbers right fork to the ridge. At the top of the gully continue climbing up towards the summit. As you approach the summit ridge you'll find a rock step blocking the route. Climb over the rock step until you're perched on a stance above the imposing Northeast face with a short boulder problem in front of you. Scramble up and right over the boulder and you'll be back on the trial. The trail then ascends another 20' before once again crossing back to the southwest side of the peak. Once back on the southwest side continue up the faint trail to the summit.

Descent: Descend the route. If you wish to climb South Suicide hike past the Southwest gully and descend the South ridge to Windy Gap. Then take the trail through the scree field to the summit of South Suicide. To descend South Suicide downclimb the scree field until you reach "Hauser's gully" - the steep scree gully tucked between the East face of South Suicide and Windy Gap. The top of Hauser's Gully is steep but within 100' the descent gets easy.


West Face   

TYPE
Snow
Snow
RATING
Difficulty
Class 3+; Steep Snow
SEASON
season
Mar - May

First Ascent:  Unknown
Total Time:  8-10 hours.
Approach Time:  2 hours to Rabbit Lake.
Climbing Time:  Up: 2-3 hours. Down 1-2 hours.
Route Difficulties:  Steep snow to ridge; Class 3+ rock step to summit.
Equipment:  Snow climbing gear

This route is the broad West facing slope / gully that is just below the Northwest Ridge. The route ascends a board snow gully to the final summit ridge and an exciting scramble over rime covered rocks to the summit.   Given the avalanche potential the route should only be attempted mid to late winter when avalanche conditions are low and climbers have the necessary equipment for self rescue. Climbers new to steep snow should bring a rope and pickets for the upper pitches.

Approach: Park at the Canyon Road trailhead and ski 4 miles to Rabbit Lake. Continue around the southwest side of Rabbit lake and aim for the broad west facing gully that is just below the Northwest ridge.

Route: The West Face starts off as a moderate snow slope but quickly becomes exposed as steep as you ascend. Start in the gully just shy of the Northwest Ridge and climb the face staying just climbers right of the exposed rock along the Northwest Ridge. As you get higher the exposed rocks will force you to traverse right onto a steeper face to avoid the rock bands. Depending on the year / snowpack you may have to climb through a couple of mixed bands to connect the snow fields as you near the top. Just below the summit climb up and climbers left to gain the top of the North Ridge. From here to the summit it is approximately 200' of exposed Class 3+. In mid winter the rock will be covered with rime ice and the final moves to the summit will be tricky. There are good rocks to sling for protection if you choose to use a rope.

Descent: Descend the Southwest Gully.


Trip Report

North Suicide (Northeast Couloir) (May 18, 2014)

Last March on my way up Avalanche I snapped a photo of the North face of North Suicide. It was a bluebird day and I pretty much had my finger on the camera all day snapping photos of faces and couloirs that I’d like to explore. Back home editing through the photos a feature on North Suicide caught my eye: a big NE facing couloir dropping from right below the summit rock step and into a hanging valley in-between Homicide and North Suicide.

A few months later I scrambled up North Suicide one afternoon. Just below the rock step I peered down the couloir and tentatively down climbed a couple hundred feet to see if it would go. Steep dark rocky Chugach chutes in September can be rather spooky; pretty much everything moves when you step on it and if you sit and listen for more than 5 minutes you can hear rocks bouncing down the chute below you. Needless to say I didn’t get very far before deciding that it was very steep and scary.

Several months later, after the steep dark avalanche chutes solidified but just before everything melted down to rock, I got the itch to go explore the couloir. I sold the idea to Matt Hickey whom I had just met on a Redoubt attempt back in April. Matt is an officer in the Northern Warfare Division, he’s insanely fit and training for a US Army Denali attempt later this month. In other words, the perfect trail breaker for a 1800′ couloir. I had also thought we might carry a rope and was prepared to tell him he should be carrying the bundle of gear and rope in preparation for Denali. He was game, so on Sunday morning we set out from the Indian trailhead at 8am. At the last minute we opted to ditch the rope and carried trekking poles, ice axe, ice tool, crampons and mountain boots (opting to approach in sneakers).


Handing valley at base of N. Suicide.

Matt starting up the route.

NE Couloir of N Suicide.

So up the Indian / Powerline trail towards the hanging valley that doesn’t have a trail. We hiked past the valley floor and followed the trail towards the eastern slopes of Homicide until around 2500′. We were then able to side-hill with minimal bushwhacking (aside from a detour due to an open bear den) all the the way to the hanging valley and tarn at the base of the north face.

It took us 3 hours to reach the base of the route where we ate a quick snack, transitioned from sneakers to mountain boots and then began kicking steps up the route. The bottom was knee deep soft snow but after a few hundred feet it solidified to boot deep and we made quick progress up the route.


Matt entering the couloir.

The first 600′ or so was easy step kicking. The couloir was wide and we were able to stay left to avoid the runnels that appeared to be more rock than snow. About 1/3 of the way up the route the couloir narrowed and were began having to climb over large boulders and through short rock bands where the snow had melted out. About 1/2 way up we reached the first of two rock steps where a large chockstone had wedged it way into the couloir requiring you to scramble around to the right via a few rock / mixed moves.


Rock steps 1/3 way up the route.

Steep snow between rock steps

Approaching the chockstone step.

I downclimbed and hid behind a rock buttress to avoid rock fall while Matt scrambled up. The rock moved required a couple of easy pulls on the usual loose handhold. After Matt was safely up I followed. Falling would have meant a long tumble down an icy snowy chute, so I took it slow and carefully. A well place tool into a crack beside the chockstone enabled me to pull up and soon I was up beside Matt.


Choss.

Chugach self portrait.

Good snow up high.

The chockstone pitch was followed by a narrow band of snow that steepened until being blocked by a short section of ice and another rock step. We were able to traverse out right and climb about 50′ of easy loose rock until once again we were back on good snow.


Steep snow leading to rock.

The final portion of the route was 45 degree snow that was perfect for step kicking and tool placement. Matt lead up and I followed his excellent boot-pack and we were standing at the top of the route 90 minutes after starting.


Matt at the top of the NE couloir.

We ate lunch, drank the rest of our water, dropped out packs and scrambled up the regular route to the top of North Suicide. We then reversed the route back to our packs and then dropped down 1000′ to Windy Gap and slogged up the scree to the top of South Suicide.


View from the top of N Suicide.


Down to Windy Gap.

Looking down the route from the hikers trail.

South Suicide scree slog.


Down to Falls Creek.

And then down the regular South Suicide route to Falls Creek and down and out the Falls Creek trail that goes on forever.

Eight hours later we emerged onto the highway where we walked for about a mile with out thumbs out until finally someone kindly picked us up and dropped us off at the road leading to the Indian trailhead. And then the final mile up the Indian trailhead where we piled into the truck hot and exhausted-

Notes…

This is a steep dark chute that is only accessible after an hour plus detour from the closest trail. While climbing I was surprised to find so much rock in the chute. I know that couloirs are riddled with rocks during the melt / freeze transition cycle but for some reason this chute seemed to have more choss than usual. The large boulders blocking the chute had obviously at one point rolled down from higher up and the chockstone section and skinny ice runnel / rock step appear as if they quickly melt out. Once past the skinny section the couloir broadened and was good climbing and I didn’t feel like I was in a bowling alley – but for several hundred feet you’re in a bad rock fall zone. To make things worse – the skinny section is where the harder climbing is so you’re forced to go slower in the worse zone.

Another thing I noted was that once up on the main route you’re looking straight down at the couloir and the route is exposed to hiker rockfall in a couple spots. Topping out on a well traveled route and discovering that you’ve just traveled up a route exposed to rockfall from careless hikers spooks me a bit (think Pete Absolon in the Wind Rivers). Thus for those reasons I can’t really recommend the route. The tour up and over the Suicides is aesthetic but a better route would be the North Ridge which connects to the Homicide ridge. The North Ridge is supposedly mostly 3rd class with a bit of exposed 4th.

That said… touring up and over the Suicides makes from a great day. The total distance is about 10 miles with roughly 6500′ of elevation gain / loss and takes around 8 hours total. The couloir itself, aside from the high risk of rockfall, is an intriguing spring route for those who enjoy routes like this. If you do opt to climb it then consider going on a cold spring day before the melt / freeze cycle begins. If you choose to climb it earlier the rockfall risk will be much lower and chances are there won’t be any hikers on the route above you.

Edit January 2019:  In the January 2019 Scree Azriel Sellers wrote up a report of skiing this route solo on April 28th, 2015. It’s a good read – check it out.