Sunday, August 26, 2007

Harp Mountain and the Hanging Valley

Saturday we woke up to another beautiful day. Brian and I had not climbed a peak together since early August (well, except for Flattop), so we both had many ideas of which one to try. We decided on Harp mountain via the Hanging Valley Trail. Harp Mountain is at 5000-ish feet and starts at around 1700 ft, so we didn't think it would be too difficult.

We pulled up to the trail head in Eagle River to find a completely full parking lot with an overflow onto the road of about 25 cars. It's been raining for about two weeks and it seems that everyone is trying to get out before the rain starts up again. We were looking for some solitude, so were a bit disappointed, but we quickly found out that most of these people were within a mile of the trail head picking blueberries.

The trail winds down to Eagle River for about 2 miles, where you cross the river to get to the Hanging Valley on the other side. We climbed up to the valley and turned left to break off from the trail and start climbing Harp Mountain. We found a place where it was somewhat easy to cross the creek and then had a short bushwhack at the base of the mountain. We were completely above tree line the whole time, so we had amazing views of Eagle River Valley and Hanging Valley.

Since there was no trail we had three choices of how we wanted to get up to the peak. We could go up the gully in the middle, or pick one of the two ridges surrounding the gully. Brian said it was "ladies choice", so I chose the less daunting looking ridge, where I thought we would have better views. For some reason we were both feeling really sluggish and stopped for a lot of breaks. We scrambled up the ridge and got to a saddle where we knew we only had about 300 more feet of climbing. As soon as we got there we were socked in by clouds.

As we climbed the ridge the cloud we were in dissipated. At the top there were clouds swirling all around us, which made for interesting views. Rather than instantly being able to see in all directions, we had a different view reveal itself every few seconds. We were sitting at the top with another couple and their dogs, talking about and pointing at peaks in the area that we've climbed or that we hope to climb in the future. We saw Cantata Peak, Triangle Peak, and even got a glimpse of Anchorage and the Knik Arm. At one point we could see all the way back to the Eagle Glacier area where we got picked up by helicopter earlier this year.

I was getting cold so we started to make our way down. We saw a trail on the other side of the mountain that went directly back down to the road. We decided to take this route down and then try to hitch a ride back to the car. We ran most of the way down and then took a wrong turn at the bottom and had to bushwhack a bit. The blueberries were abundant in this area that no one seems to hike through, so we picked about two pints of them. Down on the road, no cars came by, so we hike all the way back to the car. At one point we stopped outside of a house to look at the map. An old man came out and said we should be careful, there is a mama grizzly bear and her cub that just came through his yard and up onto the road. We never saw her, and think she must have been scared away by our singing.

It was good to get back out into the mountains and hopefully summer will hang on for another week. Click here to see the rest of the pictures.

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