Peakbagging in Alaska
Peakbagging – “An activity in which hikers, climbers and mountaineers attempt to reach a collection of summits, published in the form of a list.”
I got into peakbagging almost 3 years ago. At first I would just hike up mountains to enjoy the views. I would only stay on trails and after a while, my trips became fairly limited. That is when I decided to literally go off the beaten paths in search of new adventures.
Looking at maps and topos of my area online, I discovered peakbagger.com. On the website, you get to choose between different types of maps and most peaks are highlighted for better reading. You can select a peak and details will pop up, such as elevation, prominence, forecast, etc. It also has information on who might have climbed it and at times even has trip reports as well as a GPS tracks.
Peakbagging is addictive.
Once you start checking mountains off your list, it is hard to stop. In South Central Alaska, the most notorious list is the Chugach State Park Peaks, featuring 120 peaks. Some of them are fairly remote and only accessible by air and can be quite technical. I know of a couple people who either completed the list or are fairly close to finishing. I am not personally actively going after it, but who knows…maybe some day!
Prominence plays a big factor in sought after peaks, as a prominent peak can take a hold of you just by looking at its imposing stature. As the number of peaks to climb can become overwhelming, some choose to only focus on fairly prominent mountains.
You don’t have to be an accomplished mountaineer to start peakbagging. I started myself by going up any easy mountain I could find in my area, taking between 2 and 5 hours round trip, with brush and bushes being the only obstacles. After a year or so of getting more familiar with the mountains, I got to take on more challenging peaks with more elevation gain, longer approaches, glacier travel, exposure, etc. which require additional mountaineering skills. It is an ongoing process and I learn something new every time I get out there.
Gear-wise, summer trips can involve as little as a pair of trail runners and trekking poles. In the wintertime, ice axes, crampons, plastic boots, gaiters and other mountaineering equipment are not uncommon here in Alaska.
Climbing mountains gives me a great sense of accomplishment. It teaches me to be patient, deal with pain and fear, enjoy the simple things but also enables me to spend more time outdoors with good company. If you live close to the mountains and are looking to get into peakbagging, check out www.peakbagger.com to see what’s going on in your area!