StrákarStrákar means "boys" in Icelandic. Maybe the name comes from the appearance from some angles that the mountain has multiple heads.
From Akureyri or Dalvík, follow route 82 along the spectacular, waterfall-festooned cliffs of Eyjafjörður and through a spooky one-lane tunnel to the town of Ólafsfjörður. Continue on route 76 through two more very long and empty tunnels till you emerge by the photogenic waterside village of Siglufjörður. From here, drive a few kilometers north to a short tunnel. Emerging from the tunnel, you'll see an unmistakable orange lighthouse, called Sauðanes. This is your landmark for starting up Strákar.
Sauðanes Lighthouse and the base of Strákar can also be reached from the west by driving up route 76 from Hofsós, an equally picturesque and little-traveled stretch of road.
The most natural routes for climbing Strákar start from the main road above and a little west of the orange lighthouse, about a kilometer beyond the tunnel. You can use a rough parking pullout by a stone monument, next to a blue marker with the number "6" (it looks like a kilometer marker, but it's not).
The obvious route from here is to follow Strákar's west ridge, skirting the northern cliff bands all the way to the top. This will work, but be forewarned that about a thousand feet up the ridge you'll encounter a YDS Class 4/UIAA II step that comes just as the rock turns to volcanically-fried crud. If you do it, be very careful, especially with the possibility knocking rocks or whole rockslides on each other.
A much more pleasant ascent is available by walking up Engidalur, the broad valley that rises from the stone monument into the bowl west and southwest of the peak. You'll pass two small tarns. At the back of the valley, in the vicinity of the second tarn, a grass and rock rib provides a very easy (YDS class 2) scramble to the gentle upper slopes and the summit. Watch for geodes and opal-like crystals on the rib.
The total elevation gain from the stone monument to the summit is 585 meters (1920 feet). Average time to the top for someone in pretty good hiking shape would be about two hours.
The west ridge route is marked in red on the map below, while the easier Engidalur ascent is shown in yellow.
There is potentially good camping by the first tarn. I'm not sure about land ownership or local permissions--it would probably be best to ask at the farmhouse by the orange lighthouse, describing where you are planning to spend the night. Most likely, they'll say go for it.
Strákar tunnel video
Jewel Mountain sits entirely in Chugach National Forest, not in Chugach State Park. There is no parking fee at the trailhead. There aren't any rules that will restrict reasonably responsible users. Don't mess with or deface the historic mining ruins.
Backcountry camping would be possible in the bowl between the nunatak and Jewel that northeast ridge hikers will pass through shortly after leaving the Crow Pass Trail. Although arduous to reach, there are spectacular campsites in the Jewel-Summit Mountain pass, 400 feet below the top of Jewel.
The Crow Creek canyon, traversed by the Crow Pass Trail as it approaches Jewel, is prone to winter and early spring avalanches. This risk should recede by sometime in May. There are some bears (both grizzly and black) in the area, so that it is a good idea to make some noise and carry bear spray while hiking in the brush.
Links: Letter with historical information from Brig. General Bruce Staser, son of Harry Staser.
Chugach National Forest Brochure
BRexcept that the starting turnout has switched sides of the road in the 2011-12 highway upgrade.
Crow Peak is a significant summit in the Western Chugach Mountains that receives practically no attention, the victim of a mapping error that makes it appear to be a minor dome in a ridge of higher, sharper peaks. The truth is that Crow has 2000 feet of prominence and is the highest summit in the wild and seldom explored "Bird Country," the nearly 100 square miles drained by Bird Creek and populated by a couple of dozen peaks named for birds or their body parts. It is also one of the most accessible of the Bird Country peaks, just a couple of miles from a well-maintained trail. It has commanding views of a vast domain.
The Mountain the Mappers Forgot to Finish
When the USGS made the Anchorage A-6 quad in 1960, they quit drawing contours on Crow Peak with the 5600-foot line. This left Crow with the appearance of a big, flat-topped mesa, overshadowed by Magpie, Camp Robber, Grey Jay, and an assortment of unnamed neighbors. In fact, there should have been another three hundred-foot contours inside the 5600-foot loop. It is Crow, at 5953 feet, that overshadows the neighbors.
This kind of error was not uncommon in that era of mapmaking, when contour lines were hand-drawn. A few mountains just never got finished, so that a sharp pinnacle would wind up looking like a much lower mesa. In the case of Crow, it meant that a peak with 2000 feet of prominence wound up as a forgotten lump, usually omitted from lists of significant Chugach summits.
The starting point for Crow Peak is the Crow Pass Trailhead. From Anchorage, take the Seward Highway (Alaska Highway 1) southward about 30 miles to mile post 90. Make the well-marked turning left toward Girdwood. After two miles, turn left again on Crow Creek Road and follow it all the way to its end, about a 15-minute drive on well-graded dirt that is fine for all types of vehicles. The trailhead has ample free parking and an outhouse. The trailhead elevation is 1600 feet.
Crow Glacier Route
Hike up the well-constructed Crow Pass (Iditarod) Trail from the parking lot. The trail switchbacks through dense brush for about a mile before emerging into an open canyon below Barnes Mountain. Continue up-valley on any branch of the trail that looks good to you (they all re-converge higher up), passing ruins of the old Monarch Gold Mine. After three miles from the trailhead on an excellent footway, you top out into the south end of Crow Pass, with Crystal Lake on your left. You've climbed to 3500 feet.
Leave the trail and skirt the north margin of the lake, continuing due west over tundra hillocks into the valley containing Crow Glacier. Hike and scramble to the head of this valley. You may want to stay off the glacier until it flattens out very high in the valley; although the ice in the center of the valley is not crevassed, there can be moats and holes to worry about. By staying to climber's right of the center as you ascend the valley, you'll on (or over) moraine and bedrock.
At the head of the valley is the col between Crow and Magpie Peaks, a nice place to take in the view into the remote headwaters of Middle Fork Bird Creek.
From the col, scramble the south ridge another thousand vertical feet to the summit, using bypasses on the east side as necessary. The scrambling is never very exposed, and this ridge barely qualifies for a class 3 rating, but it's slow going. The ridge is highly frost-shattered--pencil fracturing creates terrain that will sometimes make you feel as though you are climbing through a giant's game of pick-up-sticks. This loose material, coupled with a frustrating number of false summits, translates into a laborious ascent, and the final ridge climb takes 1-2 hours.
The complete 4350-foot ascent from the trailhead will take most people 5-7 hours.
From the nearly level upper portion of Crow Glacier, a class 3 route directly up the east face to the summit is possible, but the 1500 feet of scree is not pleasant.
The northeast ridge appears to have at least one major tower that could be difficult to negotiate.
Clear Glacier has large crevasses and should not be attempted as a route without full glacier travel precautions. Traveling up or down the glacier at the head of Middle Fork Bird Creek, which heads on the west side of the Crow-Magpie col, would be an even more serious undertaking.
A traverse from Magpie appears to be fourth class, involving at least one steep permanent snowfield with a dangerous runout in the event of an uncontrolled slide.
There are superb campsites on the first benches west of Crystal Lake in Crow Pass, as you ascend toward the toe of Crow Glacier. They have perennial water and, if chosen correctly, they are completely out of view of the trail and have an awesome wilderness feel.
If you plan far ahead, you can reserve the Forest Service's wonderful Crow Pass Cabin on Crystal Lake. Rental is $25 per night. Reservations are taken 180 days in advance of the day you want to be there. It's a cozy place to roll out your sleeping bag. Here's a picture of the cabin, with Crow Peak behind.
The regular route to Crow Peak is entirely in Chugach National Forest, not Chugach State Park. There is no parking fee at the trailhead. There aren't any rules that will restrict reasonably responsible users. Don't mess with or deface the historic mining ruins.
The Crow Creek canyon, traversed by the Crow Pass Trail as it approaches the pass, is prone to winter and early spring avalanches. This risk should recede by sometime in May. There are some bears (both grizzly and black) in the area, so that it is a good idea to make some noise and carry bear spray while hiking in the brush.
As for the Crow Glacier valley, avalanche risk there could persist well into June. Wildlife shouldn't be too much of a concern, but I have seen bear tracks on Crow Glacier ... they do venture up here.
Chugach National Forest Brochure
Crow Pass Trail guide (by Alaska Department of Natural Resources, or DNR)
DNR's map of the trail (blows up well for excellent detail)
Iditarod National Historic Trail
Description of initial portion of Crow Pass Trail (by Alyeska Resort)