Mount Alyeska is more widely known for its downhill ski area, but it is also a worthy destination for a ¼ to ½ day hike. Standing 3,939 feet above Turnagain Arm at sea level, Mount Alyeska has superb views of Turnagain Arm, the Girdwood valley, several nearby glaciers, and many mountains and glaciers of the high Chugach Range to the north and east. One great thing about this mountain is its accessibility-you do not have to walk many miles on an approach and you can climb with limited time. The other really great thing about this climb is climbing the knife edge ridge to the top. The drops on either side range from falling 2000 feet to the Girdwood valley on one side or falling around 150 feet into a crevasse of the Mt. Alyeska Glacier, both equally unpleasant options.
From Anchorage, take the Seward Highway south for about 36 miles. Turn right at Girdwood and follow the signs for Alyeska resort. From the point where you turn right you can see breathtaking Mount Alyeska and its many ski runs. You can either start at the bottom of the ski area and hike up or ride the aerial tramway to about halfway up the mountain.
You can just hike up the ski runs or you can pay $16 ($14 for Alaska residents) to ride the aerial tramway halfway up in the summer season.
When To Climb
With the exposure on this route, summer is the only time this route is safe for nontechnical climbers. In summer, this route is safest when attempted solo, due to loose rock. It would add risk if rocks are knocked loose by another climber above, or if you dislodge a rock that a person below must dodge.
Mount Alyeska is most appropriate as a day hike, but if you proceeded further into the wilderness, I am sure that the opotions are limitless. Much of the surrounding area is part of Chugach National Forest, and you would need to check with the US Forest Service for specific regulations.
Important Safety Information
Because the mountain is actively used as a ski area during the winter and spring, avalanche control is required. Avalanche control results in using mortars to shoot the mountain in an effort to bring down the heavy loads of snow. Sometimes these mortars do not explode on impact and can be found when the snows melt in the summer months. DO NOT TOUCH ANY MORTARS and, if found, report their locations to an Alyeska Ski Resort employee.
The ridge above the tram has shrapnel from these mortars all along the route to Point 3939. Information courtesy of Steve Gruhn.