This climb is excerpted from 55 Ways to the Wilderness in Southcentral Alaska, by Helen D. Nienhueser and John Wolfe Jr., published by The Mountaineers, Seattle. ©1996 by Helen D. Nienhueser and John Wolfe Jr. All rights reserved.
On a sunny summer's day, take a delightful hike to "Ship Lake Pass," then climb a 5,240-foot peak. From the pass the mountainside does indeed resemble a ramp. The walk up is a moderately steep climb, gaining 1,200 feet elevation in about half a mile. From the top are fine views, especially of the Ship Creek headwaters. An easier summit is The Wedge (4,660 feet) southwest of the pass. The pass is a nice destination for a hike or a ski trip, and the trip to the pass makes a good hike for children.
From the interchange at the Seward Highway and O'Malley Road in south Anchorage, turn uphill on O'Malley Road. Drive O'Malley Road toward the mountains about 4 miles to its intersection with Hillside Drive. Turn right onto Hillside Drive, and continue 1 mile to Upper Huffman Road (there is a sign for Chugach State Park). Turn left, go 0.7 mile, and turn right onto Toilsome Hill Drive. (In winter tire chains or four-wheel drive are recommended.) This road switchbacks steeply uphill for about 2 miles to the Glen Alps entrance to Chugach State Park. Park here (elevation 2,258 feet).
On foot, follow the lower of two trails for half a mile to a powerline. (If biking, follow the right-hand or upper trail.) Turn right onto Powerline Trail and follow it about 2 miles, past 12 power poles, to a point where an obvious trail comes in from the left at a right angle. (The trip time can be shortened by riding a mountain bike to this point, but bicycles are not allowed off Powerline Trail.) Follow the trail downhill to the South Fork of Campbell Creek. Normally the stream can be crossed on rocks, but wading may be necessary at high water. The trail climbs the hill beyond the South Fork and continues through brush to cross the stream draining the valley ahead. Wander up the valley on the south side of the main stream for easy, brush-free walking. The pass (elevation 4,050 feet, elevation gain 1,800 feet) is a fine destination, offering dramatic views of emerald-green Ship Lake and the mountains rising abruptly above it. From the pass it is a little over a half mile up the ridge to The Ramp to the north or The Wedge to the south.
Walking in this alpine valley is freedom itself. The brush has been left behind, and firm, dry tundra, laced with occasional springs, makes distances seem short. Look for wildflowers in season, ground squirrels and Dall sheep. Enjoy the summer smell of heather on a warm sunny day. Visit Hidden Lake. Camping is inviting, but carry a cooking stove; campfires are prohibited in the park.
A 16-mile traverse from the Glen Alps trailhead to the community of Indian is possible via "Ship Lake Pass" (total elevation gain 1,900 feet). From the east side of the pass, descend steeply to Ship Lake (2,700 feet). Follow its outlet 1.5 miles downstream, veer right around the toe of the ridge, and follow the center fork of Ship Creek upstream to Indian Creek Pass (elevation 2,350 feet).
Another traverse to Indian Valley is 13 miles long over Powerline Pass (elevation 3,550 feet, elevation gain 1,300 feet), an easy walk or bike ride up Powerline Trail. From the pass, the trail switches back down the steep slope into Indian Valley. The trail ends at the trailhead for Indian Valley Trail. The pass remains snowy into July, but when snow-free it offers good camping near the streams on its southeast side. The Campbell Creek drainage and the trail north of a metal gate, 2.5 miles from Indian, are closed to motorized vehicles during snow-free months. Bicycles are allowed on the Powerline Trail. The descent to Indian is steep; therefore, some prefer to start at Indian and push bicycles uphill rather than ride down.
Skiing and snowshoeing in the Campbell Creek drainage are inviting, but the area is open to snowmobiles upstream of Middle Fork when snow cover is sufficient. Under the right conditions, any of the slopes could avalanche, and show-filled gullies pose a serious hazard, even when surrounding slopes are bare. The route over Powerline Pass should not be taken in winter due to extremely high avalanche hazard.ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Helen Nienhueser, originally from Pennsylvania, has lived and hiked in Alaska since 1959. An honorary lifetime member of the Mountaineering Club of Alaska, she lives in Anchorage, where she is a land planner for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. She spends her spare time exploring Alaska's backcountry.
John Wolfe Jr. has been scrambling in the peaks of southcentral Alaska since he was a small child. He has guided on Denali (Mount McKinley) and has been a children's environmental education instructor. He is now an editor and environmental planner for an Anchorage consulting firm.