Polar Bear Peak
|Difficulty:||Major Mountain Expedition|
|Best months for climbing:||Jun, Jul|
|Nearest major airport:||Anchorage|
|Convenient Center:||Eagle River|
Polar Bear Peak, though not terribly tall, offers some of the more difficult climbing in the Eagle River Valley of the Chugach Range in Alaska, along with two neighboring mountains, Mount Yukla and Mount Kiliak. Polar Bear is best climbed in the spring and early summer because its steepness, severe fluctuations in weather conditions, and the sheer amount of snow make it extremely avalanche-prone in most winter months. Weather conditions in late summer and fall have a tendancy to be extremely wet and windy in the Eagle River Vally, making climbing in those months unpleasant at best. The approach to the mountain begins at the end of the paved road at a visitor's center up near the end of Eagle River Valley. There is an established trail for about 5 miles back behind the visitor's center, winding through the forest into the bottom of the valley. Follow the trail through a goose-neck shape in the valley (called Echo Bend, excellent ice-climbs can be found there in the winter) until you spot a drainage flowing down the north-eastern side of the mountain. This drainage is called Heritage Drainage, and marks the easiest access to the mountain. In the summer, a 3 or 4 mile bushwack should be expected, unless you can find the secret trail (don't count on it), and in the winter, some of the more miserable portions of this can be bypassed by means of a decent ice climb up the several falls and iceflows in the drainage. After that, there are several means of reaching the summit, the easiest being to travel around the right side of a hanging glacier onto the massive snowfield. From there, you go straight up the middle of the snowfield to the right side of the tiny, spire-like peak. At that point, there are a mere couple of rock pitches to the summit. Expect to have to climb a 5.10 route here, so competency in rock climbing in a neccessity. There are no bolts or established anchors (one sling left by the mountain's local veteran climber-it's pretty old by now, I wouldn't trust it) so bring your own protection. After that, congratulations, you have climbed Polar Bear Peak. There are other routes of course, a new one being pioneered this spring by local climbers (following the northeast ridge), and one route that is considered by most to be unclimbable-though the tales run rampant-the northeast face.