Mt. Ripinski P750

Tue, Jul 10, 2018

With: Jackie Burd
Tom Becht

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Continued... Our second hike on our Alaskan cruise was in Haines, a smallish town known for it yearly winter congress of thousands of bald eagles that come to feed on the spawning salmon in the area. Mt. Ripinski rises up almost 3,700ft above the town, with a trail taking one to the summit in about five miles. We got to the port around 7a, disembarking about half an hour later. The weather forecast was not good - 100% chance of rain according to NOAA, and it was not wrong. The rain was never heavy, just light drizzle mostly on and sometimes off, the whole day. We had brought rain gear and extra layers, but the wind would be our undoing - it was simply too strong for us to safely make it to the summit.

The trail starts on the far north side of town, requiring one to walk about a mile and a half on paved and gravel roads before locating the start of the trail on Ripinski's SE Ridge. The lower half of the trail climbs up through heavy forest, helpful for blocking the wind and some of the rain. This part through the forest is well-maintained and features wooden walkways and steps to get through the wetter sections. As we climbed higher, the trail becomes steeper and less maintained, the trees begin to thin out and eventually give way to alpine heather and other ground-hugging plants. Here in the upper half of the trail, there is little to block the wind. We were climbing up into the clouds with poor visibility and winds that became ferocious. We put on most of the clothes we'd brought with us, wondering if it would be enough. When we were about 0.4mi from the summit, where the trail goes steeply up the rocky slope with no trail improvements, the wind came at us hard, blowing 40-50mph at its strongest, enough to knock us over or stop us in our tracks. We would turn our backs to the wind and wait for a subsidence, but these seemed few and brief. Jackie had never been in conditions quite this fierce and she was more than a little concerned. Cold and a bit scared, too. Tom and I consulted briefly before deciding the best course of action was to turn around - no shame in failing now and then. It took another 15min before we could relax back in the trees with some protection from the wind. As an alternate to our ascent route up the main trail, we descended the Piedad Trail to the south, a lesser-maintained route that drops incredibly steeply through the forest before eventually spitting us out at the Haines Hwy. A few miles of walking got us back to town where we pulled ourselves wet and a bit muddy into the Haines Brewery for some liquid refreshment. The beer wasn't as good as that we'd had in Juneau, but beggers, particularly wet beggars, can't be choosers. Once refreshed and a bit warmer, we went out once again into the elements and found our way back to the cruise ship. Mt. Ripinski will have to wait for a rematch, date not yet determined...


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