“Little Swiss Ramparts and Exit”
150 miles = 85 walking + 65 boating
11 days – August 1-11
As part of an iceworm hunting expedition we flew into the Pika Glacier, then walked around Little Switzerland, the Big Bend in the Kahiltna, and the Ramparts. We found no worms, but great walking and easy mountaineering on a dozen glaciers, all but the Pika, Crown, Kahiltna, and Granite apparently unnamed. We left via the standard Exit Col, Granite Glacier, Wildhorse Pass, Wildhorse Ck, Kanikula Ck, Tokositna R., Chulitna R.
After flying into the Pika, APU students Sye Larson, Todd Tumulo and Rutgers Professor Dan Shain and his grad student Brad, and I walked down the Crown Glacier and off its old trim line to the Kahiltna. We did a neat inner Little Swiss hike, too, over several passes and glaciers. The Kahiltna was a freeway of bare ice and open, jumpable cracks. We did a 20 mile side hike on a sunny day across four glaciers in the Ramparts, the high country (some granite, some not) just west of the Kahiltna’s Big Bend. It was all great if you like glaciers and can tolerate moraine.
We hiked up the Pika Gl from the Kahiltna to our buried rafts and paddles on the Pika strip on a sunny day of busy flight-seeing traffic, drawing comments and questions from the half dozen pilots of everything from 185s to Turbo Otters that landed tourists and took away our heavy glacier camping gear.
Exit Pass is not really a pass or a good exit in August. After Todd led the slim bergshrund bridge on the Pika side we hiked down loose scree, giving way to bad dirt and rock and a final 60 foot cliff that we rapped. The Granite Glacier was good until its long rubbly moraine, best done mostly on the left with a traversing exit to make our way up to Wildhorse Pass. This avoids a lot of Granite Creek Brush, rocks, and elevation loss and re-gain.
Wildhorse Ck is nicest on right for walking on heather. Recross left to get down an alder-covered ridge leading to Kanikula Ck meadows.
The float down the Kanikula Ck is PR 3 with all its nasty little sticks. Once the Tokositna is reached it’s faster and colder and braided. There’s a new slough that’s capturing all of the water on river right that’s worth taking as it takes all the braided river navigation out of the Tokositna portion (PR 2). Just below the Ruth R are some large rocks, easily avoided, and a few waves. The Chulitna is fast and below the bridge we all napped in our boats, even though we were making 6+ mph.
We took 12 hours of river time to make the 65 miles from put-in on Kanikula Ck to take-out at Talkeetna. The halfway point is a lodge (Tokosha Mountain Lodge?) downstream of the Ruth, which will feed you (make reservations), and reached about 6 hours after putting in.
The main point of this trip report is that this series of waters is easy and fast for exiting the south side of the Alaska Range, once you get off the glaciers like Kanikula, Tokositna, and Ruth.
Rumor has it that getting down rivers and creeks draining the Eldridge, Buckskin, and Coffee Glaciers are not so easy.