For the second time in as many issues, the Chugach Range is the focus of a feature in this magazine with Frank Baker’s excellent essay on his lifelong exploration of this accessible yet wild place.
Why the Chugach again? There are many other mountain ranges in
Alaska; some are smaller, some higher, some longer, some wider. Some mountains are remote and hard to reach like the Kigluaik on the Alaska Peninsula, known for it’s isolated lakes and unique populations of arctic char. Still others carry evocative names like the Revelations, a rugged and dramatic sub-range and western-most vestige of the fabled Alaska Range.
It is human nature to look beyond the obvious, over the horizon toward something big and challenging. So, in pursuit of these superlatives and driven by the unknowable motivations that reside the minds of mountaineers and adventurers, they come north with their sites set on Denali or other
well-trodden routes. Many fly into Anchorage, under the very shadow of the Chugach, and promptly head north to Talkeetna and a flight into the Alaska Range.
Unknown to them, the Chugach Range offers some of the most exciting rock and ice climbing in the world. Charlie Sassara, an Alaska climber who pioneered routes in the Alaska, Chugach and other ranges across the state and around the world, characterizes the Chugach as vastly underappreciated. “Some of the most intense Alaska climbs to be had are six miles from Anchorage,” he says. “There are unpicked plumbs in the Chugach that are harder than routes on the north face of the Eiger.”
The range is a place of wild beauty and arduous challenge, it is the rugged backdrop, the wild wallpaper to urban Anchorage, and that proximity makes it easy to overlook. Whether you see it as a place of contemplation or adventure, don’t pass it by.