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TouringTip | Rainbow Mountain

One of the few day tours for mere mortals in the Eastern Alaska Range

by Lea Hartl 03/05/2019
If you don't have air support or a skido and want to ski in the Alaska Range, you have to be satisfied with a very limited selection of possible destinations. Especially if it is to be a day tour, at best without touching complicated glaciers.

There are two roads that lead through the range, and therefore two possible starting points. The Richardson Highway, the more easterly of the two roads, leads directly past interesting ski terrain in places - i.e. within easy walking distance. The section of road between Canwell Glacier and McCallum Creek is particularly interesting: Here, the Rainbow Ridge actually runs directly alongside the road and you can tackle various, all rather steep tours, at least in places, without having to spend ages in the valley and with almost no jungle battles. The highest point of the Rainbow Ridge is Rainbow Mountain at around 2000m, which is a worthwhile destination, especially when the firn conditions are stable.

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At the southern end of Rainbow Ridge, where the road bends, there are large parking bays. Depending on the snow conditions, it is also possible to park on the hard shoulder right at the start of the tour, more or less at the minimum distance between the road and the summit. The logical ascent follows a moderately pronounced cut in the terrain from the road in a north-easterly direction into a large cirque. The above-mentioned cut in the terrain is the only one of its kind near Rainbow Mountain and is easily recognizable. The cirque, which is also clearly visible from the road, was aptly described by an acquaintance on the tour as follows: "It looks like a giant has sat down on the mountain and left an imprint of his backside behind."

In the lower section, you have to make your way through the alder belt over a distance of around 300 m, which may be unusual for those living in the Alps, but is not too much of a problem. Once you have left the forest behind you, you follow the terrain up a steep slope of around 30° until you reach the cirque threshold (approx. 1400 m). Various interesting options now open up here. The logical route to the summit leads directly through the southern slope, which towers above the cirque. This becomes steeper with increasing altitude and is roughly divided into several gully-like sections by rock formations in the upper section. Many paths could potentially lead to the summit here - the most straightforward is obvious and leads through one of the large gullies, which meets a wide shoulder a little below and slightly west of the summit, which you follow to the summit in a few minutes.


As for the ascent. Alternatively, one of the variations to the left or right of the ascent route into the cirque. The ascent trench is usually recommended for the lower section. Everything else is often rocky and bushier at the bottom.


Difficulty: *** (from *****)

Special dangers: Easily accessible for Alaska, but still remote! No avalanche report, no reliable cell phone network, organized rescue not comparable to the Alpine region. Possible bear problem from around the end of April, take appropriate standard measures. Crampons useful depending on snow conditions and exact destination.

Average | maximum steepness: Flattest variation approx. 30° | 40°. Various steeper options.

Exposure: mainly S to SW

Altitude start | finish: 830 | approx. 2070m

Altitude metres uphill | downhill: 1240 hm each

Map:e.g. Caltopo

Duration: 3-4 hours

Best time of year: March to May depending on snow conditions.

Access: Richardson Highway. About 1:40h drive north from Glenallen, or 1:20h south from Delta Junction.

Note: The PG touring tips are general descriptions of tours that we like subjectively. Our touring tips do NOT refer to CURRENT CONDITIONS. Pay close attention to the current snow conditions and the local weather forecast and plan your tour accordingly.

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This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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