Cooling temps and changing colors often prompt us to squeeze in one more trip. And in the mountains of Alaska, it really is a squeeze. The time from peak fall colors to the first snow cover can be as short as a week. This autumn we chose to expand on a popular trek in the Talkeetna Mountains north of our home in Anchorage. Adding an unknown start and an extended ending to the popular Bomber Traverse would allow us to explore new ground while revisiting some of our favorite huts. Oh yeah we forgot to mention the huts. A true anomaly in the mountains of AK, we would seek shelter in four tiny shelters on our 40-mile route from Hatcher Pass to the village of Eska. Built and maintained by the Mountaineering Club of Alaska and the American Alpine Club, membership is required to use these huts.
Our five-day traverse began at the end of Archangel Road with a long climb up to tiny notch in the jagged granite spires above the Lane Glacier. Descend down onto the Snowbird Glacier and hike across the bare ice to the Snowbird Hut. This is a short day at about five miles but about 2,500 ft of climbing to go up onto the Snowbird Glacier.
The second day starts with a short hike (~2 miles) down to Bartholf Creek. Follow small game trails and stay high above the creek to minimize bushwhacking. Then turn up valley (east) for about three miles to the tiny Bomber Hut perched on a hill.
Our third day entailed going up and over the crux pass. From the Bomber Hut, venture up onto the Penny Lane Glacier in search of Backdoor Gap (N 61 51.734, W 149 05.761). It’s about three miles and a 2,000 foot to the ‘gap’. If you’re lucky, some sort of rope will be hanging to help ascend the loose dirt and rock to the pass. Scrambling down talus and boulders for a couple hours on the other side will lead you to the Mint Hut, the most popular of the circuit. About six miles total.
Day four, trek up valley (northeast) to the Mint Glacier and eventually Grizzly Pass, an intimidating looking notch in the rock that’s actually very gradual on the other side. Pick your way down into the Moose Creek Valley and up to the obvious tundra bench on the far side. Easy walking will take you to the Dnigi Hut. This one is tucked way back in a side valley, so don’t despair if you don’t see it until you’re right on it. Plan for about 10 miles of travel and five thousand feet of up depending on your route across Moose Creek.
The way out to Eska Falls on the last day requires you to go over Elbow Pass (61,48.022-148,56.749) and then descend down into Eska Creek. Negotiate the waterfall via a trail that leads down into a mess of ATV trails. The last hour walking these muddy, rutted out tracks is a real bummer. But try to keep in mind the adventure you just finished on your way to the car parked near the tiny village of Eska. It’s 13 miles from the Dnigi Hut to the trailhead in Eska.
We suggest checking out [mtnclubak.org](http://www.mtnclubak.org) and [americanalpineclub.org](http://americanalpineclub.org/p/alaska) for more info on the route (including GPS coordinates) and huts.
- Light Sleeping Bag & PadCrampons & Ice AxeTrekking PolesGPS & MapsGood Rain JacketHeadlamp & Extra BatteriesWhite Gas for Hut Stoves & LanternsFlask of BourbonGood Hiking BootsHat & Gloves