Sunday, August 13, 2017

Climbing Poot Peak

Conical Poot Peak, rising above the foothills across Kachemak Bay on a misty day


Climbing Poot Peak, the 2880 foot peak across Kachemak Bay from us, has been a goal for our kids for a couple of years. With Aurora's imminent return to college, and Doug's return to work for the new school year, the opportunities to head over there have been dwindling. With that narrow window in mind, I called Mako's Water Taxi to find out when we could get in and out on high tides during this past weekend. Halibut Cove Lagoon is the entrance to that area, with a dock and maintained trails. However, it is only accessible a few hours before and after high tides so it limits getting in and out. With the current tides we were able to get in mid-afternoon on Saturday and out early Sunday evening. That gave us 26 hours to backpack in the 2.8 miles to China Poot Lake, hike up Poot Peak, and backpack back out. It was a full weekend of hiking, but wasn't unreasonably so.

 A cabin is tucked onto an island on China Poot Lake, accessible only by float plane or boat

Poot Peak rises above the trail as one hikes out to the lake

China Poot Lake as seen from the north route up Poot Peak

The hike to China Poot Lake is fairly well maintained--not overgrown with brush and with relatively few roots to get over.

The campsite on China Poot Lake aleady had two tents set up, so it looked like it was going to be crowded by Alaska standards. After setting up camp, we went out for a walk, which on my map the trail was flat, but that must have been within the lines, give or take 100 feet, because it did go up and down plenty. And while it was a "walk" because we didn't have our backpacking backpacks on, it was still most definitely a "hike" on the rough trail with occasional splotches of berry-filled bear scat.

A fire ring offered a less rustic feel to this backpacking experience, and we enjoyed a few hours around the flames. A bear container was convenient for our foodstuff, but we also hung one backpack on the cable strung between two trees for that purpose.

The next morning the kids headed out of camp by 9:30 with their daypacks on, heading for the summit, while Doug and I cleaned up camp and pumped water for our waterbottles. Our goal was up the mountain, hopefully to the nob (that sticks out of Poot Peak near the top), but not the summit. Everyone we'd talked to had done the North Route, which was unmaintained, even though the South Route was supposedly maintained, so we headed up the North Route. And UP is an accurate description. Up and up and up, sometimes very steep, slippery slopes and then near the top, a more gradual up through a mountain meadow.

Glaciered mountains in the view from the nob on Poot Peak

Rugged peaks in the Kenai Mountain Range
The final trek to the summit rises behind this sign

We made it as far as the sign above, which marks the final climb to the summit, which includes a scree slope and a bit of rock climbing. A little lunch and lots of water later, we headed down, packed up camp, and headed back to Halibut Cove Lagoon for our water taxi ride back to Homer. As the kids said (in my words, paraphrased!), it was the most unremarkable peak they have ever climbed. Although it is 2880 feet, and it rises above the surrounding area, it doesn't have this awesome grandeur feeling that one gets on Grace Ridge or even Alpine Ridge. It rises by itself and is just a hunk of rock, with passable views, but only near the top. Camping at China Poot Lake will definitely get put on my list of regular hikes, to explore the area, but making climbing Poot Peak will unlikely be the goal. But one has to do it to know it, and now we can say we've done it. Check!  

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