Located under two hours from Anchorage, the season for climbing in Hatcher Pass may be short but one not to be missed. One of the best crags in Alaska, it boasts over 500 routes in multiple valleys of granite in an alpine setting where rolling green tundra contrasts against the dark gray bands of rock.
Prior to the mid 2000’s, Hatcher Pass was primarily old buttonhead bolts, cracks filled with moss, and a decent amount of runouts. The last ten years a few dedicated individuals led by the rebolting efforts of Kelsey Gray and Chris Williams and with support from their own wallets as well as the American Safe Climbing Association, have drastically changed the landscape of climbing in Hatcher. Many of the old buttonhead bolts are gone and replaced with stainless steel bolts and anchors. Old webbing that was once crusted with lichen, is now chain and rings. The return of larger numbers of climbers to Hatcher than ushered in a flurry of development across the valley with new crags and routes appearing every season. What was once an obscure area frequented by the experienced or those who already had knowledge of the area, is now a place where climbers of all levels can enjoy and learn.
Some of the highlights of the valley are areas such as Snowbird Slab, which includes routes from one to three pitches but has the greatest concentration of lines in the valley. 28 routes with grades from 5.6-5.10d make it a perfect day crag for getting lots of moderate lines. Other crags such as the Lost Wall or Renaissance Wall will test many climbers’ strength and abilities and the strongest may visit the Gargoyle for the full test. Don’t forget to bring your rack as well as quickdraws, while there are an increasing number of sport routes most of the lines will need at least one piece of gear and there are a lot of excellent trad climbs. A 70m rope is ideal but a 60m will work for many climbs.
The best season to visit is from Mid-June when the gate to Archangel Valley opens, and Mid-September when you can expect colder temperatures and the occasional snow. Boulderers will find the seasons to be longer as the snow landings can provide some excellent landings on taller problems. July is usually when the weather is best and the most climbers can be found.
Don’t let a trip to Alaska go by without at least a visit to this beautiful area.