Ketchikan Gateway Borough Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Reid (4,592 feet)

Quadrangle: 13-71S-92E Ketchikan C-4

Date: July 11-16, 1999
Author: Marcel LaPerriere

I proposed we do the traverse hike. Not only would we be able to do Mount Reid that way but we would also be able to see some cool country and not do any backtracking. I was also fairly sure that this trip had probably never been done and if it had it had not been done for many years.

We had planned to fly out early Monday morning but due to scheduling problems and weather, we didn't leave Ketchikan till around 1:00 p.m. We took a short flight-seeing flight through Rudyerd Bay on the way to Portage Cove to see Misty Fjords. Since it was high tide, our pilot (Michelle Masden) landed us a couple miles up Swedish Meadows. The high tide ended up being a mixed blessing. We did save a couple miles of hiking but since the tide was in we were limited in the areas where we could walk. In fact, within a half hour of hiking we were forced to cross a submerged log over one of the many sloughs. This meant we had to get wet up to our hips. Due to steep granite cliffs we were forced to hike further up the meadows than we had planned. The meadows were fairly easy to river.

At 6:00 p.m. we were finally in an area where we figured we could start up with the idea of reaching the ridge we knew we were going to hike. The climb up was not only extremely steep with angles up to 80 degrees but the brush was also very thick. There was also many large alders that were growing down the slope making forward and upwards progress extremely difficult. It had been our goal to reach the gentle sloped ridge by sunset but we didn't make it. This forced us to bivouac on a small shelf not quite big enough for the tent. Luckily, we were able to drive our ice axes into the slope below the tent, thus keeping the tent from sliding off a 40 to 50 foot cliff while we slept.

Day 2 (July 12th): The next morning we were lucky to wake to a sunny day. We also got luck when we found a bear trail just a few feet from our tent. This enabled us to find a path up some vertical cliffs. Within half an hour we were topped out on the ridge at around 1900 feet elevation. Now the hike was easy going, up gentle slopes. Shortly after topping out, we hit snow so we put on snowshoes and we ended up wearing them most of the day, not even taking them off when we cooked a hotlunch and took a short nap as we laid in the glorious sun.

Late in the afternoon we off our snowshoes and stared back down into a another meadow that we had to cross. This down part of the trip was extremely challenging due to the fact that the downward slope was so steep that we had to worry about loosing control and falling. Fortunately there was enough foliage that we could usually have something to hang onto, that is until we came to a 40 foot vertical cliff that we had to get down. I'm not sure how Bob got down this cliff without falling but what I did was grab hold of a large alder tree that was growing down the cliff. Then I slid down the branches till there was about 10 feet of the cliff left. I was able to land on a small ledge then work my way the rest of the way down the cliff. Bob had taken an alternate route and had put on his crampons to add help him gain some secure footing. Shortly below the cliff we ended up in the valley at around 1700 feet coming down from a high point of 3596 feet. The valley still had several feet of snow so we were forced to set up camp on the snow.

Day 3: The next day we put crampons on our boots before we left camp. After hiking up the valley, we climbed up a short steep section reaching a ridge where we seldom hiked a overly steep terrain. We hiked ridges that were all in the alpine zone and mostly covered in snow. We hiked along the edges of massive overhanging cornices, being extra careful not to get to close to the edge of a cornice that could collapse. Crampons and ice axes were necessary for much of the hiking -- more for the occasional down than the predominate up hiking. Around 11:00 a.m., we topped out on the unnamed 4016 foot peak then started back down to a low elevation of about 3500 feet. At one point as we neared the top of yet another ridge, we found ourselves hiking for a short way on a thin ridge that was fortunately bare of snow. The exposure on this ridge to our right was an expressive vertical 1000 feet. To the left it was even more but the ground sloped away at a lesser angle.

It was somewhere after topping out on the 4016 peak that we altered our plans and elected to hike out over and past Mount Reid instead of hiking the ridge line towards Swan Lake. This was a bit of a disappointment since we had planned on dropping our packs and doing the final climb of Mount Reid without them. In the end we carried our heavy packs all the way to the summit of Mount Reid, on which we topped out a few minutes past 6:00 p.m.

The 4592 foot summit of Mount Reid offered a spectacular view in all directions. The wind was blowing briskly, chilling us quickly after our hard exertion of the climb. We only stayed on top for about 10 minutes, then we dropped back down to about 4100 feet where we found a small shelf just big enough for the tent. A few feet in front of the tent and a few feet behind the tent the slope dropped of steeply, giving us a spectacular view in all directions.

Day 4: Our high-perched camp made for a spectacular site to watch the sun rise. So, I got up at 3:00 a.m. and stood outside in just my under shorts watching the sun come over the horizon. I watched for 10 or 15 minutes, then crawled back into my sleeping bag for another 3 hours of sleep.

The hike after leaving our camp site required us to climb back up about 100 feet in elevation to a point where we started side-hilling across extremely steep snow. Bob led this section and I very careful planted each boot before any forward progress was made. A slip on this section would have been very dicey and, if a person didn't self-arrest quickly, the slide would have been fatal. Of the whole trip, this was the point that my adrenaline got a good rush. Bob, who had full crampons versus my half crampons, found this area a bit less challenging than I did. The rest of the hike along the alpine ridge was mostly uneventful with the exception of a few very steep snow slopes that posed a bit of a challenge to safely get down.

By early afternoon, we found ourselves back in the trees, sometimes going down some very steep areas. A few times, we had to lower ourselves with faces toward the cliff and just feel with our feet for footing. In the late afternoon we came to a rather large river that we knew we would eventually have to cross. We noticed along the river that there was a P-Line (Proposed road for timber harvesting) so we hiked the P-line for a bit over a mile till it came to a place we could cross the river by carefully walking on 2 very big logs. The P-Line continued on the other side of the river so we continued to follow it until exhaustion forced us to camp in one of the few muskegs that the P-line crossed.

Day 5: We started out the day again following the P-line that kept disappearing in heavy brush. The line cut along the side of a steep slope that was heavily brushed and full of devil's club (a very thorny bush that one tries not to hold onto or rub against). After fighting our way along the P-Line from hell we decided to drop into a side stream that headed away from the P-Line. I knew this stream would eventually take us to Carroll Creek, which it did. In comparison, the stream was easy going even with the brush, devil's club, and countless fallen trees that we had to climb over or under. We followed down this stream from about 2 miles until it broke into a large flat area of alders where it spread out into many streams. At this point we just forced our way through the trees until we finally broke out into Carroll Creek, which is really more of a river with many side channels. We followed the main channel with the intent of following it to the grass and mud flats that are at the head of Carroll Inlet. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the flats, the tide was coming in. This forced us to wade in chest-deep sloughs then it eventually forced us back into the brush.

We hiked about one more mile of brush and old, second-growth timber, following a bear trail most of the way. Finally, 8 hours after starting our day, we popped out on the old logging road that we followed for about a 1/2 mile. To our great surprise and delight we found Alan's skiff tied to shore at the end of the road. We had figured we would have to spend another night out and wait for someone to come along the next day a spot us on the road. Keep in mind this road is not connected to any other roads and is about 2 miles from the Swan Lake Power Plant.

This was not only a great hike, but a fun one too. Bob who was just shy of his 63rd birthday was not only a great companion but a strong hiker. Most of the hike Bob could not keep up with me but, all in all, he did great, especially when you consider his age. As mentioned Bob has hiked and climbed all over the world. His comment was that he had never seen so much sustained difficult brush and terrain.