Alaska News

Shawn Lyons: Bomber Glacier is payoff on Mat-Su hike

Anchorage freelance writer Shawn Lyons is the author of several area hiking and climbing books.


The boulder field extended 100 yards ahead of us. Then it turned abruptly upward to where two steep snowfields clung to the bowl's face 500 feet above. The upper end of the second snowfield narrowed to the base of a steep gully, which slanted up for another 500 feet to where the final summit cone of rocks, snow and ice rose framed against the blue sky.

Below and behind us lay the blue puddle of Upper Reed Lake in a great rocky basin. Just beyond its far end one could see the thread of Reed Lakes Trail winding over a small hillock into the open country beyond. We had come up that trail less than an hour before. But that trail served only as a prelude. The real adventure -- which we had only started -- began at the end of the trail.

We -- Leif Robinson, his dog Burma, and I -- first sensed the upcoming adventure on rounding into the bowl of Upper Reed Lake. From that vantage we finally had an obstructed view of 6,536-foot Lynx Peak. Towering 2,300 feet above the back, right corner of the lake, its rock and snow mass dominated the skyline.

Five minutes later we reached the southern end of Upper Reed Lake and the end of the trail. Turning onto the rougher trail leading around the north side of the lake, we quickened our steps.

Upon reaching the end of that trail at the far corner of the lake, we started up the slope of boulders dropping off the first shelf above the end of the lake. Now having to choose a route instead of following a trail, we paused often to gauge our climb in relation the summit far above. Though we passed some rock cairns set on boulders, no obvious route seemed apparent. We only knew that to reach the summit we had to first climb the gully that cut through the face of the mountain almost a thousand feet above us.


At the far end of the shelf I began slogging up the melting snow while Leif chose the rocks to the right. The sun reflected fiercely off the snow as I climbed to base of the gully. Looking up it one could see the summit pyramid.

Scrabbling over to the ridge crest upon reaching top of the gully, I looked almost straight down 1,200 feet to Bomber Glacier. I wanted to see the bomber, but it lay just beyond the corner of a buttress.

Turning once again to that summit, I pulled myself onto a large, firm boulder and scanned the last steep face leading to the summit. We chose a route directly up the face -- which proved an expedient but injudicious choice.

Pushing and pulling ourselves up the sun-warmed rocks and dripping snow, we at first made rapid time. Then the face steepened dramatically. By then, though, it took but a few more clambering moves before we stood on the summit ridge. From there we only had a 100-foot clamber along rock-piled ridge back to the small, rounded summit.

From there the world stretched away over glaciers and mountains to the north and west, and green valleys and mountains to the south and east. We, three tiny creatures, stayed for 10 minutes to take in the immensity -- including the remains of the B-24 that crash-landed on Bomber Glacier 1,700 feet below us to the north, which reminded us that not every day in the mountains ends well. Then we started back down.

Not eager to go down the way we had come up, we found a slightly easier way off the summit cone. Following the ridge that hung over Bomber Glacier, we slid and picked our way down into the gully. Then we skimmed down the snowfields, picked our way down the boulders, and then finally hopped onto the trail at end of Upper Reed Lake.

Here the adventure reverted back to a hike. On the way out, we chatted to a father and son camping at the lake. They said they might do the climb the next day.

Then, the adventure done, we started down the trail as the early evening settled its stilling hand over the landscape.

Getting there

For those interested in hiking Lynx Peak, drive up Hatcher Pass Road north of Palmer. Just after passing the old Motherlode Lodge, turn right onto Archangel Road. Follow this road for approximately 2 miles to where, just after crossing the one narrow bridge on the road, turn right into the parking area for Reed Lakes Trail. From there, to reach Upper Reed Lake requires 4.5 miles of hiking, after which it takes another 2.5 miles of hiking and scrambling to reach the summit of Lynx Peak.


Special to the Daily News

Shawn Lyons

Avid Anchorage hiker and musician Shawn Lyons is the author of a series of book about hiking in Southcentral Alaska.