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  • Writer's pictureRoy Thomas

McHugh Peak

Knowing when to turn around may be your most important trail skill.

For the past two days I have been trying to get home to Kodiak. Two days in a row we decended; found the ceiling too low and the winds too high and had the landing aborted.

The bit of white is waves on the ocean, then the runway threshold.

There is a saying in Alaska aviation that "there are old pilots and there are bold pilots but there are no old bold pilots." In aviation and on the trail knowing when turn turn around is important.

On our way back to Anchorage our flight got hammered in the air before our approach to The airport. The same low pressure keeping us out of Kodiak was bringing high winds to the Anchorage Bowl.

There is a common refrain in the reviews for McHugh Peak on the AllTrails app, "it was windy". McHugh Peak sits just south of Flattop Mountain but closer to the notoriously windy Turnigan Arm.

McHugh Peak is known in Anchorage for its lack of parking, there are only 5 parking spots at the trailhead additional parking adds about a half mile to the hike.

The trailhead neighbors have delt with blocked roads and crowds for years.

The first sign that maybe I should turn back as a solo hiker was the amount of bear scat on the lower trail in the alders. Given that the trail is adjacent to homes I chalked up the bear activity to night time garbage bears.

The lower trail spends about 10 minutes in the alders.

The next indicator that I should turn back was the number of hikers I ran into who had turned back. "Felt like we were going to be blown off the trail."

Being curious I wanted to at least go up a bit and take a look, and yeas the wind was a howling.

The wind howls down this valley.

The wildflowers cling low.

The views are amazing.

Arriving at the first false summit reveals that the trail along the ridge would have me exposed to the extreme winds the whole distance to the summit, it was time to turn around.

On the way back down I had to use the wrist straps on my walking poles out of concern that they might blow out of my hands. Heading down the trail the gusts were at my back and at times pushed me along the trail, a unsafe situation had it been along that ridge.

McHugh Peak will wait, definately a future destination.

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