Day Hike – Worthington to Catchers Mitt

It’s not hard to recommend a Valdez favorite day hike. This past weekend was one of the best local hikes I’ve done solo as a solstice sun made a rare appearance. While I spend countless days on the summits slopes of Thompson Pass in the winter, summer brings another way to enjoy the same terrain. While most trails in Valdez meander through thick brush near sea level, Thompson Pass offers unprecedented hiking that highlights our alpine beauty.  Worthington Glacier Ridge is one of those special hikes with fabulous views of Thompson Pass and the glaciers that surround it.

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The history of the trail is spotty. No doubt when the Worthington Glacier was much lower and right next to the highway, this trail probably attracted a few intrepid hikers who spotted the unique spine that trails up to the higher reached of Thompson Pass and the accompanying glacier vistas. The trail was included in the 1st Edition of 55 Ways To The Wilderness in the 1970’s. Since the 1990’s I’ve spent a few hours each summer keeping the trail open by brushing the lower section, adjusting cairns and some dirt work if needed. The best way to maintain a trail is to keep it open so the trail gets used more, thus better defined.

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Despite a few signs at the trailhead discouraging travel on the trail, I generally ignore the “nanny” advise by State Parks in favor of improving and using the trail as a way to introduce locals and visitors to one of the most spectacular day hikes in Alaska.

From the parking lot, find the yellow and red  “warning signs” and follow the trail as it heads through brush and then a couple short, steepening traverses. One long traverse under a canopy of alder brings you to the crest of a gentle ridge. From here, the trail is well identified and easy to follow as you tip toe along a gentle edge..

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Fantastic views! Goodwills and Schoolbus

The crux of the route is a 100 yard section where the trail has sloughed. You can choose to call it good and head back down if you like.  If you head on, the trail becomes tricky as the as the brush pushes you toward more exposure along the edge. Take your time and look carefully for a side trail around and away from the hazard for a short distance. Watch for narrow cracks in the earth as you scamper by the problem through some “Class II” brush. Within minutes your past the hazard and back on the trail.

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When I moved to Valdez in 1979, the toe of Worthington Glacier reached the lake.

Next is a fairly strenuous hike up the steep, moraine spine. Let persistence take over and soon you will finish this section where the obvious trail ends. (You can also do a low angle traverse above the glacier from here as snow allows.) To head to the summit, it is simple route finding with some minimal rock scrambling towards the summit area favoring the rockier, south side of the ridge. The north aspect of the ridge typically has snow and a few rotten cornices. A few narrow, sharp rocks have been stood up by other intrepid hikers in the past to mark the way. Fantastic views of the Worthing Glacier along with huge views of Marshall Pass and other significant places around the Pass make this the hallmark of the hike.

Worthridehike1Rock eventually runs out, leaving a short dash up a gentle snow-covered glacier to the summit of Catchers Mitt. I would recommend bringing a probe for this section as there are some lateral crevasses that may not be visible till the snow melts off the glacier-capped summit.  From the summit is one of the best alpine views in the Chugach.

Give yourself 5-6 hours for the RT. I would recommend hiking boots over tennis shoes as footing can be tricky. Water holes were not convenient so make sure you bring a good snack and plenty of water when you start this hike to the sky.

Here’s a short 30sec video panorama from near the summit.

 

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