I can definitely say now that Rainbow Ridge is as steep as it looks from the road below. I drove down on Saturday, June 6 with the hope of hiking to the top of Rainbow Mountain. But, there had been a lot of fresh snow the week before above 5000 feet elevation, so I scratched that plan pretty fast. I’m not a big fan of hiking through just a few inches of snow covering loose talus.
There is a platform just below the summit that looked like it was mostly snow free, so I figured I’d give it a go and see if there’s a good view of the mountain from there. It’s a pretty wild 4000 feet of elevation gain in just under two miles.
View of the Delta River Valley before heading into alder thicket.
Some wildflowers in the talus field.
I kept expecting the hillside to start leveling off. However, it just gets steeper and steeper as I gain exposure on my way up. The lupins were pretty.
Light poking through the clouds over the Delta River.
I’m not sure what was going on with my helmet. I guess it didn’t want to play well with my hat.
Nearing the top of Rainbow Ridge the landscape starts to change.
At 5000 feet, I start to get a break from the loose talus to scramble over some solid rock (solid by Alaska Range standards). This is much preferable to me. I like it when the ground doesn’t move beneath my feet. Until this point, much of the hike was “two steps forward, one step back”, except for when the opposite occurred and things got scarier. There was also an abrupt change in temperature, dropping below freezing. Suddenly there was a strong wind and it was snowing too.
Looking at Rainbow Mountain and the ridge from up on the saddle. Next time when there’s less snow I’ll hit the top. I don’t love walking on loose talus covered by a few inches of snow.
I waited around a while for the light to hit this scene just right, but this was the best I got. Plus, it kept snowing on me and the cold wind was annoying.
I started getting cold and noticed my lack of gloves. My hands stiffened up, it became difficult to operate my camera. Probably a good time to head down.
I took slightly a different route. It was a bit steeper in places, but the ground was more cohesive than the scree slope. There was a lot more alder work at the bottom, I’m not sure it was worth the secure footing.
Sunlight hits the Delta River while on my way down from Rainbow Ridge.
GPS track of my hike up and down to a saddle before Rainbow Mountain. It’s steep, but not quite as steep as the Google Earth projection
Oh. My feet hurt after that. It may have been the most intensive hike I’ve ever done that was less than 5 miles long. After packing up the car, I headed south to fill up with some spring water and chill my feet in the stream for a bit.
The evening light was turning golden. I had to make a few stops along the way to take some photos (and continue chilling my feet in the Delta River). Then I was treated to a wonderful sunset for the entire 3-hour drive home.
A little evening light on the hills beneath Rainbow Ridge. Still cloudy up top.
Golden evening light hits the mountains south of Rainbow Ridge.
Bright sunlight on Mt. Moffit over a meadow along the Richardson Highway.
Sunset at the Donnelly Lake pull-off on the Richardson Highway. Storms forming over the mountains.
Gorgeous sunset on Birch Lake.
Sunset over the Tanana River. Near Salcha.
More photos from the hike and drive here: https://lwpetersen.smugmug.com/Date/2015/June/2015-06-06/