North and South Suicide

Chugach State Park’s mountains are relentless: From the Seward Highway, from office windows, from sidewalks downtown, its peaks leap into the sky, drawing the human eye and demanding to be visited. North and South Suicide are some of the most picturesque summits as seen from the city. They reign over the long Rabbit Creek valley, distant and symmetrical against the horizon.

Both peaks are within a modest day hike from town. For more climbing and descending, park at the Falls Creek trailhead on the Seward Highway, then ascend the Falls Creek trail. The trail, which is very well established below treeline, becomes less distinct in the alpine. But your destination should be clear, at least during periods of good visibility: South Suicide is the highest point at the back of the valley. It is approximately 15 miles round trip and 5,000 feet of climbing to reach South Suicide from Falls Creek. If you’ve climbed that far and have daylight, you might as well continue to North Suicide. An obvious, easily walkable ridge connects them. The saddle in the ridge is approximately a thousand feet below each of the summits.

Rabbit Lakes and McHugh Lakes trails also provide access to this saddle between North and South Suicides. The easiest route is from Rabbit Lake trailhead, since the road eats up a couple thousand feet of climbing and terminates four and a half miles from Rabbit Lake. Cross the outlet of the lake and walk toward the low point in the ridge between the two peaks. One ascent route is up a long gully, filled with scree, that tops out on the ridge closer to South than North Suicide. It is only a 15 minute walk or so from the top of this gully to South Suicide’s summit, first climbing to the ridgeline and then following the easily walkable ridge to the right.  Alternatively, ascend the tundra-covered hillside to climber's right of South Suicide, then follow the ridgeline (to climber's left) to South Suicide's ridge.

Ascending North Suicide is a little more involved. First, climb nearly a thousand feet on a well-used informal trail up the ridge. This puts you within a hundred vertical feet of the summit. The crux is traversing around a blocky fin of rock that rises vertically from the ridge. I prefer to ascend a short chimney to climber’s right, then scramble up gentler rock and grass back to the ridge. At this point, it makes sense to cross to the climber’s left (south) side of the ridgeline, climbing past a false summit to the small, comfortable true summit above Rabbit Lake. A scree gulley provides a quick route down from North Suicide (it tops out right below the summit block) back to near the level of Rabbit Lake.

Both North and South Suicide’s summit views have every element of scenery that a hiker would want: glaciers (from Marcus Baker to Carpathian to Isthmus to Bench Peak to the Alaska Range), tidewater (both Turnagain Arm and Cook Inlet), alpine lakes (Rabbit and McHugh), and wilderness (the vast interior of Chugach State Park, including Ship Creek and Bird Creek watersheds). Rarely do such features converge in one place, and it is even more improbable that such a place is a half hour drive or less from home. You can access the peaks on Rabbit Lake trail by either bike or foot, though bikes must stop about a hundred feet short of the shoreline, to protect alpine vegetation around the lake.

While these peaks are climbable as day hikes, it is tempting to camp beneath them at Rabbit or McHugh Lakes. The evening sun warms the cliffs and spires of North and South Suicide’s western faces as aquamarine light seems to emanate from Rabbit Lake. It’s a shame to have to walk away from a place like this.


Popular Posts