Ascent of Mystery Hills Central on 2014-09-07

Climber: Richard Hensley

Others in Party:Chad C.
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, September 7, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mystery Hills Central
    Elevation:3291 ft / 1003 m

Ascent Trip Report

This must be one of the classic hikes on the Kenai. A steep climb up to a long multi-peak ridge with views from Iliamne to Denali and into the peaks of the Kenai Range. Unfortunately we did not bring a second car to leave at the Fuller Lakes trailhead, and we had to turn back midway. (However, we found out later that finding the trail to Fuller Lake may be difficult if you've never been up that side.)
The trailhead for the Skyline Trail is on the south side of the Sterling Highway at mile 60.8. There are no facilities. The trail starts on the north side beyond the west end of a long guardrail. The guardrail is at the edge of the pavement, and the road can be busy with 55mph traffic. But from the west side of the lot, you can step directly over the guardrail and walk behind it.
The trail wastes no time in starting steeply up the mountain. Much like Canada, Alaskan trails have few switchbacks. If that means it has to be steep, then steep it is. Most times you have rocks or tree roots for support. But there are a few short sections of steep hardpacked dirt with little to grab onto. Luckily it hadn't rained in a couple days, and today was sunny. The trail climbs about 1500 ft in the first mile. Then it's moderate up to the open area on the ridge's saddle. This seems to be the official end of the Skyline Trail according to the descriptions I read. To me, "skyline" implies along or near the top of a ridgeline, not directly up to one from the bottom. So most distance and elevation reports seem to go only to this saddle.
The trail up to the ridgeline can be seen directly east (true), up a couple rock outcroppings. The short rock sections are easily climbed (not quite what I'd call a scramble). Then it's a good rocky trail up to the next saddle and the North Peak. The trail continues along or near the top to the summits east.
From the Central Peak, continuing on to Fuller Lake involves a big, steep descent, crossing a couple small summits, then a big climb up onto the North Peak. Since we didn't leave a car at Fuller Lakes TH, and we had a deadline, we turned around here. A week later, we hiked up from Fuller Lakes.
Hiking from Central to East Peak appears to be straightforward. There's a trail most of the way, but you're probably on your own for the first descent and the final steep climb.
Finding Fuller Lake from the East Peak can be difficult. We had the advantage of going up from that side instead. From East's summit, descend its north ridge until it levels out; do not go to its far north end. At about 60deg, 31.6min north, angle right of the crest to start a gradual descent across open tundra. As you approach the next forested area to the north, you should start to see some pink ribbons in isolated trees. There's an occasional thin trail near the line of ribbons. When you can see the bottom, look for a large bright pink ribbon in a small opening. The open tundra funnels you in that direction. About 40 ft before that obvious marker, take the trail to the right and follow it and its pink or orange ribbons. This trail leads to the north end of Fuller Lake; the Fuller Lakes Trail goes around the left (northeast) side.
In the following table, I used topos and Google Earth to estimate the distance and elevation gain between the Central and East Peaks.
From Skyline TH: (miles, total gain in feet, hh:mm)
one-way round-trip
to top of Skyline Trail: 1.4, 1832, 1:05 2.8, 1852, 2:03
to North Peak: 2.2, 2741, 1:42 4.4, 2771, 3:11
to Central Peak: 3.5, 3341, 2:37 7.0, 3964, 4:56
to East Peak: 6.3, 5016, 4:50 12.6, 7070, 9:01
to Fuller Lake (north end): 8.5, 5211, 6:00 17.0, 9258, 11:58
to Fuller Lakes Trailhead: 12.1, 5491, 7:30 24.2, 11214, 15:08
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1223 ft / 371 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4000 ft / 1218 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.7 mi / 7.6 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:600 ft / 182 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 7 ft / 3 m; Extra: 593 ft / 180m
    Loss on way in:593 ft / 180 m
    Distance:1.3 mi / 2.1 km
    Route:ridgeline trail
    Start Trailhead:Mystery Hills North Peak  3284 ft / 1000 m
    Time:55 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3407 ft / 1038 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 2784 ft / 849 m; Extra: 623 ft / 189m
    Gain on way out:623 ft / 189 m
    Distance:3.4 mi / 5.5 km
    Route:ridgeline, Skyline Trail
    End Trailhead:Skyline TH  507 ft / 154 m
    Time:2 Hours 19 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Skyline Trail (0 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1North Mystery Hills2014-09-072807 ft / 856 m
2Mystery Hills Central2014-09-071223 ft / 373 m
Total Trip Gain: 4030 ft / 1229 m    Total Trip Loss: 4030 ft / 1228 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Richard Hensley
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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