By: Gabriele Rau
We started at 6:30 AM and first went to Oak Grove Ranger Station to ask for a key for the Mendenhall Ridge Road. The Ranger told us the road had been closed, it is washed out. So no key. We drove to Mill Creek Summit, the Mt. Gleason Road to the locked gate and started hiking at 9:30 AM It is about 100 miles to this point from home. The road was downhill to Indian Ben Saddle (2 mi), then the road turns right at the foot of Iron Mountain #2 (2.3 mi), here it is slightly uphill. After we hiked about 1 mile we thought McKinley would be the bump to the left, a cone like peak, and climbed it. It did not look right, so back down along the ridge to the road again and up the next bump, which did not look right either. Mark said he did not think the trail on the map existed anymore. We hiked back to the road again (2 steep ridges up and steep ridges down) and continued on the road. Finally we came to a rusty shot sign ‘Yerba Buena Trail 13W02’ and knew we were at Iron Saddle. We took this trail, which contours around the mountain side, for a mile when we came to a saddle. From here the trail went downhill. I marked this spot with a duck. To the left there is an open ridge which leads to a summit. We climbed the steep ridge (about 1/3 mile) to the highest point, checked on the maps and this was Mt.McKinley. I left a can in a cairn. The view was beautiful, total wilderness, many peaks. With all our detours it was rather late, we ate lunch and returned.
After 10 min we reached the trail, after 30 more min the road. From here it took me 2 hours to the car without a break, 5.6 miles (4:15 PM). Mark arrived 20 min later. It t was a clear sunny day, and it was hot climbing the ridges, but in general it was very pleasant hiking weather. The total hike was 7 mi o/w, 1500 loss and 1500 gain on the way to the peak, the same on return, total 3000’ gain. The gain was very gradual, except on the ridges.
On the way back, Mark stopped at Mt. Gleason and hiked up to it. I stayed in the car and watched the very beautiful sunset.
The Ranger had clearly lied to us; the road is perfectly drivable, in excellent condition. He should have told us, that they do not give out keys, but why would the give the key to Hugh and Byron??
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