The Lion Head

The Lion Head

The Lion Head

The Lion Head from north east, Caribou Creek


The Lion Head from the Matanuska, photo by mtngrlinak


Bouldering season!!!  It’s been a long time coming, but finally things are melting out here in Alaska and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Aaaaaaahhh… While waiting for the melt-down to come, my eyes  were busy scanning maps and blogs in search of new places to explore. The search led me to the Lion Head, a tall monolith overlooking the Matanuska Glacier .The catalyst of my curiosity was a picture from a rafting adventure featured at “” Having never seen the Lion Head, the sheer wall in the background caught my eye immediately, but what made me double-take were the two large figures at the base, partially obscured by the brush, yet unmistakable. Boulders! Big-uns by the looks of ’em.  I was already hooked, even though there was no other information or pictures. I knew I would have to go see for myself.

Last weekend I made the 90+ minute drive from Anchorage to the picnic area on the north side of the mountain. Loaded with pads, brushes, food, water, etc. I began hiking down the well used path to the riverbed below where the trail wandered and then disappeared. It couldn’t be simple. So the great whacking of bush began, of which there is little to say except that forcing a torso and 2 crash pads through alders is inherently miserable work. 2 miles and 2 hours later I was hot and bothered (not in the good way), but I had reached the base of the cliff.

Lion head geology 2

Liion head geology 3Lion Head GeologyThe boulders that I found were… cool. I simply don’t know how to describe them because there is a lot of interesting geology at work at this location, more than I can currently attempt to elaborate on. What I can say is that the dozen-or-so main boulders will yield about 50 problems, spanning the full spectrum of bouldering: lowball to highball, contrived to classic, very easy to borderline impossible. This is mostly speculation because I was already tired and only had the energy to do 5 problems (and attempt one project) on 3 of the boulders. What I saw while wandering around the talus at the end of the day got me excited enough to guarantee that I will go back even if no one else is interested.

My latest project

My latest project




LH boulder 4

LH boulder 2

LH boulder 5





Mane Event V5

Mane Event V5

Aesop Pop V2  out of the left side of the boulder

Aesop Pop V2 out of the left side of the boulder

However, the devil is in the details here. Usually I keep my new development a little quiet, but the drive is long and there is too much work for me to do by myself. The trail must be cleaned up. Landings need to be built. The boulders need to be cleaned (a little) and holds need to be brushed. Not that I won’t do it eventually, but if someone wanted to give it go, get a few FA’s, and contribute to bouldering development in Alaska, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Time – In a best case scenario, you are looking at 6 hours of travel time (including approach), out and back. So you and your friends can’t just load up the nearest Subaru and jam out for a quick sesh. It is a full day commitment.

2. Weather – The Sheep Mountain webcam actually sits on the north side of the Lion Head and the Matanuska Glacier has a bubble effect on the weather. Check the webcam!

3. Bears (Oh my!) – Hatcher, Byron, and Ptarmigan are pretty much bear free. Not the case at the Lion Head. Make noise and don’t act tasty when you assume the fetal position beneath your crash pads.


4. Beavers – Probably not the biggest concern, but I passed a lot of chewed up trees and I can only imagine that an angry beaver is unpleasant.

5. Food – Bring lots of food. I ate a big breakfast and snacked in my car before the hike. During the day I ate 5 granola/ power bars, but by the time I made it back to my car I was famished and ate half of a cheeseburger, half a bag of Kettle chips, two massive handfuls of dried mangos, and two beers. I wanted more.

6. Water – Yes it’s heavy, but you are a highly trained ath-uh-lete, and your muscles need water in order to krush (with a k!) your projects. I had to carefully ration a full Nalgene for the day and I plan on bringing more next time.

7. PICTURES! – If you go out there, please document what you do and let us know how it went. Things like names, grades, and beta are always useful and good to share!

I will probably post more about the Lion Head in the weeks to come. Until then, good luck and have fun exploring!

Cool stuff @ Lion Head