Katmai National Park Highpoint Trip Report

Knife Peak on the rim of Mt. Griggs volcano
(USGS map: 7,600+ ft; our GPS: 7,835 ft; G Roach's altimeter: 7,785 ft)

Date reported: August 23, 2004
Author: Gerry Roach

Jobe Wymore, Rick Trujillo, Chad Alber, Brad Alber and myself climbed Mt Griggs, then went on to climb many other peaks in the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. All team members are home safely.

More details:
We backpacked for 7 days in the Valley of 10,000 Smokes.

Day 0: Worship the bears at Brooks Camp. Ranger Joshua told us that they own the park.

Day 1: We crossed all the water at an amazing "jump" place near the end of the road. Miss jump=die.

This crossing allows a then waterless approach to Griggs of about 8 easy miles. We found a great campsite at the SW base of Griggs with a clear spring. The water in the big creeks is like mud.

Day 2: Climbed Griggs in cloudy weather. It's 6,000 feet up easy-angled sandy, then rocky slopes to the *large* summit area. We came up next to the inner crater, which is much larger than the map indicates. There is sulphur and smoke on the crater's west side.

We measured 7,500 feet on the NE crater rim, and spied the *much* higher summit outer rim. We went up toward the big area of the map's highest 7,600-foot contour, which we assumed held the HP, climbing an easy angled ice slope then crossing a nasty bergschrund enroute. Surprise! There was higher ground to the south along the ridge, so we trudged south through ash-covered ice crud to a sandy HP. Just before bear hugging to celebrate, we spied a still higher, rock, alpine, steep fang father south appearing out of the clouds.

Big Surprise. We learned later that this is the Knife Peak that we have heard about. The name Knife Peak applies to just this summit fang, not the whole mountain. We looked in dismay at the traverse, as it is a steepening, exposed ice ridge capped by steep rock. We had only ski poles, no crampons, and no rope. Words of doubt filled the air, but I warmed to the challenge.

We retreated the way we had come to below the schrund and traversed south below the schrund to a point below Knife Peak. Rugged alpine terrain surrounded us. We recrossed the schrund below KP, and climbed 100+ feet up grungy, steep ash-covered rock to the ridge south of the upper KP. Jobe got up there first, and expressed more doubt as the final rock climb looked hard. We crept up on the W side of the upper rocks, found a 30-foot Class 3 wall that breached the difficulties, then scrambled on easier rock E of the ridge to the top! Whee!

All team members made it up the Class 3 wall w/o rope. I had a 20-foot sling, but we did not need it. The summit holds 2 memorial plaques to the Griggs family members, plus their cremains. No register was there, but we left one. Knife Peak is definitely the peak's HP, but swirling clouds prevented any long views.

Our GPS read 7,835 ft. My altimeter had 7,785 ft. We are convinced that Griggs is even higher than we thought, and is the HP of Katmai NP. Knife Peak does not show on the map at all, and the map contours only give a rough idea of the summit topography.

We hiked down in rain. It was a 12 hour day.

We did the easiest route on Griggs. There are other ways up there, but they look yucky. My original E route is not so good. The E side of Knife Peak is steep.

The remainder of this report discusses Gerry & team's other climbs in Katmai NP.

Day 3: We packed farther up valley, crossed Knife Creek by breaking it into 3 creeks near the glacial sources. We did 1 Jump and 2 cold wades, the worst of which was knee deep. Brad's pack strap broke in the middle of the worst wade, which created some tense moments. We found good water under the NE side of Broken Mtn. Clear water is hard to find here in August. The weather was much better today, and good views abounded.

Day 4: We climbed Broken and Baked Mtns in high winds. Good views of Griggs and upper valley.

Day 5: We climbed the Turtle, Novarupta, and Falling Mtn. Incredible clear day. Stunning views. We could see both the Pacific and Bristol Bay from Falling Mtn.

Day 6: Packed most of the way out wading Lethe Creek enroute, which was an easier wade than Knife Creek.

Day 7: Finished pack out - back to Brooks Camp.

Day 8: The weather was still stunning, so we toke a senic flight to see everything around the valley. Great flight! Craggy, glaciated peaks surround the valley. Many photos, including the N side of Griggs. We could not have climbed peaks like Katmai, Trident and Mageik without glacier gear.