Sadly, we had tried this peak twice already this winter. The first time, we started at the Upper Huffman trailhead and tried to hike straight up the canyon, cross the creek, head up the Football Field, and make our way up the left of two prominent scree gullies visible from Anchorage. Well, that was the day after a pretty heavy snow, and even with snowshoes breaking trail was difficult enough that we were turned back near the bottom of the Football Field.
The next attempt was several days later in very heavy, low-lying clouds and strong wind. We started at the Glen Alps trailhead and climbed the gulley on the south side of Little O'Malley Peak. The snow was still pretty soft and deep, but by this time snowmachiners and skiers had broken several decent trails leading most of the way up the gulley. When we topped out on the ridge, the clouds were so dense that we couldn't even see the Football Field, and we reasoned based on previous observations that we might be able to follow the ridge from Little O'Malley to O'Malley. We made it past the first rocky point along the ridge before we realized that the route ahead of us would probably best be done with a bit of protection, and we had none. With our spirits dampened and the sun setting, we turned around and went home. Foiled again!
The third attempt went off without a hitch. It had been quite some time since it had snowed, it had recently been extremely windy but had since become perfectly calm, and the weather was crystal clear. We started at Glen Alps again and took the same route up the gulley. The trail going up was so well-developed that it took us almost no time at all to top out of the gulley. Given that we had a bit of time to spare, we ran over the the summit of Little O'Malley and checked out the spectacular views of Anchorage, the Alaska Range, the Tordrillos, the Chigmits, and the Kenai Mountains. It was so hot in the sun I had no need for a shirt, and got a decent tan while I hiked. Pretty darn nice for a February day in Alaska!
We dropped down into the football field and headed to Deep Lake, stopping along the way to climb a few routes up a big boulder nearby. When we got to the Deep Lake crater, we headed up the scree gulley, making good time to the final ridge heading to the summit. The gulley was not as steep as I had first assumed it to while observing it from further off, although one good spill could potentially result in a very long, bumpy tumble down to Deep Lake.
Along the summit ridge, we surmounted several false summits, convinced that each successive summit was the last. Finally we reached the tallest one along the ridge, and stopped to snap some pictures, eat some grub, and take a breather. The view of Mount Williwaw was unprecidented. From the summit of O'Malley is defeinitly my favorite profile of Williwaw.
We descended along the same route we had come up, and did so quickly as light was becoming a scarcity. By the time we reached the Football Field again, the sun was gone from the sky, but the lights of Anchorage cast a reddish glow so bright that I could have read a book if I had wanted. I love that about the Southern Front Range.
Before too long, we returned to the car and to civilization once again.
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