[Brief] Shepherds and Crooks
Published 5-4-2022 | Last updated 5-4-2022
[Unofficial name, no GNIS Entry]
- having the simplicity, charm, serenity, or other characteristics generally attributed to rural areas
- pertaining to, or consisting of shepherds
- used for pasture, as land
It is a wonderful quirk of Romanticism and the English language’s capacity for metaphor that ‘Pastoral’ could be applied to a steep, glaciated peak overlooking the thin soils of the Turnagain Pass region. The mountain was climbed and named in the dead of Alaskan winter, to boot. But the metaphor does come full circle considering that the area contains some high-quality habitat for Dall Sheep even if it is not known for large populations of them, plus meadows and plenty of high-quality habitat for mountaineers.
In 1967 a small group of Mountaineering Club of Alaska members were on a kick of exploration in the Turnagain Pass area. That January a group including Nick Parker, Bob Spurr, and Gerry Garland snagged the first recorded ascent of 4764-foot landmark overlooking the confluence of Granite Creek and Center Creek.
“The beauty of an Alaskan peak in winter is unsurpassed by any other terrain, be it upland or lowland. […] we deposited a register, unofficially naming the mountain “Pastoral,” referring to the excellent conditions we had.”
The jubilant group returned to a gut-wrenchingly familiar scenario for Turnagain Pass trekkers:
“Arrived at the road about 1 p.m., where we were greeted by a most disheartening scene: the car we had left for only 30 hours was sitting forlornly on the snow, minus tires wheels, windows, and most everything else necessary for travel in an auto.”
All the same they were insufficiently deterred and Spurr, Parker, and a friend named Bill Hauser were back out a few months later for the first recorded ascent and naming of Mooswa Peak. Spurr and Hauser also notched an ascent of Kickstep Mountain that February.
The scourge of Turnagain Pass is the two-legged wolves. Decades after the Pastoral team’s experience, the author has had his own vehicle’s windows smashed in at the Manitoba Hut trailhead, followed by break-ins of friends’ cars staged at the Resurrection Pass trailhead in Cooper Landing during the same winter. You may be lulled by the beauty of the area, but experienced shepherds might recommend keeping watch over your Jeeps by night.
Although it is a clear landmark, no prior Dena'ina or miners' names are known for the peak.