65,000 feet – more than two Mount Everests, or the distance to the outer edge of the earth’s atmosphere: That’s how high Peters Creek’s Yorisha “Rish” Harty and her nine-year-old daughter Riley will have climbed in 2017 during their year-long quest to complete 50 summits of Mt. Baldy.
Rish says she launched the project in early January 2017 at the behest of Riley as a way of enhancing the home school program for her and sister Skyler, age 10.
“Riley wanted to get in some rigorous outdoor exercise as a way of adding physical education to the program, and to also have some fun,” Rish says. “From the very start, Riley was ‘all in’ with the idea of climbing Baldy 50 times in a year, and Skyler joined us a bit later. It’s been a blast.”
At 3,038 feet at the top of Skyline Drive, Baldy is one of Eagle River’s most popular hiking locations.
With parking at about 1,700 feet, the elevation rise on the two-mile (round trip) trail is 1,300 feet. From the summit, the view goes on forever: West across Knik Arm to Mount Susitna, north to the Alaska Range and Denali; south and east to the rugged Chugach Mountains the lie within Chugach State Park.
Trail improvements in recent years by Chugach State Park officials have made the hike more hiker-friendly, and some work is left to do on the upper part of the trail. Some people choose to take a more gradual, round-about route to Baldy through the Wallace homestead property that adds about half a mile to the trip.
Rish notes that not all of their trips up the mountain have been in ideal conditions. Throughout the year they encountered the full range of natural elements: Cold, snow, ice, wind, rain; as well as difficult trail conditions.
“It’s often windy up high, and sometimes the trail can get really slick,” she says. “In late October, I slipped near the top and broke my hiking stick! But we have Kahtoola micro-spikes and the girls seem to do fine, whatever the conditions.”
Originally from Colorado, the Hartys moved to Alaska in 2012 and settled in Peters Creek. Rish’s husband, Jim, is business development officer for Wells Fargo, SBA Lending.
Soon after moving to Alaska, Rish joined “Eagle River Get Out and Go,” a toddler-based hiking group.
“Founded by Ben Schneider, the group got us out and helped us become familiar with the local hiking areas,” she says. “Since then my daughters have ‘aged out’ of the group, but being part of it probably planted the seed for us to do the Baldy challenge.”
Getting into shape: Riley and her sister agree they are much stronger after months of climbing Baldy.
“At first the climb seemed kind of hard,” says Riley. “But now, it’s really fun.”
Rish says she’s noticed that she and both of the girls have much more strength and stamina than a year ago.
On their 50th Baldy summit, which was completed after Thanksgiving, Rish and her daughters were joined by friends who supported them in their epic endeavor.
After celebrating their achievement, perhaps a thought began percolating among Rish and her energetic daughters:
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer and ECHO News team member and freelance writer who lives in Eagle River with his wife Rebekah, a retired Birchwood ABC school teacher. To reach Frank, email: firstname.lastname@example.org