South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex

South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex

“Heaven’s Breath” in Dena’ina; formerly “South Suicide Peak”

South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex (5,005 ft.)

Via the Rabbit Creek Trailhead, West Ridge Route: 6 miles each way, 3,560 ft. elevation gain. Difficulty: Class 2+


Via the Rabbit Creek Trailhead, Hauser’s Gully Route: 5.5 miles each way, 3,250 ft. elevation gain. Difficulty: Class 3


Anyone eager to start climbing Chugach peaks will quickly find their eyes on South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex. The peak is visible from many parts of Anchorage and down Turnagain Arm, and it is accessible from multiple Chugach trailheads. From Rabbit Lake it has an elegant appearance, rising 2,000 vertical feet to a symmetrical summit shaped like the top of a church window. In the evening the sun lights up its western faces, casting its crags and cliffs in warm relief.

South Suicide Peak

South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex

Approaches and Routes

There are a number of routes up South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex, which range in difficulty from Class 2 to Class 3. These routes can be linked together to create loops or through-hikes between several Chugach State Park trailheads. South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex can be tackled as a midsummer after-work hike by fast hikers, but most first-timers should consider it a full-day project.

Map of South Suicide Peak routes

Map of South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex. This map shows some of the major approaches, though many variations on these marked routes are possible.

Some less-common approaches include hiking the peak from North Yuyanq’ Ch’ex via Windy Gap, or by traversing the entire long Class 2 west ridge from the summit of Rainbow Peak.

Hauser’s Gully Route

The most well-known route up South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex starts near Rabbit Lake and climbs Hauser’s Gully on the peak’s NE face. Hauser’s is a steep, chossy Class 3 chute with a large fan of scree at the bottom. Though it has the advantage of being direct and obvious, it’s the most difficult nontechnical route up the peak. If scrambling in Hauser’s with multiple people, take care not to kick rocks down onto one another. Snow persists on the lower reaches of Hauser’s and down into the bowl into midsummer and can make for a fun and fast glissade.

Falls Creek Route

The Falls Creek route is the easist from a technical standpoint, and is the one described by Shepherd and Wozniak in “50 Hikes.” Start at the Falls Creek Trailhead on the side of Turnagain Arm and climb 2.7 miles up the steep but manageable Falls Creek Trail. Just before the trail reaches the small tarn between South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex and Indianhouse, climb up into the large bowl and gain the crest of South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex’s southwest or southeast ridges. The ridges join at about 4,600 vertical feet, and the pleasant Class 2 south ridge continues a quarter-mile to the summit.

Brett Frazer descending the south ridge toward Falls Creek

Brett Frazer descending the south ridge toward Falls Creek, during an April ascent of South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex

West Ridge Route

The approach to the West Ridge Route, on the Rabbit Lake Trail, is fast and passes under South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex’s dramatic northwest face. The West Ridge Route can also be tackled via the McHugh Trailhead, but this requires much more elevation gain and time.

To access to the West Ridge, hike up the Rabbit Lake Trail to the edge of Rabbit Lake, and then walk south across the open tundra toward McHugh Lake. Hop across the outlet of McHugh Lake and choose any appealing route up the steep tundra slopes toward Point 4235.

Once you’ve made the west ridge, hike east along its crest, dropping off one side or the other to avoid small crags or to follow sheep trails. There are a couple spots where you may want to scout around a little bit to find the easiest route.

A precarious overhang on the west ridge route up South Yuyanq' Ch'ex

A precarious overhang on the west ridge route up South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex. The north aspects of the ridge and peak are cliffy, but South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex’s relatively mellow south faces make the peak much more accessible than some people assume. The west ridge route is a straightforward Class 2 hike/scramble.

The final climb to the summit can look intimidating, but it’s only a third of a mile long and remains solidly in Class 2 territory. There is almost a trail here. A patch of sun-pockmarked snow (inevitably with steps kicked into it) often remains on the summit far into summer. At 5,005 feet, South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex is the tallest peak adjacent to Tunagain Arm, and one of the tallest peaks in the southwest corner of Chugach State Park. It has a completely unobstructed view of Anchorage and Cook Inlet, and if the sun is out, South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex will be basking in it.

Josh Lofgreen and Brett Woelber on the summit of South Suicide Peak

Josh Lofgreen and Brett Woelber on the summit of South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex in late May. The summit develops a stable cap of snow that can last well into late summer. Because it has unobstructed vies to the south and west, the summit of South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex must be one of the best seats in Anchorage for epic summer sunsets.

Winter Climbing

South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex sees some visitors during winter, though there is potential avalanche danger on all of the standard approaches. High winds down Turnagain Arm often blow the snow off of the crests of the south and west ridges, though a great deal of snow can accumulate in the bowls and on the faces surrounding the peak and truly enormous cornices form on the north ridge. Under normal winter conditions there are probably no nontechnical routes up the peak, though the west ridge and south ridge routs can be snow-free by early May. Snow (and avalanche danger, particularly from cornice breaks) can persist in Hauser’s Gully till mid-spring.

The summit ridge of South Suicide Peak in midwinter

The summit ridge of South Yuyanq’ Ch’ex in midwinter. This photo was taken during a historically low snow year when there was no avalanche danger on the West Ridge NE Approach.

More Information and Resources

About the Author

Paxson Woelber

About the Author

Hi! My name is Paxson. I grew up in Alaska and currently live in Anchorage. For more about me and, click here.

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