Site Summit is the only intact Nike missile base in Alaska. Built in 1959 and active for 20 years, it protected Anchorage from possible Russian bomber attack along with several other sites (Site Bay and Site Point). The Nike Hercules missiles were two stage solid-fueled rockets which could carry a convential or nuclear warhead, and were buildt near many coastal cities in the US. More information on this system is available here. Today the site is abandoned except for some radio repeater equipment, but is in remarkably good condition. Early in 2001 several people affiliated with this website traveled to the site and explored it, then in 2003 I was able to visit the area with another local explorer, investigating both the IFC (Integrated fire Control) area and the missile launch area.
Explorers: Freak and Spartacus
I'd kept in contact with the people I ran into in Whittier, and this weekend we decided to check out a local missile base. "Spartacus" came over to pick me up around 10:30 on Saturday, and we drove up to the ski area near the missile base. There were a few hikers in the area, and we saw some people doing maintenance on the somewhat abandoned ski lifts (another possible exploration). We parked and started hiking up to the top of Mt. Gordon Lyon, along a trail that appeared to be partly military road and partly park trail. We saw a black bear running along the side of the mountain, he was going somewhere fast. We also came close to a moose with two calves, which avoided us.
When we finally reached the top we checked out a few utility manholes first, since they were along the roadway to the site. One seemed to be communication cables heading down to the launch area (we went to the radar area first) and another set of manholes and a small building turned out to be the small sewage treatment facility. After poking around this for a bit we walked up the rest of the way and entered the main IFC (Integrated Fire Control) building. We explored the entire building and all three radar towers, the towers were identical inside, although one was higher and had a tighly curving spiral staircase inside a concrete column for access. The building was in poor shape inside, with paint peeling (6 or 7 layers of different colors), asbestos hanging off of pipes, toilets smashed and some parts with burn damage. The small utility tunels under the floor led into crawlspaces and would have gone to another nearby building if not for a flooded and frozen access vault. I found a gunnysack labeled "Rhodesian Asbestos" and an old soda can, Spartacus found some edible MREs probably left over from military training excercises. All the barracks areas were pretty simillar, and the only remaining equipment was the heavy stuff like the large boilers and diesel generators. Newer radio towers were nearby, and two of the old buildings had been converted for some modern use (possibly as generator rooms for the radio gear). When we emerged onto the roof we found that fog (actually a cloud) had rolled over the summit and the radar towers were almost invisible. I couldn't get any good overview pictures of the site, but the atmosphere was very nice.
After exploring everything we could find, and poking into some manholes without finding more than small vaults, we walked down towards the launch area. When Kujo and Labb came up here in 2001 they'd missed that part of the base, and their pictures hadn't shown much of the IFC area either. We detoured a bit to look at the view, once out of the cloud we could see Eagle River and part of Anchorage. As we came down the road between the IFC and launch area we found piles of belted .308 ammo from an M60 machine gun, it looked like there had been several machine gun posts set up along the road as part of the excercises. We collected some of the belt links and the spent blanks, ammo belts are hard to find and expensive in surplus stores, and there were enough so I didn't feel that taking them would detract from the enjoyment of future explorers. Later on we found some live ammo and a pocketknife that must have been left behind during a nighttime training excercise.
Approaching the IFC up the hill, and some exterior pictures. A cloud moved over the mountain while we were exploring.
Inside the IFC building, there were a lot of barracks rooms, a large kitchen, dining room and lounge area with a small projector area for movies. There was also an armory, an infirmary, a mail room, and some kind of store or post exchange.
The mechanical rooms had two large boilers, two generators and seperate electrical systems for admin and tactical equipment, and some other cooling and airconditioning equipment. Small tunnels carried most of the utilities through crawlspaces under the building, and out to the radar towers and nearby buildings.
The crews must not have gotten much leave time, we found two large murals, once depicting the site shooting down a russian bomber (fictional only, the Russians never attacked, and there is some doubt about whether or not the NIKE sysyem would have been effective) and one of a desert scene. The peeling paint revealed about 6 or 7 layers or different colors, it looked like every new crew had repainted the base to their own preference (I wonder who voted for the pink layer).
The building had three of these clamshell radar towers, the tops could close up to protect the radar during bad weather (apparently it would have to be bad enough to prevent any attacking bombers from flying). The taller tower had a spiral staircase inside, and the shorter ones were connected to the building's second floor. There appeared to be a mounting position for a fourth radar near the middle of the building, but it was vacant and had some burn damage. When in operation the domes would retract to reveal a spherical radar dome inside, the opening and closing of these must have looked like a giant vertical pac-man game. We located the foundation of the much larger High Power Acquisition radar, but it had been removed.
There were a lot of utility ducts and vaults around the top of the mountain, we found the sewage treatement plant, complete with manuals.
Small concrete boxes that looked like former manhole shafts seemed to have been used as sentry pillboxes placed around the site.
Some of the modern antennas at the site.
I choose Southern Rhodesia for all my Asbestos needs.
Some pictures taken by my friends in 2001.
An overview of the entire site and some diagrams we found in the library.
The IFC map is from a similar site in Fairbanks.
The following aerial photos are all from the terraserver
The first photo shows the entire site, and the second shows the control area.
Now that you've seen the radar area, take a look at the missile
launch site just down the mountain.
More Info (external link) Photos
from equipment installation at site Summit.
Photos from equipment installation at site Summit.