The Iceberg Lake valley is one of the premier spots in the park, especially for base camp trips. This area offers stunning vistas and lots of room to explore. There is a lot of variety of terrain in this region.
Many people set up a base camp at some ponds near the airstrip. It's a nice spot but a bit too popular for our tastes. Instead we saddle up the packs and hike a bit down the valley where we explore a valley glacier before heading further up a ridge. There are lots of options for places to camp in this amazing valley, and we try to vary the route each time we visit the area. The ridge offers lots of great campsites so we try to find a new spot every summer.
Usually we spend two nights at our first camp and enjoy the second day hiking without the heavy packs. Options for exploring include visiting some nearby lakes, heading up a scramble summit or hiking along the ridge. What we end up doing depends on the interests of the group.
Then we pack it up and move camp to a new spot.
Last summer we discovered a lofty perch high up on a ridge with a crystal clear melt pond nearby for a water source. We were day hiking then, but next time we'll bring the gear and spend a few days at that incredible high camp.
We can customize this trip to your group's interests and abilities. The best way to get the most out of this awesome valley is to do a combination loop and base camp trip. Typically we set up camp for a few days and explore the area before moving our camp. This combines the best of backpacking and base camping allowing us to see more variety of terrain without carrying full packs every day.
Spending five days in this amazing valley is like eating just the frosting off the cake! Indulge yourself.
4 days/5 nights trekking in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Duration: 5 days trekking
Season: Late June - Early September
Day 1: Our pilot lands the DeHaviland Beaver on a sandy mesa near Iceberg Lake. As the plane disappears over the ridge we shoulder our packs and head up the valley. It’s mostly pretty easy terrain today as we head towards the glacier. The edge of the ice is always a nice spot to stop for lunch and get some instruction from the guide on how to put on crampons and travel safely over the glacier. Most people are surprised to find that the terrain of a glacier can vary from flat ice to jagged ridges with melt holes, streams, crevasses and other features. We take our time with the crossing and explore.
Once across we clamber over a bit of rocky moraine and part way up a ridge to find a campsite with great views of the valley as well as the glacier we just crossed.
Day 2: Today we leave our camp set up and enjoy a day of hiking and exploring with light day loads. There are lots of options up on the ridge so we settle on an itinerary that suits the group. Possibilities include heading up a nearby scramble peak, exploring some nearby lakes or if we’re ambitious we could drop down over the other side of the ridge for a look at the next valley.
Day 3: On the third day we usually pack up and move our camp again. This time we head the other direction down the valley but on the opposite side. Down on the flats we enjoy the easy travel. But eventually we do have to earn our supper and do some uphill hiking to get to our lofty perch that will be our final campsite. The views from here are just stunning especially when the late afternoon light rakes the peaks and ice. This area makes for some great photos. The ridge has also been a good place for spotting bears in the past!
Day 4: Another base camp day! Once again we set out for some exploring with day packs. The options are many as we head higher up the ridge and discover hidden places tucked away where you would never expect them. We may head up the ridge crest or check out the large expanse of glacier, not in the valley this time but high up at the source!
Day 5: Hard to believe that it’s already our last day and time to head back. But the adventure is far from over as we make our way down into the valley for a challenging stream crossing. The stream is made of meltwater from the glacier we crossed on the first day of our trek. It can be a challenging crossing so the guide is careful in the selection of a crossing spot. We learn and practice group crossing techniques before linking up and venturing out into the silty, and very cold water.
Once across there’s a bit of hooting and stomping as we celebrate our success and try to get warmed up again. Sometime in the afternoon we hear the powerful engine of the Beaver heading our way. We enjoy a nice flight back to McCarthy with thoughts of hot showers and cold beers dancing in our heads.
What's Not Included
Meals: What To Expect
All of our hiking and backpacking tours include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, packaged meats, nuts, breads, oatmeal, granola, and more.
For optimal taste and energy, we supplement all our meals with spices, herbs, oils, cheeses, butter, sugar, and fruits and vegetables. In addition, we provide you with with an assortment of trail mix, snacks, and dried fruits to eat at your own discretion.
We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.
Gear We Provide
What Clothes To Bring
Please refer to the gear list for recommended clothing (we email you a detailed trip packet when you inquire and when you register). All trips require a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots (a few reliable brands include Montrail, Lowa, Merrell, Vasque, and Salomon ), rain gear, and non-cotton and cotton clothing layers. A minimum of three pairs of wool or synthetic hiking socks are also required.
NOTE: See the Packing Lists page for more detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your hiking tour.
How do We Get to McCarthy;
There are several options.
If you have more than 2 in your group then renting a car out of Anchorage can be a good option.
A shuttle service provides van transportation between Anchorage to McCarthy, Alaska. The shuttle departs Anchorage at 8:00 am arriving around 5:00 pm in McCarthy. This is the most economical way for one or two people to get to McCarthy and back.
If you are driving or taking the shuttle it takes about 8 hours to drive Anchorage to McCarthy.
Round Trip: US $390.00
The van service is operated by Wrangell-St. Elias Tours. Once you have a hotel reservation in Anchorage you will need to let them, as well as me, know where you will be staying. Also give them your cell phone number if you will have one with you.
Wrangell-St. Elias Tours
Contact: Jennifer Titus
Ride n Fly
The last 60 miles from Chitian to McCarthy is on the McCarthy road. 40 miles of the road are unpaved. It's usualy in good shape and any vehicle can easily drive it. But some folks prefer not to.
An alternative is to drive to Chitina and from there take the Wrangell Mountain Air shuttle that flies three times daily to McCarthy.
Wrangell Mt. Air - http://www.wrangellmountainair.com/getting_to_alaska.htm
Wrangell Mt. Air can also arrange a charter flight just for your group. Contact them about current rates.
There is a mail plane that flies between Anchorage and McCarthy twice a week - on Mondays and Thursdays. This is a good way for one or two people to get to and from McCarthy. Beautiful flight and no long drive in the car. With only two flights weekly you would likely need to arrive a few days early in McCarthy.
Where Do We Meet?
You'll meet your hiking guide and group in McCarthy for an orientation meeting around 6:00 p.m. the evening before the trip begins. You will be in contacted approximately 2-3 weeks before your trip and we will specify the exact location of the orientation meeting at that point. The morning of departure it's a short walk across the street to Wrangell Mt. Air where we catch a shuttle van to the airstrip for our departure into the backcountry.
We like to get an early start on the first day as it might take two flights to get everyone into the backcountry. Departure times of 8:30 a.m. are common. Our pickups on the last day are usualy around mid-day to allow us time to get back to McCarthy and get cleaned up and relax before dinner.
Your safety is our top priority. Our treks are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are certified wilderness first responders or EMT's, each with years of wilderness experience. On most treks the guide carries a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 9074.554.1088 for more information.
Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.
We prefer to run small groups and our clients like it that way too. The standard group size on backpacking trips is 5 guests and 1 guide, with a maximum of 10 guests and 2 guides. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 907.554.1088 and we'll answer all your questions. If you have a larger group than ten give us a call as there are ways we can work with bigger groups such as scout groups.
Weather in the Wrangells
Alaska is pretty far north and like any mountain evirronment we are prone to sudden temperature and weather shifts. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). See below for average summer temperatures in Wrangell-St. Elias. July is especialy variable and we have had temps hit the low 80s some summers. Mid August is when things start to cool down a bit but still great hikng weather.
|Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)|