Alaska Mountain Adventure
The flight to our airstrip takes us through the stunning mountains of the University Range and some of the most impressive backountry terrain that the park has to offer. Our route travels through country that is as varied as it is magnificent. The Pyramid Peak Traverse is one of the most rewarding hiking trips that we are leading this summer.
You might want to close your eyes as we drop down into the little-used airstrip that is the starting point for our adventure. But not to worry, Don, our pilot, is one of the best Alaskan mountain pilots in the area.
No sooner are we out of the plane than we face our first challenge, a turbulent stream crossing - but it's not as bad as it looks. Once safely across, we will want to get moving to warm up our chilly legs. A few hours of hiking take us to a pass where we make our first camp. The view from our perch offers an exciting sneak preview of the journey ahead.
We drop down to a creek and take advantage of the easy hiking on its gravel bars but soon we are heading back up into the high country and onto the ridges. We continue hiking along, doing a high traverse of Pyramid Peak and later slip across the shoulder of Andrus. This portion of the route will make us glad that we brought along those extra rolls of film
From the lofty ridge we have terrific views of the high mountains that are all around us. After taking our fill of the scenery we drop down into the valley below where exploring of a different sort awaits. The ruins and relics from gold mining days invites investigation all along the creek valley. We will stop for lunch at the old town site of Chititu Camp and explore the ruins. From Chititu it's a pleasant hike down the remains of an old mining road as we leave the mountains behind adn head into May Creek near the Nizina river.
Begins in McCarthy, Alaska
7 days/6 nights trekking in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Difficulty: A mix of strenuous and more moderate days
Duration: 7 days trekking
Season: Early July - Early September
We get an early start and begin our trek with a bush flight. Our begins in the remote valley on an airstrip so small we have to be ferried in one at a time in a super cub. You might want to close your eyes as we drop down into the little-used airstrip along Canyon Creek - but not to worry, our pilot is one of the best backcountry pilots in the area.
No sooner are we out of the plane than we face the first challenge of our trek - a turbulent stream crossing - but it's not as bad as it looks. Once safely across, we will want to get moving to warm up our chilly legs. We hike for a few hours up Canyon Creek till we get to the base of a rib that will lead us up and over a high ridge. Due to the logistics of getting into this remote spot, it's often lunchtime before we get going from the airstrip. So we start with a shorter day as the next day requires us to get up and over a ridge that would be too much for the first day.
It's a challenging day and a real hump to get up the ridge, so we take our time and take a slow but steady pace. The hike to the top is demanding but when we stand on the crest and suck up the amazing views of the University range, it's well worth the effort. This is one of the best viewpoints on the trip. Depending on how long it took us to hit the ridge, we might take a little side trip along the crest. Then it's all down hill as we cruise into a great, stream-side campsite far below.
After a demanding day crossing the ridge we're happy to follow-up with an easier one. Our day begins with a steep bit up along the side of a rock glacier, but this is a much shorter ascent than yesterday. Crossing the rock glacier requires some careful footwork but soon we are on the other side. Depending on the weather, and our energy, we might take a side trip to get a nice view of Pyramid Peak. Then it's downhill once again to set camp in the most amazing wildflower meadow filled with Monk's Hood, Lupine, Fireweed and more.
Rested up from our easier day, we once again have a full day ahead of us. But what a rewarding hike as we do a high traverse around the base of Pyramid Peak. When we hit the top of our final ridge a whole new face of Pyramid explodes into view inviting nice rest break and photos. A quick descent to the stream below brings us to a lovely lunch spot. From here it's fairly easy hiking to our camp, well except for our ascent up the Anvil. It's really steep, but really short and once up, were 20 minutes from camp.
It's a bit of a longer day of hiking today so we'll want an early start. We get right down to it and head up the crest of a narrow ridge that puts us on the shoulder of Andrus which looms above us. From the top we enjoy amazing views all around including one last look at Pyramid. This is the favorite viewpoint for many people. After enjoying the high views, we drop down the snowfield on the other side.
Stream crossings, boulder fields and other challenges wait, but so do some interesting surprises like an old gold mine shaft that doesn't appear on the map. We make our final camp on the bank of Rex Creek.
Our last day of hiking will be a fairly easy one for the most part. After a careful crossing of Rex and White Creeks, we drop our gear and explore the collapsing ruins of Chititu Camp, once an active gold mining settlement in the middle of the wilderness. Remains of cabins, barns, chicken coops and other structures wait our discovery. Next we resume our backpacking trip and travel down what remains of the old road that was once the miners access to Chititu, though it's more a route than a road these days. We will arrive at May Creek in the early afternoon.
The large strip at May Creek allows for a plane big enough to carry our entire group and all of our gear. It’s a short flight back to McCarthy and the world of hot showers.
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)|