If you've heard about anywhere in Wrangell St. Elias National Park, you've probably heard of Skolai Pass. Just getting to Skolai Pass is half of the fun as we come up Chitistone Pass in a single engine bush plane! We will spend four days exploring this high alpine pass, and surely wish that we had another four. Your guide will lead you on an exploration of glacially carved valleys, passes and glaciers. This is an area of rich and varied contrasts, from lush green valleys to jagged glacier to steep ridges.
Skolai Pass is a natural corridor for wildlife including bears, Dall sheep, mountain goats and caribou which can sometimes be spotted grazing on the lush grasses. There's so much to do and explore here that it's hard to know what to do first.
One spot we usually visit are the lush benches that offer a great view looking down onto the Russell Glacier. We will want to hike down for a better look and get up close and personal with this very rugged glacier. And who could resist a side trip to a glacier with the name "Hole-in-the-Wall."?
But of course it's not all ice in Skolai Pass. We'll take another side trip to the incomparable Chitistone Pass which features views of impressive hanging glaciers and frequently caribou. The late afternoon light here will have you snapping photos left and right. Our itinerary on this trip is flexible so we may spend two nights in the Chitistone valley or move to another spot depending on the interests of the group.
The Adventure at a Glance
5 days/4 nights trekking in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Type: Loop/base camp
Duration: 5 day trek, 2 days travel
Group Trips: See online calendar for dates
Custom Trips: Custom trips can be scheduled mid June to mid Sept.
Just getting to our landing strip at Skolai Pass is part of the adventure. We fly up the dramatic Chitistone valley and over Chitistone Pass before dropping into Skolai Pass. This gives us a brief areal overview of the country we'll be exploring for the next five days.
We land at a small grassy strip and then face the dilemma of which direction to head first. One area we will definitely want to explore is near the Russell Glacier. We hike down the broad valley and enjoy the easy travel. Some grassy benches offer outstanding camping with great views of the Russell glacier below. Once we set up camp we might head on down to the glacier for a closer look.
Today we have lots of choices, one of which is to leave our camp set up and explore the area and travel farther up glacier. If we didn’t alraedy do so we will head down to the Russell for a close up look at this impressive glacier.
After lunch we can continue our travels around the corner of the ridge to see what we can see there. When we feel ready for some dinner we loop back to our campsite.
Decisions, decisions. It can be tough to chose on this day since the options are all tempting. We often head on up to Chitistone Pass by a route that is rarely travelled.
The light at Chitistone Pass is exceptional in the early evening and it’s a great place for some photos with hanging glaciers forming a dramatic backdrop. With a bit of luck we might have some caribou come wandering by our camp. Or we might head west to get a look at the Hole-in-the-Wall glacier. This is a fun day with some challenges thrown in to keep things interesting.
Once again we have options to choose. We can elect to spend two nights in the Chitistone valley to allow us extra time to hike farther down the valley and bet a glimpse of the next valley far below.
Or we might opt to hike back down into the Skolai Pass area and explore the other end of Skolai.
If our last camp is farily near the airstrip. Often we spend our last day with a hike to check out the Hole-in-the-Wall glacier where it comes spilling out from multiple sources in a dramatic display of cascading ice. If we’re camped up at Chitistone then our day will be spent enjoying a nice downhill hike from the pass to our airstrip.
If we didn’t have a chance to check out the Hole-in-the-Wall glacier the day before we will probably want to take a hike after an early breakfast on this, our last day in the backcountry. Fly out of the backcountry to McCarthy
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)|