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
2 nights in McCarthy, Alaska
5 days/4 nights trekking in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
7 days Anchorage to Anchorage
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.
Call to discuss
Day 1 - Drive Anchorage to McCarthy, overnight McCarthy
Day 2 - Day 1 of 5 day Skolai Pass Trek
Day 6 - Last day of trek, overnight McCarthy
Day 7 - Depart for Anchorage
If you don’t have the time for a longer trip but still want to get the full experience of backcountry Alaskan wilderness then this a great choice. The possibilities are just endless at Skolai Pass; lush valleys, rugged glaciers, high passes, lonely ridges... you could spend weeks here and not get bored. Skolai Pass is also a great place for spotting the bears, Dall sheep, mountain goats, caribou and other critters that inhabit the region. And if you like taking photographs you’ll love Skolai Pass!
We have a lot of freedom on this trip and we tailor each trip differently to suit the interests and abilities of the group. We usually do this as a 5 day loop trek. Here is just one possibility...
Drive Anchorage to McCarthy
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
Depending on what day of the week your trek begins there may be a layover day in McCarthy at the end of the trek while we wait for the next shuttle to Anchorage. This is a great opportunity to take a ride up the hill to Kennicott for a day of exploring at this historic mining site. A hike out to the Root glacier or up Bonanza ridge to one of the old mine sites are other options if you’re still full of energy . This day is a nice way to wind down after the trek
Return to Anchorage.
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