Trek price does not include cost of transportation to McCarthy or lodging in McCarthy before and after the trek as there are several options we can discuss.
Referring to any backcountry trek in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park as remote is in some ways redundant. Wrangell-St. Elias is one of the most remote in the National Park system. But even by Wrangell-St. Elias standards this route is off the beaten track and travels through country so wild that it defines remote wilderness in Alaska.
This is a next level sort of trip. And not compared to other challenging backpacking trips you may have done elsewhere, but compared to other Alaskan treks. We are very selective about who we allow to sign up for this trek. Currently we only offer this trip to private groups of 2-4 people.
The journey begins on Mt. Wrangell plateau which offers stunning views of Mt. Drum, Mt. Wrangell and Mt. Blackburn. The route is one of the few that passes through the stunning and rugged Wrangell Range. The hiking up and over three ridges is steep, rugged and demanding. You need to be an experienced backpacker for this trip and prior Alaskan experience is highly recommended.
But the rewards are great with views from the ridges that offer Wrangell range views like you just can't get on any other trip. Surprise Creek Pass is one of the sweetest places I have ever camped.
Challenges on this trip include river crossings, route finding and some serious bushwhacking. This is not a trek for the timid. But the reward for all the hard work is the opportunity to experience ruggedly beautiful country that few have ever seen. This is no dialed-in adventure where the guide knows every rock, every twist and turn – this is a journey where you will share the sense of exploration.
Because of the extremely challenging nature of this route, we are currently only offering this trek to private groups of 3-5 who have the experience to meet the demands of this challenging route. Due to the potential for very high river levels in mid summer, the trip will only be scheduled from mid August to early September. Call for more details.
The Adventure at a Glance
Difficulty: Very Strenuous/advanced
Duration: 10 days trekking, 12 days total including travel time
Season: Late July - Early September
Note: We allow 10 days for the route because weather can often cause us to get a late start on Mt.Wrangell. If we get weathered out we have some leeway with our itinerary. If we get in on day one then we have an extra day or two for a layover after one of our tougher days.
|Pre Trip||Arrive in Anchorage 2 days prior to the start date of your trek.|
On the day before your trek, our van picks you up at your Anchorage hotel around 8:00 am for the drive to McCarthy. You may also elect to drive in a rental car if you prefer. It's an amazing drive and one of the most scenic in Alaska. Arrive in McCarthy around 5-6:00 pm in time for the meeting with your guide. The guide will review your gear and distribute food and group gear as well as go over logistics for the following departure day into the backcountry.
|Day 1||We get an early start and begin our trek with a bush flight from McCarthy to the Mt. Wrangell plateau. The trek starts with plenty of adventure on the first day as we make our way down the steep edge of the plateau and out onto Long Glacier. This crossing is a fascinating look into the world of glaciers and the route across is not always obvious. We will have to do a bit of exploring and backtracking to wind our way through and around some amazing obstacles. We’ll be wearing crampons (provided by Trek Alaska) but there is no need to rope up. Once safely across we make our way up the valley a bit and pick out a nice campsite near the stream.|
|Day 2||Our route today continues up the valley on a sloping traverse that leads us up... and up and up to our first of three passes on the trek. The last bit gets a bit steep so we’ll be huffing and puffing when we top out at the pass. Fantastic views looking back at Mt. Wrangell and our route for the last two days. The pass makes a good spot for lunch with a view. We drop down from our lofty perch into the Fall Creek drainage. The going is relatively easy as we make our way down this beautiful hanging valley. Towards the end of the valley we start looking for a place to make camp near Fall Creek.|
|Day 3||After a bit of hiking we come to the lip of the hanging valley and a great view of the Kluvesna River 1300 feet below. But getting there will take a bit of work. It’s a steep descent down a brushy slope but with careful route finding we make our way down to the flats and out to the shores of the Kluvesna. Another excellent spot for lunch and a bit of a siesta after our hard work on the way down. The rest of the day involves some wonderful hiking as we make our way along the Kluvesna ending up right at the source of the river - the toe of the Kluvesna Glacier. There are some excellent places to camp on the gravel bars and the surrounding scenery is just amazing with dramatic mountains rising all around us. Weather permitting, we’ll get some great photos here.|
|Day 4||Since we’re down in a valley there’s only one way to go from here - up. First we make our way over the moraine at the toe of the glacier before turning south and beginning our hike up to Surprise Pass. The initial bit, what I call the Tundra Ladder, is a bit on the steep side. We’ll get some great photos looking back at the Kluvesna Glacier as we hit the top of the “ladder”. From here the slope eases back to less severe angle. The route up this second pass seems never to end as we huff and puff our way to he top. But end it does and what a view! From this lofty pass above Surprise Creek we can still see massive Mt. Wrangell behind us and mighty Blackburn in the other direction beckoning us onward. We’ll camp at this pass to enjoy the views in every direction. This is one of my favorite spots to camp in the whole park! We may spend an extra day here or at some other point in the trek. We have an extra day figured in to allow for weather and other contingencies.|
|Day 5||Our hike from Surprise Pass to the Kotsina River is full of challenges. This section includes some of the most regain terrain on the trek. The route does some up and down and winding around to avoid some impassable sections of Surprise Creek. But at last we break out onto the flats and enjoy the easy travel as we make our way to the Kotsina. It’s another river-side camp for us on this day. The lower elevation means trees which makes it possible to enjoy a camp fire this evening! We build it in a sand pit that we fill in the next morning leaving no trace of our fire.|
|Day 6||The first thing we do today is get our feet wet. Our crossing of the Kotsina will be our most challenging of the trek. We will cross as a team using the methods we have been perfecting on easier crossings. Not only is it a challenging crossing of a stiff current, it’s a cold one. But don’t worry, we’ll be warming back up quickly as we head up the slope to the south and make our way up an extended bushwhack. All bad things must come to an end and so does the brush. We drop down to Roaring Creek which no has a more gentle shoreline allowing us to make our way up the valley. This is a hard day but a shorter one. We stop in the early afternoon and make camp near a crystal clear stream.|
|Day 7||Today we make our way up to our final and most challenging pass. Actually it’s being a bit generous to call it a pass. It’s more of a low spot on a steep ridge. The approach is straight forward but the last 2-3 hundred feet of gain is some of the steepest of the trip. The payoff is spectacular. We suck in the views of peaks near and far. The descent down the other side is thankfully a bit less steep though some careful route finding is needed as we drop down almost 2500 feet to Nugget Creek. The terrain eases off the lower we get until eventually we encounter something we’ve not seen before - a trail. It’s not much of one at first but it gets more pronounced as we go. The trail is a remnant of the mining days when the area was prospected and mined for copper. We pass through some interesting ruins of cabins from the mining camp that provide a good place for lunch and photos. The last stretch from the ruins to our final destination are savored as we walk down what is now a broad ATV trail that winds through aspen and birch down to the public use cabin near the banks of Nugget Creek. After a week on the move, we enjoy the comfort of the cabin.|
|Day 8||Our last day in the wilderness is spent doing a little exploring of the area around the cabin, or just resting our feet. In the afternoon we are picked up at the nearby airstrip for the return flight to McCarthy where we spend a final night.|
|Post Trip||The van departs at 10:00 am for the return trip to Anchorage arriving around 6:00 pm. Overnight in Anchorage|
How Do We Get to McCarthy Alaska?
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 besst, 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 will be picked up at your hotel around 8:00 am of Day 1 as shown on the itinerary. The van usually arrives in McCarthy by 6:00 pm At this time you will meet your guide and the rest of the group in McCarthy for an orientation meeting 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.
Here is a link to forms that you will need to complete and return to us before the trip. These include medical history, dietary restrictions, conditioning information as well as policies such as cancellations and refunds.
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. Larger groups are possible for private trips. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 907.554.1088 and we'll answer all your questions.
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)|
What's Not Included
: See the Gear List for detailed information on what clothes and gear to bring on your trek.
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.