FAQs

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information about st elias alpine guides mccarthy alaska

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General

How long have you guys been around?
Why are you way out in middle of nowhere?
How do I get to you?
Where do I stay once I’m there?
What is there to do in McCarthy/Kennecott?

Day Trips

I only have one or two days. What should I do?
Who will my guide be?
Should I tip my guide? How much?

Multi-Day Trips

How do I decide what trip to do?
Who will my guide be?
Where do we go to the bathroom?
Do I have to carry my own gear?
What about bears?!
What will we eat?
Can you accommodate my dietary needs/preferences?
Should I tip my guide? How much?

General

How long have you guys been around?
St. Elias Alpine Guides was started in McCarthy in 1978. This is only the second generation of owners in 35 years! We’ve been around longer than the park itself and are the longest continually operating business in the area. We are proud of our long and consistant legacy in the most magnificent wilderness on earth! For more about us, click here.

Why are you way out in middle of nowhere?
We love the lifestyle that comes from being hard to get to. The founder of SEAG, Bob Jacobs, thought that Denali was too crowded, even back in the 70s! We like the type of people who come here as well. You have to want it! You can click on these links for more about Wrangell-St. Elias and McCarthy-Kennecott.

How do I get to you?
There are several options for getting to McCarthy-Kennecott. They range from driving to a van shuttle to scheduled and chartered flights. Please visit our transportation page for more details.

Where do I stay once I’m there?
For such a small town we have some great lodging options ranging from nice wilderness lodges to personable campgrounds. Please visit our lodging page for details.

What is there to do in McCarthy/Kennecott?
McCarthy-Kennecott is located right in the middle of the largest wilderness area on the earth, and is the off-the-beaten path adventure capital of south-central Alaska. If you’re looking for hiking, climbing, rafting and other wilderness activities without the crowds of Denali or the Kenai Penninsula, you’ve come to the right place. Visit the Trips page for details on all that we offer. It’s also a great spot to sit and read a book and enjoy the scenery!

Day Trips

I only have one or two days. What should I do?
There is certainly enough here to keep most people engaged for at least 2-3 days, but 1 full day is enough to get a taste. You’ll probably want to come back! We recommend that you stay at least one night and preferably two. At least take the time to fit in a hike on the Root Glacier (or an ice climb!) and a history tour of Kennecott. You can do these both in one day or split them between two days. Get up in a plane somehow – that could be on your flight from Chitina or on a separate flightseeing trip with Wrangell Mountain Air. We know it’s expensive, but it’s worth every penny. If you have another day, add in the raft and flightsee and/or the inflatable kayaking trip.

Who will my guide be?
Because we are a long-established company with a great reputation in a stunning and remote location, we attract the best guides in the business. We hire competent men and women with extensive outdoor experience, first aid training, and great personalities. We put them through a detailed training program unique to our area and our programs. We love and trust every one of them and we know you will too! You can read more about these fabulous individuals here.

Should I tip my guide? How much?
Tipping guides is customary and always appreciated. Tips can go a long ways toward making guiding a feasible long-term career choice. There are many schools of thought on how much to tip, but a common estimate is between 10% and 20% of the trip cost. So if you go on a day hike or climb with us, that would come to between $8 and $30 per person, depending on the trip and the percentage. As in any industry, your tip should be based on the service you feel you received. If you had the time of your life, the sky’s the limit!

Multi-Day Trips

How do I decide what trip to do?
If you are thinking about joining us for a wilderness adventure, but don’t know where to start, give us a call! We have been leading trips in this area for a long time, and are experts at helping you choose the right adventure for your goals, experience, age and ability. It may be that you are a strong hiker but don’t want to or aren’t able to carry a lot of weight, and a base-camp hiking trip would be perfect. Or you may be an aspiring climber with a lot of backpacking experience wondering whether to begin with the 5-day mountaineering course or go straight to the 8-day course or your first moderate summit climb. Or perhaps you have never been camping before and want to start with the most comfortable option, a rafting trip. We can help you figure it out! Contact us and we’d be happy to help.

Who will my guide be?
Our wilderness trip guides are the best of the best. They have worked for us as day guides for at least one full season (see above), have extensive experience in the backcountry, advanced wilderness medical training, and a good head on their shoulders. They are also fun and personable people to spend a few days or a few weeks with. They love what they do and want to make sure you have the best experience possible. You can read their biographies here. We assign guides to individual trips 2-4 weeks prior to the trip, but the schedule is always changing. We try hard to have your guide contact you 7-10 days before the trip to introduce themselves and answer any last minute questions you might have. We apologize if this doesn’t happen due to busy schedules and/or last minute scheduling additions or changes.

Where do we go to the bathroom?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions! On our backpacking and hiking trips, we will choose a place near to camp but with some privacy and dig a trench for use as a latrine. Toilet paper is burned or carried out. On rafting trips, we carry a metal toilet box with a seat that is set up near to camp. We carry out all waste. On mountaineering trips, the jon is commonly a crevasse or snow-pit protected from camp by a wall of snow. Let us know if you would like any more (gory) details!

Do I have to carry my own gear?
Generally speaking, our backpacking and mountaineering trips require that you carry your own personal gear as well as some share of the group food and equipment. On a backpacking trip this generally means your pack will weigh between 35 and 55 pounds, depending on your size, the weight and quality of your clothes and other gear, and the length of the trip. We also offer fabulous base-camp options, where you will hike only a short distance from the landing strip before setting up a camp and doing day hikes with light packs. We recommend these trips for those who do not want to or are not able to carry the weight of a full pack. If you really want to do a point to point trip but need some assistance with your equipment, contact us. We can offer porter services on some trips in some circumstances.

What about bears?!
A common worry for travelers to bush Alaska. Bears are big wild animals and can be intimidating. However, in our area especially, they are wild and un-used to people and generally don’t want anything to do with us. Bears do not hunt humans and even grizzlies have a natural instinct to be afraid of us. The most common bear-sighting is of its butt as it runs away from us as fast as it can go (which can be 30-40 mph!). Just in case of unusual encounters, our guides carry flare guns (to scare a bear in the area) and pepper spray (in case of an uncomfortably close encounter). We are very unlikely to use either.

What will we eat?
We pride ourselves on cooking healthy, well-balanced and delicious meals even under the most adverse conditions. Your exact menu will depend on the trip, your guide, and the dietary preferences/restrictions you list in your trip application form. We allow our guides some freedom in designing the menu of their choice and carry a plentiful and varied stock of food options for them to choose from. We do not use pre-packed freeze-dried meals. On our raft trips we cook full 3-4 course meals with fresh ingredients. If you have any specific requests, please note it on your forms.

Can you accommodate my dietary needs/preferences?
We can accommodate most dietary needs and preferences. Vegetarian is no problem. Vegan is slightly trickier due to the strong need for protein sources in the backcountry, but if you let us know what you usually eat we can make it happen. Dairy and egg allergies are no problem and if you can eat wheat we have substitutes. Just make sure we know well in advance so we can be sure to have what you need in stock for your trip.

Should I tip my multi-day guide? How much?
Tipping is customary and always appreciated. Tips can go a long ways towards making guiding a feasible career choice in the long-term, and they are always appreciated! It is hard to use a percentage scale as a guideline for tipping on our trips, because the trips costs are often hugely influenced by things like bush flights and ferries that are outside of our guides’ control. In an informal poll a few years ago, our guides said that if they received $50-$100 per day (per guide) at the end of the trip they considered it a “good but normal tip”. However, as always, the amount of your tip should depend on the quality of the service. If your guides made this the trip of a lifetime, the sky’s the limit!