Multi-Day Trip Difficulty Ratings

Chitistone YetiOur trip difficulty ratings are meant to give you an approximation of the difficulty of a specific trip in relation to the other trips we offer.  Keep in mind that many factors can be involved in making a trip challenging or difficult and each trip will be unique.

  • Don’t forget the “Alaska factor,” which includes the ruggedness of travel off-trail through the Wrangell-St. Elias wilderness – it can be both humbling and awe-inspiring.
  • Lean towards the conservative side when assessing your abilities and come prepared.
  • If you find this confusing and are not sure what trip to sign up for, just give us a call! We’re happy to help you pick the perfect trip!

Backpacking

Alaska Grade 1

If you’re new to backpacking, or would like an enjoyable adventure over easier terrain, this is the trip for you! Prepare for this trip by taking long walks with a loaded pack several weeks prior to your trip.

Experience: These trips are great for people that have never done this type of trip before – or for those looking for a fun adventure on gentle, easier terrain. Our friendly, knowledgeable guides are there to give you a great introduction to the Alaska backpacking.

Fitness: We recommend you take some long walks with a loaded pack several weeks before the trip to get in shape and get a feel for it. If you can’t go for long walks, at least carry a loaded pack on a stair-stepper or treadmill on high incline at the gym. Also gives you a chance to brag to people about your cool trip to Alaska! During the trip, you’ll need to be able to carry a loaded pack for about half a day over moderate terrain with stops every hour or so to rest.

Applicable Trips: Root Glacier Overnight

Alaska Grade 2

If you’ve got some prior backpacking experience, or are young and very fit, these trips have more difficult terrain and slightly longer days. Be prepared to carry a full back over irregular terrain for most of the day.

Experience: These trips are perfect for those who have some experience backpacking point-to-point, but would like to broaden their horizons and increase the adventure factor. More difficult terrain and slightly longer days mean covering more ground and seeing the incredible terrain features that Wrangell-St. Elias has to offer! If you are young and very fit, it is possible that you could do one of these trips without ever having backpacked before, but prepare well so you can enjoy the experience.

Fitness: These trips take you farther afield and you’ll need to be in good shape. You’ll want to be comfortable carrying a loaded pack over rough terrain for most of the day with stops every hour or so to rest.  If you’re active and already in good shape, start preparing for your trip with trip-specific exercises (i.e. carrying loaded pack over uneven terrain) about a month ahead of time.  If you’re not in good shape you may have to start training a couple months ahead.

Applicable Trips: Upper Chitistone Goat Trail, Glacier and Tundra Backpack Trip, Journey to Oz, Canyon Creek to May Creek

Alaska Grade 3

For physically fit individuals who wish to be challenged, these longer trips on more difficult terrain will push you to your limits and reward you with stunning views of the Wrangell-St. Elias wilderness! Your physical preparation should involve backpacking over rough terrain, or hitting the stair-stepper 2-3 months ahead of your trip.

Experience: If you’re a physically fit individual who wants to be challenged and pushed to your limit, these trips are for you! These trips are longer, with more time spent hiking each day, and involve lots of elevation gain/loss on the off-trail terrain, deep in the wilderness of the Wrangell-St. Elias backcountry. Your efforts will be rewarded with stunning views of some of the most remote wilderness in the country.

Fitness: You’ll need to be in good physical and mental shape. It’s likely that you already have lots of backpacking experience, on- or off-trail.  If not, you’ll need to start preparing mentally and physically 2-3 months ahead of the trip.  Hike all day off-trail with a loaded pack in the wind and rain. Hit the gym stair-stepper followed by push-ups and squatting exercises. Whatever your chosen form of torture is, try to approximate backpacking over rugged terrain and through variable weather.

Applicable Trips: Seven Pass Route, Historic Goat Trail of Chitistone Canyon, Skolai Pass to Nizina Lake, Alpine Scrambling

Check out our backpacking equipment list here! We have some rental gear available, and our office staff is happy to assist you with any questions.

Basecamp Hiking

Alaska Grade 1

These trips are great for everyone, including families with small children. Enjoy the Wrangell Mountains by day hiking out from camp! These trips require the ability to walk short distances while carrying your personal gear, so we recommend going hiking to train!

Experience: These trips are suited for just about anyone, including families with younger kids. Never been camping before? We’ll show you how!

Fitness: A stationary camp can be set up close to where the plane drops us off and we can spend the days exploring or relaxing as you’d like from there. Though you won’t have to go far, the ability to walk (carrying your personal gear) for short distances over uneven terrain is required.  We recommend that you go hiking two weeks to a before your trip. It’s a great way to explore your area!

Applicable Trips: Iceberg Basecamp Trekking

Alaska Grade 2

For first-time campers to seasoned hikers, these trips are a great combination of remote wilderness and comfortable camp life. These trips can often be adjusted to accommodate your fitness level, but we recommend taking long walks with a full pack two weeks to a month before your trip.

Experience: Whether you’ve done the activity before or it’s your first ever trip of this kind, these trips are less committing with gentler terrain. Our friendly, knowledgeable guides are there to give you a great introduction to the outdoors.

Fitness: These trips can often be adjusted to accommodate your fitness level, by choosing a basecamp location only a short walk from the airstrip, where equipment can be “shuttled” into camp. The ability to walk for short distances over uneven terrain is required. Two weeks to a month before trip, we recommend taking long walks with a full day pack.

Applicable Trips: Nizina Glacier Hike and Kayak, Historic Bremner Mine Exploration

Alaska Grade 3

For experienced campers, these trips often involve more rugged day hiking out from camp. Experience the enormity of the Wrangells on foot, hiking through some of the most spectacular mountains in the world! If you’re already in good shape, take some long walks with a loaded pack in the weeks prior to your trip to prepare.

Experience: These trips are ideal for folks who have some good experience base camp hiking, but are looking for longer and more rugged day hiking out from camp. The wild Alaskan wilderness is calling and you’ve got to see it!

Fitness: These trips can often involve a longer hike from the airstrip to the campsite. These are great for experienced campers, who don’t mind carrying a full overnight backpack several miles before setting up camp, or making several trips to shuttle equipment to camp. Once camp is set up, there are plenty of day-hikes available to explore the area. If you’re already in good shape, you might consider taking some long walks with a loaded pack a couple weeks ahead of your trip. Getting out on day hikes over uneven terrain with a lighter pack is also recommended.

Applicable Trips: Skolai Pass Basecamp Trek

Check out our basecamp hiking equipment list here! We have some rental gear available, and our office staff is happy to assist you with any questions.

River Rafting

Alaska Grade 1

If you’re a first time rafter or camper, or just want to experience the Wrangell Mountain backcountry from the water, this is the trip for you! The ability to walk short distances over uneven terrain is required.

Experience: These rivers are great for first time rafters, campers, and people of all ages! These trips are shorter, and have less-intense whitewater, making them perfect for families with young kids, or anyone with a limited time frame who wants to experience the backcountry of Alaska from the water.

Fitness: In addition to time spent on the raft, these trips often have short day-hikes to waterfalls along the edge of the river. The ability walk short distances over uneven terrain is required.

Applicable Trips: Chitina River Journey

Alaska Grade 2

These trips are great for people with some camping experience. If you can do short walks with a light day pack, then you’re ready to go!

Experience: If you have experience rafting, camping, or just want a little more time in the Alaska backcountry, then this is the trip for you! Combining river days with beautiful day hikes up from the river, these trips spend more days out on the river and more nights sleeping in a tent.

Fitness: These trips often involve a layover day where we enjoy day hikes out from camp, instead of spending the day on the water. The ability to do short walks with a light day pack is recommended to enjoy the day hiking opportunities on these trips.

Applicable Trips: Nizina River Wild, Copper River

Alaska Grade 3

If you have prior river experience, or are a seasoned camper, and can hike for several hours with a light day pack, then you’ll enjoy viewing the beauty of the Wrangell Mountains on these longer rafting trips.

Experience: If you’ve traveled by the rivers before, or are an experienced camper who enjoys spending extended time sleeping out in a tent, then this is the trip for you. Our most difficult rafting trips are longer, with more challenging weather, or have Class IV rapids.

Fitness: There is a minimal amount of physical effort required to complete these trips, other than holding on to the rafts through large rapids. However, these trips tend to be longer and include rivers that tend to have more varied weather. They often involve day hikes to waterfalls and glaciers, and lots of places to explore around camp, so the ability to do short walks with a light day pack is recommended.

Applicable Trips: Source to Sea

Check out our rafting equipment list here! We have some rental gear available, and our office staff is happy to assist you with any questions.

Mountaineering

Alaska Grade 1

Covering Class 3 and Class 4 terrain, these mountains can be climbed in one day from base camp. They typically involve scrambling and basic climbing skills, and may have significant exposure.

Experience: These trips and courses are for the aspiring mountaineer, and no previous climbing experience is necessary. Focusing on “Mountain Sense,” a collection of skills involving hazard assessment, risk management, and improved judgement, these trips are very teaching-oriented, and perfect for those with a love of the mountains and strong desire to learn.

Fitness: Good physical and mental shape is important for any mountaineering trip. Being comfortable carrying a loaded pack over a variety of terrain is important. Focusing on elevation gain during training (i.e. hiking up mountains, or running stadium stairs) with a pack on will also be very helpful.

Applicable Climbs: Intro to AK Mountaineering Course, Alpine Scrambling, Rime Peak, Ahtna Peak

Alaska Grade 2

High altitude and the remoteness of the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains contribute to the rigorousness of these climbs. These mountains typically involve Class 5 (technical roped) climbing that can be completed in one day from base camp, or several days of lower class terrain.

Experience: If you have some basic snow-climbing experience, mountain skills, and a desire to learn more, these trips are for you. For folks who have climbed a Colorado 14’er in the winter, or summited Mt. Rainier, these trips are a great introduction to Alaska mountain climbing.

Fitness: Participants should be in good physical condition, with emphasis placed on aerobic strength for the long hard days of breaking trail and moving camp. Begin preparing 2-3 months in advance of your trip, building a good fitness base. It should include lots of elevation training, like carrying a loaded pack up and down local mountains.

Applicable Climbs: Mt. Sanford Ski and Climb, Mt Drum (2+), Mt. Blackburn (2+), North Ridge of University Peak (2+), Mt. Bona, Mt. Churchill, Mt. Bear, Moderate First Ascents Trips, Denali: West Buttress

Alaska Grade 3

These mountains tend to have more difficult terrain, requiring one day of difficult Class 5 (technical roped) climbing, or several days of Class 4 or easier Class 5 travel (scrambling or basic technical climbing). Similar to Alaska Grade 2, the high altitude and remoteness of Wrangell-St. Elias contributes to the intensity of these climbs.

Experience: The challenging technical terrain and remote nature of these mountains require climbers with solid technical climbing experience. Experience on mountains such as Mt. Rainier or Denali is recommended, as well as a desire to learn the finer points of remote Alaska mountain climbing.

Fitness: These trips require a high level of fitness, and may require up to a year of serious training prior to the trip. Stamina is extremely important, so lifting weights, running, swimming, and stair masters are great activities to improve your fitness. Training on irregular terrain in poor conditions (climbing mountains with a full pack) while staying focused and alert is excellent mental and physical training for your upcoming trip. The more familiar the environmental stress of arctic mountains is for you, the better you can pace, acclimate, and enjoy the climb.

Applicable Climbs: Challenging First Ascents Trips, Mt. Natazhat, Moose’s Tooth: Ham and Eggs Couloir (3+)

Alaska Grade 4

Involving moderate Class 4 and Class 5 (scrambling and technical roped) climbing for multiple days, these high altitude mountains kick the intensity up a notch. Terrain features such as knife-edge ridges and cornices combine with the remoteness of Wrangell-St. Elias to increase the severity of these climbs.

Experience: With even more challenging terrain, these trips are for climbers who have attempted multiple technical climbs, such as Mt. Rainier or Denali, and are confident in their technical climbing skills. Alaska experience is a bonus, as these mountains are very remote and rarely climbed.

Fitness: These trips require a high level of fitness, and may require up to a year of serious training prior to the trip. Stamina is extremely important, so lifting weights, running, swimming, and stair masters are great activities to improve your fitness. Training on irregular terrain in poor conditions (climbing mountains with a full pack) while staying focused and alert is excellent mental and physical training for your upcoming trip. The more familiar the environmental stress of arctic mountains is for you, the better you can pace, acclimate, and enjoy the climb.

Applicable Climbs: St. Elias, Denali: West Rib, Mt. Hunter: West Ridge (4+)

Alaska Grade 5

Stepping up the difficulty, these mountains require multiple days of sustained technical climbing to summit. They have the typical Wrangell-St. Elias challenges of high altitude and remoteness, and also include challenging terrain features, such as knife-edge ridges, cornices, and limited bivouac options.

Experience: For climbers who have completed several sustained technical climbs, these are the peaks for you. If you’ve climbed with St. Elias Alpine Guides before, or have some good Alaska mountaineering experience, these mountains will challenge the mind and body, testing your skills and endurance in the remoteness of Alaska.

Fitness: These trips require a high level of fitness, and may require up to a year of serious training prior to the trip. Stamina is extremely important, so lifting weights, running, swimming, and stair masters are great activities to improve your fitness. Training on irregular terrain in poor conditions (climbing mountains with a full pack) while staying focused and alert is excellent mental and physical training for your upcoming trip. The more familiar the environmental stress of arctic mountains is for you, the better you can pace, acclimate, and enjoy the climb.

Applicable Climbs: East Face of University Peak, Denali: Cassin Ridge

Alaska Grade 6

Involving multiple days on route, over 4,000 vertical feet of very technical roped climbing, these mountains are the epitome of Alaska mountain climbing. They include high altitude, remoteness, few bivouac locations, cornices, knife edge ridges, and other terrain features that increase the pucker factor for any experienced climber.

Experience: If you have significant experience climbing technical, high-altitude peaks, and are highly confident in your technical mountain climbing skills, then you might be ready for the toughest climbs Alaska has to offer. Give us a call to discuss your experience, and we can start planning your dream expedition.

Fitness: You probably should have started training yesterday. Give us a call, and we can provide trip-specific training suggestions for your Alaska mountaineering adventure!

Applicable Climbs: Mt. Hunter: Moonflower Route, Mt. Foraker: Infinite Spur

Check out our mountaineering equipment list here! We have some rental gear available, and our office staff is happy to assist you with any questions.

Are you interested in climbing a peak that’s not listed on our website? So are we! Contact us to discuss – we’re always happy to offer custom trips, and help facilitate your mountaineering adventure of a lifetime!

For our international friends out there, here is a link to climbing grade systems around the world to help clarify our descriptions.

Customized based on goals & ability

People like to experience the outdoors in many different ways and we’re excited to facilitate your experience.  These are trips that have multiple options so we can customize the level of challenge based on what you want.  Oftentimes, trips to a general area with no specific objective & courses fall into this category.  Contact us today to talk about your ideas.

For the ultimate flexibility, we can create a custom, private trip to cater to your comfort, fitness, and experience needs. Contact us today or send us an email at info@steliasguides.com to talk about your ideas, and start planning the trip of a lifetime!