Summit Success!

Four of our climbers summited Blackburn yesterday evening at 6pm! Sorry for the delay in posting, but here is the joyous dispatch they left from 13,394ft. Great work you guys, safe descent and see you soon!

Summit Success!

Climbing Mt Blackburn

Posted in Trip Dispatches

Hard-Earned High Camp and Summit Bid

We got another dispatch from our Blackburn Team today. They had an 18 hour day yesterday fighting through deep snow and avoid crevasses but it’s the last day of good weather so it sounds like 4 of the 6 are going to summon the energy to go for the summit.

Good luck guys and gal – climb safe and strong!

Hard Earned High Camp and Summit Bid!

mt blackburn descent

Posted in Trip Dispatches

Hauling Loads and Crevasse Excitement!

We heard from our Blackburn team this morning and they’ve spend the last few days hauling loads up to their advance basecamp through heavy snow. They’re tired but happy and making good progress. It’s bluebird today and the forecast for the rest of the trip looks decent with a couple days of snow so hopefully they’ll have summit success and some amazing views along the way!

Click below to hear the dispatch from lead guide Scott.

Hauling Loads and Crevasse Excitement!

mount blackburn wrangell-st elias national park alaskaMt. Blackburn from McCarthy
Our team is climbing from the Nabesna Glacier on the other side of the peak.

Posted in Trip Dispatches

Spring Skiing in the St. Elias Range!

happy skiers in alaska

The best schools come in all shapes and sizes, but few are better than the upper Baldwin Glacier. In early June, two guides and five guests flew out to the Baldwin to learn the finer points of ski mountaineering in a remote Alaskan classroom. Over the course of five days in the backcountry, guides Anya and Tim taught the group rope team skills, crevasse rescue, and navigation and route-finding. However it wasn’t just teaching and learning on this trip. The hearty crew enjoyed bountiful turns of endless powder as they skied numerous peaks and couloirs out from their basecamp.

alaska ski mountaineeringAfter gathering in McCarthy for a gear check, Anya, Tim and their five clients enjoyed a 45 minute flight out to the Baldwin Glacier. Coming from all over the world, the team included ski racers from Richmond, Virginia, a physicist from Switzerland, and a lawyer from Australia. On Day 1, after setting up camp, they took a short tour before settling in for a lesson on avalanche rescue and beacon use.

The morning of Day 2 saw more skills lessons put into practice as Anya (gleefully) jumped into a crevasse and the team hauled her out. In case her family is reading this, Anya describes the jump as “great fun, short and safe.” The group spent the afternoon taking laps and touring up on the peaks surrounding camp. Day 3 was all skiing, all the time, as they took four tours on new peaks near camp, including a previously unclimbed couloir they dubbed “Punter’s Passage.” The couloir was narrow and steep enough to require belay access. Rodney took stunning pictures of the terrain, while Winston and Turner, ski racers extraordinaire, carved grand slalom turns all over the glacier.

spring skiing st eliasUnfortunately, the bluebird weather they’d been enjoying began to disappear on Day 4. The team found themselves socked in early on, but were still able to get in a few tours of “mixed skiing” routes in the afternoon. They arranged to be picked up a day early on Day 5, and after a great round of frisbee and one last morning of Annabelle’s snow yoga, they were picked up and flown them back to McCarthy for a well deserved sauna and pizza party.

With an extra day back in town, our ski mountaineers were able to join forces with our Mt. Blackburn expedition crew–temporarily delayed in McCarthy by weather–for a day of ice climbing on the Root Glacier. The timing was fortuitous, as ski client Oscar bonded with the Blackburn team and decided to join the expedition last-minute. Currently, he’s on his second mountaineering trip in as many weeks! You never know what will happen when you’re caught up in the Wrangell-St. Elias spirit!  

While spring is skiing and mountaineering season in the Wrangells, our river trips are right around the corner. For all you river lovers – stay tuned for more exciting stories from McCarthy – on liquid water this time, instead of frozen water!


Posted in Spotlight on Adventure, Trip Reports

St. Elias Alpine Guides Climb Mt. Bona!

st elias mountain viewsIn one of our guides’ favorite traditions, the 2016 pre-season trip saw twelve returners tackle an expedition up Mt. Bona, the fourth highest peak in the United States. Mt. Bona, which the Duke of the Abruzzi legendarily named after his favorite yacht, sits in the Saint Elias Range at 16,421ft. Bona is blanketed in snow and glaciers, and its elevation makes it an ideal peak for honing mountaineering skills all season long. One of the more remote Alaska high peaks, the guides at St. Elias Alpine Guides thought it would be the perfect challenge to tackle before officially opening for the 2016 season.

alaska ski mountaineering

On Day 1, two trips in a ski plane transported the crew out to a plateau at 9,500’, and the guides roped up in teams of skiers, splitboarders and snowshoers before descending down towards the Klutlan Glacier and then back up towards basecamp at 10,000’. Dragging sleds, they carried food and fuel and equipment to spend 2 weeks on the mountain. The next day, the crew divided as some carried six days worth of food up to cache at Camp 1 (12,200’) while others remained at basecamp, generating water with snow and trash bags, and perfecting a five foot deep snow kitchen, complete with hobbit hole. On Day 3, the group ascended past a tremendous ice fall up to Camp 1, and then on Day 4 traveled the remaining distance to High Camp, at 14,500’. High Camp was nestled in a valley between Mt. Bona and Mt. Churchill (15,636’), as well as a smaller peak the guides affectionately call Lil’ Bona.

climbers on alaska summit

Over the next three days at High Camp, battling intermittent white outs and mild altitude sickness, seven guides summited Mt. Bona unroped, four skied to the top of Mt. Churchill and three jaunted up to Lil’ Bona. On Day 8, one rope team set off down towards basecamp while two others took advantage of the great weather that morning to summit Bona and Lil’ Bona, respectively, before hauling themselves down to basecamp. This last Bona summit is the only one that produced any good pictures, so we’re all glad they decided to do it, even though it doubled their vertical travel to 8,000’ in one day. A blizzard kept the crew in basecamp for most of Day 9, but they took advantage of a brief sunny window that evening to pack up camp and hustle back to where the plane had dropped them off the week before.

alaska mountaineering camp

Continuing stormy weather on Day 10 gave everyone a chance to finish the books they’d packed, play card games (Scott was the clear winner), and rest their tired legs. The clouds cleared way on Day 11, allowing for a rousing game of “Snow Bocce Ball”, and giving the pilot a chance to swoop in and bring the distinctly stinkier guides back to McCarthy. Thankfully, now, everyone has had a chance to sauna and reacclimate, and is excited to bring the same sense of adventure to everyone visiting Wrangell-St. Elias! If you haven’t made your summer vacation plans yet, don’t hesitate to give us a call for the adventure of a lifetime!

ski bush plane mountaineering trip

If Mt. Bona sounds interesting to you, we’ve got a trip scheduled for July 1 – July 13. Call for details!

Posted in Spotlight on Adventure