One of the most commonly asked questions is, “why should I go with a guide”? Many of our guests have organized their own adventures in other regions, but the unique challenges of Alaska have given them pause. While some guide service owners see this question as an unwelcome challenge to a sale, it is one of my favorites! I relish the opportunity to tell them what we can offer to make their trip safer, more educational and more fun.
First, do not underestimate the “Alaska factor”! Whether you are hiking, backpacking, rafting, kayaking, climbing or skiing, there are going to be aspects to your trip that are different from what you have encountered elsewhere. The most common trip elements that even experienced adventurers are concerned with are glaciers, glacial rivers, bears and navigation. Our guides have extensive experience navigating these challenges, and are happy to share their knowledge with you and make key decisions along the way.
Many of the best backpacking routes in Wrangell-St. Elias cross major glaciers – a uniquely “Alaskan” element on a backpacking trip. Our guides can show you how to comfortably navigate these ice behemoths, provide crampons for your boots, and show you some spectacular glacial features along the way, such as waterfalls, crevasses, moulins and ice caves!
Glacial rivers are actually the most dangerous portion of most Alaska backpacking trips. These are not your usual meandering streams, but rather torrents of 32 degree water that can knock you down with just 12 inches of depth and that can dramatically change in a matter of minutes or hours. Many routes require crossing these rivers and knowing when, where and how to safely make your way across is another skill your guides can offer.
Our park is full of wildlife, including both grizzly and black bears. Our bears tend to be wild and stay away from people, but in case of trouble, your guide is not only trained and experienced in bear safety, they carry a “screamer gun” that shoots a loud, projectile firecracker which is almost certain to scare off a bear that is too close for comfort.
Last but certainly not least, there are no designated or marked backpacking trails in the 13.2 million acres of Wrangell-St. Elias, so navigation is entirely up to you. The terrain tends to be very challenging, with glacial moraine, scree slopes, steep drainages, and acres of bushwhacking that can be difficult to avoid, as well as the glaciers and rivers discussed above. Our guides have the skills and experience to comfortably lead a group, even over unfamiliar terrain, with a high level of comfort and quick and smooth decision making.
Many independent parties in the Wrangells do not complete their trip due to the obstacles above – and some even require evacuation. By contrast, the vast majority of guided groups complete their route and have an amazing trip. Our guides are personable, friendly, professional and charismatic. They love to teach and share their extensive knowledge. Our guides are also able to push you beyond what you would be comfortable doing on your own, and our clients often say that is where the magic happens! So please let us make your next trip magical!