— First Ascents Expedition Itinerary —
Exploratory Climbing in the Wrangell St. Elias
DAY 1– After officially arriving in Anchorage, Alaska, you’ll be eager to get out of the city and into the mountains! One of our friendly staff will pick you up bright and early to begin your journey to our small mountain town of McCarthy. The views will change quickly as you head east out of Anchorage, paralleling the snow-capped Chugach Mountains along the Glenn Highway. At the end of the infamous McCarthy Road, you’ll be happy to arrive in McCarthy where you’ll meet your guide who has been excitedly preparing for your trip for the past couple of days!
DAY 2- As mountaineering in Alaska requires specific training due to its remote nature, you’ll spend today learning and practicing all the skills required for your first ascents trip! This means that it’s no big deal if you need a refresher – you will even get to ascend a rope as if you were in a real ‘crevasse’! This will also give you and your guide an opportunity to thoroughly go through your gear to ensure you have everything you need, that it works properly, and make sure you’re not forgetting anything! This will also be your chance to ask any questions you may have about the trip.
DAY 3– After honing all your skills in the powerhouse, you will get a chance to go practice them on the Root Glacier! It’s about an hour hike to the base of the glacier from the town of Kennicott which will give you a great opportunity to make sure all your gear is comfortable and in good working order. Once you get to the glacier you’ll spend the day walking in your crampons, climbing vertical ice, and even exploring the depths of a crevasse as you train! You will return to the powerhouse in McCarthy in the evening to iron out any last details before departing on your trip!
DAY 4– Today the official adventure begins! You’ll leave early in the morning to go to our local airport where you’ll be swept away from the comforts of sunshine and tundra into a world filled with ice and snow! Flying over an endless sea of mountains will surely give you a boost of excitement for your upcoming objective. You will undoubtedly feel a sense of true remoteness as the sound of the plane fades away leaving you surrounded by some of the most remote and unclimbed peaks in the world! After you scope your objective, you’ll make your first winter camp and crawl into your sleeping bag to dream about whatever adventures await you.
DAY 5 – Depending on your objective and what altitude the plane dropped you off at, this day will be the first day of acclimating as well as moving towards your future basecamp. By creating a slow but steady pace, you will give your body a chance to get used to the lower level of oxygen in the air as well as begin to work your body physically. The long days under the midnight sun promote ample time to make progress.
DAY 6 – As you fall into the rhythm of the trip, continued development of skills while you work towards the summit is the goal. Building trust between you and your guide will prove paramount in the success of your climb. Relying solely on each other in such remote wilderness will ensure cautious decisions, but also allow you to push the limits of your technical climbing abilities! During this time, you will become a pro at making and breaking camp, packing your backpack and sled, and mastering the status of rope ninja!
DAY 7 – This is when the magic starts happening and the routine has you and your guide feeling like old climbing partners. Everything has a place in your pack, your gear is working as it should, and the skills are coming to you naturally! Once you are sufficiently rested and acclimated, it will be time to head to the summit.
DAY 8 to DAY 10 – These days will be your chance to become the first human to stand on the summit of a mountain! We like to leave a couple of days to increase the chances of a good enough weather window to make it up to the summit and back down safely. Often, the summit push is a 12 hour day or longer so ensuring a day or two of rest before is always a good idea. The chances of a bivouac are always a possibility although we try to avoid it due to the nature and severity of the Alaskan storms.
DAY 11 – With a sense of great accomplishment and plenty of well-practiced skills, you will pack up your camp and work your way carefully back to flatter ground. No matter how good the trip was, you can’t help but let your mind begin to wander and think about the comforts awaiting you back in civilization. It may be hard to concentrate with a tired mind and sore body after a long summit day but safety will be the number one priority on the way down.
DAY 12 – You’ll arrive back at the pick-up with a whole new appreciation for the mountains. The same view you saw when you landed on the first day now seems completely different and fills you with a new respect for the mountains and many wonderful memories. Soon you hear the plane coming to get you and before you know it you’ve landed back in McCarthy and head straight for the hot, wood-fired sauna. What a nice place to come back to!
DAY 13 – Feeling totally exhausted but entirely fulfilled and proud to have completed a once-in-a-lifetime mountaineering trip in Alaska, you head back to Anchorage while looking over your shoulder and back into the wonderful mountains surrounding you. As you figure out how you can possibly describe your experiences to your friends and family who are eagerly awaiting your stories upon your return, we drop you off at the airport in Anchorage and wave goodbye…for now!
- Guiding and instruction from skilled professionals. Our guides have extensive experience, as well as medical, rescue, and avalanche training.
- Round trip transportation between Anchorage and McCarthy.
- Ski plane flights to and from the mountain range.
- Delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners while in the mountains.
- Group equipment: stoves, tents, ropes, fuel, etc.
What you’re responsible for:
- Personal gear – check the gear list for this trip for a complete description.
- Lodging for the nights before and after your trip (see below).
- Food while not on the mountain.
- Guide gratuity – Please let us know if you have any questions about this.
If you would like us to arrange your transportation to/from McCarthy/Kennecott and/or lodging while in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, we offer this as a free service to our multi-day clients. Please email or give us a call to discuss the details.
“A fantastic experience — wild Alaska at its best!”
Click on the markers below to view important points along your trip. Check out that zoom feature!