— Mt. St. Elias Expedition Itinerary —
Mt. St. Elias: Southwest Ridge Route
Some facts about the mountain…….
At 18,008 ft (5,488 m), Mt. St. Elias is the second highest peak in both the U.S. and Canada and the fourth highest in North America. Its summit rises only 10 miles (16 km) from the head of Taan Fjord off of Icy Bay, giving the mountain immense vertical relief. It’s proximity to the ocean also gives Mt. St. Elias a reputation for brutally challenging weather from storms spinning off of the Gulf of Alaska. Steep slopes, challenging weather, and its remote nature make this the most difficult summit of North America’s high peaks.
Mt. St. Elias was first sighted by Vitus Bering on July 16, 1741 as he explored along the coast. On July 31, 1897, an expedition lead by the famous Prince Luigi Amadeo di Savoia, Duke of the Abruzzi (who also explored the current standard route on K2) became the first to reach the summit. This expedition included noted mountain photographer, Vittorio Sella. The second ascent didn’t happen until 1946 when a group from the Harvard Mountaineering Club (including mountain historian Dee Molenaar) climbed the Southwest Ridge route. This expedition used eleven camps; eight of which were on the approach from Icy Bay and three of which were on the mountain. They were supported by multiple, aerial food drops.
Today, Mt. St. Elias still remains a worthy test piece and hardy mountaineers continue to challenge themselves on its difficult slopes.
Expedition Snapshot – Climbing Mt. St Elias requires skill, commitment, and planning. Our 1:1 guide to client ratio speaks to the seriousness of this epic mountaineering accomplishment. The route will be dictated by the current and expected weather and snow conditions as well as the skill level and goals of the expedition members.
Climbing route beta on Mt. St. Elias is a well-kept secret; fiercely guarded among climbers and guides. We’d hate to break tradition; however, we can tell you that the climbing has been likened to the West Rib of Denali. That being said, local knowledge is essential for a successful expedition and there’s a reason why “St. Elias” is our first name.
Our guides will pick you up in Anchorage, AK approximately two days before departing our headquarters in McCarthy, AK by air for the mountain. Prior to the expedition will be a gear check and final preparations. Once on the mountain, safety will be the top priority. Expedition members will be expected to work together as a team in any situation which may arise. Mt. St. Elias is a difficult, remote mountain and the members of the expedition can’t rely on outside assistance if an emergency should arise.
Although, reaching the summit is the goal of the expedition, it is not guaranteed. Many factors must align for your guide to make the decision to summit the mountain. That being said, the climbing promises to be spectacular, whether or not the summit is attempted.
Upon completion of the expedition, you and your guide will return to McCarthy. Here you are invited to enjoy some well-earned rest, hot meals, and a soak in our wood-fired sauna before returning to Anchorage. We recommend that you give yourself some flexibility in your flight arrangements to account for weather delays in the backcountry portions of the expedition.
- 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!