— High Pass Odyssey – Detailed Itinerary —
DAY 1 – Your Alaskan adventure begins in the remote bush town of McCarthy, located deep within the Wrangell Mountains. You’ll meet with your guide and prepare for your upcoming trip! On the morning of your adventure, you and your guide will head down to the McCarthy airstrip to catch a bush plane flight into Nizina Lake. Make sure to have your camera ready during the half-hour flight, as the scenery is amazing. Mountains, glaciers, and rivers are beautifully viewed from the air, and the pilots are very knowledgeable to answer any questions you may have.
As you land on the backcountry airstrip at Nizina Lake, hold on tight – it can be a little bumpy. You and your guide will help unload the plane, and then step back and watch the tiny bush plane take off effortlessly into the air. When the buzz of the plane disappears, you’ll feel the remoteness of the area around you. Nothing but untouched wilderness for miles.
After your guide covers some basics on bear safety, you’ll get those legs moving. You and your guide will follow the shores of iceberg-filled Nizina Lake towards the wide expanse of the Nizina Glacier. Navigating rocky moraine and fissures in the ice, you’ll hike onto the glacier (using crampons) and towards your camp for the night, an outcropping of land between the Regal and Rohn Glaciers. While crossing the glacier, fissures, moulins (deep vertical shafts cut into the ice by running water), blue pools, and canyons keep even the amateur photographer busy, and are fun to explore on foot. You’ll camp surrounded by ice, enjoying the remoteness of your first night in the Wrangell-St. Elias backcountry.
DAY 2 – As the sun rises over the surrounding peaks, you and your guide will wake up, eat a hearty breakfast, and pack up camp, preparing to traverse to the east side of the Rohn Glacier. While you enjoy the easy travel over the Rohn Glacier’s smooth surface, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for prospecting artifacts on the glacier ice – remaining from the Wrangell’s earlier mining days. Exiting the glacier onto the tundra hillside, you and your guide will look for a campsite with a great view of the valley below. Keep an eye out while you navigate the glacier’s edge – often you can discover ice caves or other interesting features to explore!
DAY 3 – Today when you crawl from your sleeping bag, prepare yourself for a big climb. Today is the day to ascend the tundra to the top of the high pass. After enjoying a delicious hot breakfast, you pack up camp. Then, it’s up, up, and up, working your way up to the pass. Your efforts will be rewarded, however, as the views from the pass are spectacular! You’ll set up camp in a spot with a view (there are many to choose from!), and rest those tired legs, getting ready for the next day’s adventure.
DAY 4 – After a long day of elevation gain, your next day will be a layover day, letting you stretch the legs, and enjoy exploring without the burden of a fully-loaded pack. Follow the benches to the north, enjoying high mountain vistas that appear to continue forever. Maybe you and your guide will drop down towards the glacier, searching for a tiny plateau, known to the locals as “Paradise Point.” However you spend your day, make sure to bring your camera to capture the beautiful mountain vistas!
DAY 5 – Today, it’s time to load up those packs again, and head down towards the Frederika Glacier. You’ll put your crampons on again, as you hike up onto the glacier and down towards the “toe,” or end of the glacier. There are plenty of pools, streams, and moulins to explore as you hike along. After scrambling off the glacial ice, you and your guide will find a nice flat spot to set up camp along the shores of Frederika Creek.
DAY 6 – Breaking camp in the morning, you’ll be able to look up towards the Frederika Glacier and the high alpine pass you navigated the day before under the beautiful morning mountain light. Heading south, you’ll follow Frederika Creek to its confluence with Skolai Creek, and then start climbing up towards the pass. There might be some Alaskan willows to navigate, but the terrain is mostly tundra. During the day, you might take a side-hike to check out a waterfall along Skolai Creek, or stop in at the old mining cabin near the confluence. You’ll end your day up at Skolai Pass, setting up camp, and keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife.
DAYS 7&8 – The next days are available to explore the world-class day hiking that Skolai Pass has to offer before getting picked up by a bush plane. You can head up towards Chitistone Pass, hiking past flowing streams and alpine lakes, towards the colorful views of the Chitistone Canyon. You could also head over towards the Russell Glacier to get impressive views up towards the University Range. The hiking opportunities out of Skolai are limitless, and you are sure to have a great time exploring the high alpine tundra. Maybe you’ll explore the impressive Seven Sisters – a series of glaciers pouring down from the massive Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier. Keep your cameras at the ready for the wildlife that can often be seen at Skolai Pass. Bears, and even caribou frequent the area, providing excellent photo opportunities for hikers. Soon, you’ll hear the buzz of the plane engine, and your pilot will skillfully land the plane on the dirt backcountry airstrip.
Once up in the bush plane, you can get a good birds-eye view of the terrain you’ve been traversing the past 8 days. You’ll have impressive views of the Nizina Glacier flowing down the valley, and will follow its riverbed back towards McCarthy. Once you’re back in town, it’s time or a warm shower (or sauna), and a delicious hot meal to top of your amazing Alaska adventure
- Guiding and instruction from skilled professionals. Our personable guides have extensive experience and local knowledge, as well as medical and rescue training.
- Bush plane flights to and from the backcountry.
- Delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners while in the backcountry, including hot and delicious meals morning and evening, and plenty of trail snacks and lunch food for mid-day nourishment.
- Group equipment: stoves, pots, tents, fuel, etc.
- Technical gear: crampons, ice axes (if needed for route)
All you need to bring is your personal gear. You can find a detailed list of the backpacking gear that we recommend you bring on our backpacking equipment list.
If you would like us to arrange your transportation to 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!