Alaska Expeditions in Wrangell-St. Elias Nat’l Park
With 13 million acres of rugged wilderness, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is home to 9 of the 20 highest peaks on the North American continent, yet remains a relatively undiscovered mountaineering venue. The largest national park in the United States, it spans three mountain ranges including the Wrangell Mountains, St. Elias Mountains, and the Eastern Chugach Range.
This is an excellent venue for expedition ascents of mountains like Mt. Bona, Mt. Sanford, and Mt. Bear, as well as basecamp mountaineering trips and courses. This range is a great place to prepare for a Denali climb, while offering additional challenges you won’t find in the Alaska Range.
Not only is this one of the best alpine climbing venues in the world, but there’s prime ski mountaineering from March to July.
We fly into the range with legendary glacier pilot Paul Claus (Ultima Thule Lodge) in a turbine Otter equipped with skis. Paul, an accomplished climber, has been flying in this range for 40 years and knows this terrain better than anyone.
These programs are offered in partnership with Alaskan guide service Wild Alpine on a custom basis for private groups and individuals. Please inquire for custom dates and costs.
Base Camp Mountaineering: There are incredible venues in Wrangell-St. Elias for setting up a comfortable base camp and exploring day and multi-day objectives from a central launch pad, with potential for routes that have never before been climbed. Time: 6-12 days
Mt. Bona: At 16,421′, Mt. Bona is the fifth highest peak in the United States. Bona is one of the more popular ascents in the St. Elias Mountains, yet is relatively quiet compared to peaks in the Alaska Range. Time: 10-12 days
Mt. Sanford: Slightly lower than Mt. Bona at 16,237′, Sanford offers a gradual ascent with big mountain challenges including high altitude, high alpine weather, big crevasses, and a very remote setting. Time: 9-12 days
Mt. Bear: At 14,831′, Mt. Bear lies deep in the St. Elias Mountains in close proximity to the Canadian border. While it’s not one of the highest in the range, it’s still a full on expedition to an Alaskan giant. Bear is a favorite for ski mountaineering ascents. Time: 9-12 days
Mt. Blackburn: The highest mountain in the Wrangell Mountains, Mt. Blackburn (16,390′) towers above the historic copper mining town of McCarthy with huge vertical relief. Climbed via the Northwest Ridge, this mountain has seen fewer than 50 ascents. Time: 14-16 days
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is an incredible place to progress your mountaineering skills, whether on an introductory skills course or an advanced alpine climbing course. Excellent venues include the Bagley Icefield, the Goat Glacier, and Iceberg Lake.
Itinerary varies by trip.
ALASKA MOUNTAINEERING EXPEDITIONS
Equipment list varies greatly by trip. Below is sample gear list for a base camp mountaineering program.
PACK & SLEEPING SYSTEM
☐ Backpack: 50-75 liter internal frame pack.
☐ Sleeping bag: Rated between -15° and +15°, down or synthetic. Keep in mind that manufacturer’s temperature ratings are subjective and serve as guidelines. RENT
☐ Compression stuff sack: Sized appropriately to your bag.
☐ (2) Sleeping pads: We recommend bringing one closed cell foam pad, and one inflatable pad. One of your pads can be a 3/4 length and the other a full length (ex: REI Blue Foam pad & ¾ length Thermarest Prolite).
☐ Ice axe with leash: 50-70cm mountaineering axe (ex: Petzl Snowalker, Summit, or Sum’Tec). A leash is required for this program. RENT
☐ 2nd Ice tool: 50-55cm hammer recommended (ex: Petzl Sum’Tec Hammer or Quark Hammer). RENT
☐ Crampons: 12 point steel mountaineering crampon. Avoid waterfall ice crampons with fully rigid frames and vertical front points, as well as older crampons with leather straps. Make sure that your crampons are compatible with your boots (ex: Petzl Vasak). RENT
☐ Harness: Alpine harness with adjustable leg loops (ex: Petzl Adjama). For safety reasons, your harness needs to be less than 10 years old and in good condition. RENT
☐ (2) Locking carabiners: Pear shaped recommended (ex: Petzl Attache or Attache 3D).
☐ (1) Non-locking carabiner: Wire gate recommended (ex: Petzl Ange S or Ange L).
☐ Double length sling: 120cm length (ex: Petzl Fin’Anneau).
☐ Climbing helmet: Needs to be climbing specific (ex: Petzl Elios or Meteor III +). RENT
☐ Transceiver: Digital recommended. May not be required for later season climbs (ex: BCA Tracker 2). RENT
☐ Duffel: 110+ liter duffel bag for transporting gear (ex: First Ascent Maximus Duffel 150L)
☐ Skis or Snowshoes: Depending on program and skiing ability.
☐ Poles: Ski poles or trekking poles with powder baskets (ex: Black Diamond Traverse or Distance FL). RENT
☐ Mountaineering boots: Warm four season mountaineering boot (ex: La Sportiva Baruntse).
☐ Gaiters: Provide a clean interface between our pants, boots, and crampons (ex: OR Flex-tex).
☐ Socks: 2-3 pairs (wool or synthetic) that work well with your boots. Keep in mind that warmth comes from good circulation, not necessarily heavy socks. Insulation comes from your boots. If your boots are roomy choose a heavier sock, if they’re more of a snug fit choose a lighter sock.
☐ Sunglasses: Glacier glasses or dark tinted wrap-arounds, should have full UV protection. Consider bringing an extra pair. RENT
☐ Goggles: Preferably with low light lenses (amber or rose) and UV protection.
☐ Warm hat: Fleece, wool or synthetic.
☐ Sun hat: Baseball cap, visor, etc.
☐ Face protection: Buff® recommended.
☐ Light glove (ex: First Ascent Wind Pro Gloves 2.0)
☐ Medium glove: Should be wind and water-resistant, think ski glove (ex: First Ascent Guide Gloves 2.0).
☐ Heavy glove or mitt (ex: First Ascent Stash Gloves or Summit Mitt).
There are many layering combinations for your upper body that will work well. Use the following recommendations as guidelines:
☐ Baselayer top: Light to medium weight synthetic fabric (ex: First Ascent Midweight 1/4-Zip Baselayer or First Ascent Solarfoil Hoodie).
☐ (1-2) Insulating layers: Fleece, softshell or synthetic/down. Two lighter layers are more versatile than one heavy layer (ex: First Ascent Sandstone Hoodie, Hangfire Hoodie, or Accelerant Jacket).
☐ Hardshell jacket with hood: Lightweight and waterproof (ex: First Ascent BC-200 Jacket).
☐ Synthetic or down insulated jacket: Synthetic or down (ex: First Ascent Ignitor Jacket).
☐ Baselayer bottoms (ex: First Ascent Midweight Baselayer Pants)
☐ Softshell climbing pants: Lightweight, breathable synthetic fabric (ex: Mountain Guide Lite Pants).
☐ Hardshell pants: For adverse weather. These must have full side zips (ex: First Ascent Rainier Storm Shell Pants).
☐ (2) Heavy trash bags: Cheap lightweight waterproof lining for your backpack.
☐ Sunscreen: SPF 30 or greater, avoid spray on (ex: Doc Martin’s of Maui).
☐ Lip balm: With SPF protection.
☐ (2-3) 1L Water bottles: Should have a screw top (no bike bottles).
☐ Hydration system (optional): Should have an insulated tube. If you choose to use a hydration system, bring at least 1 regular water bottle in addition.
☐ Thermos (optional): Half-liter size recommended.
☐ Compact camera
☐ Extra batteries: For your transceiver (usually AAA), headlamp, camera, etc.
☐ Headlamp: LED headlamp recommended (ex: Petzl Tikka XP2 or Tikka Plus 2). RENT
☐ See Details.
☐ Insulated mug
☐ (2) Spoons or sporks
PERSONAL FIRST AID/TOILETRIES
Guides will carry a well-equipped group first aid kit.
☐ Personal toiletry kit: Toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper and/or baby wipes, gender specific items, small bottle of hand sanitizer.
☐ Personal first aid kit: Band-Aids, blister repair, anti-diarrheal (Immodium), antacid, ibuprofen or aspirin, as well as any personal prescription medications (be sure to discuss these with us).
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Chemical hand warmers
☐ Book (lightweight)
☐ Journal w/pencil
We will provide all necessary group equipment for you trip such as tents, stoves, ropes, and rescue gear.
- Required experience varies by program, but previous mountaineering experience is recommended for all programs.
- Good prerequisites:
- Excellent physical fitness is required for all programs, and is key to an enjoyable and successful trip.
- Guiding and instruction
- Glacier flights with Ultima Thule Outfitters
- Van transportation from Anchorage
- Breakfasts and dinners in the mountains
- Permits costs
- Flights to and from Anchorage
- Meals and lodging in Anchorage
- Personal equipment
- Lunch food
Breakfasts & Dinners: High quality mountain meals and hot drinks are provided on Alaska programs. Please be sure to let us know of any eating preferences or dietary restrictions.
Lunch Food: In the mountains, “lunch starts after breakfast and ends before dinner”. In other words, on a given day we generally won’t stop for a formal lunch break, and instead we’ll snack all day long. This is vital to maintaining high energy levels in this environment.
Be sure to bring foods that you like and emphasize variety. Energy bars and gels are great but in limited amounts – real food works just as well and tastes better.
Fly into Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Anchorage, AK.
We strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance for your program. Note that many plans require you purchase insurance within 21 days of your initial deposit.
- Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher by Mark Houston & Kathy Cosley
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