Wrangell-St. Elias National Park: Skolai to Wolverine – 2009 Trip Report

Below is an account of my first expedition into the Wrangell-St.Elias Park with Trek Alaska, snipped from Greg Fensterman’s Trek Alaska blog. Greg runs an outstanding guide service out of McCarthy, Alaska.

Here’s an excerpt from our last newsletter – a report on a great backpacking trek with a great crew. I had a wonderful time on a trek from Skolai Pass to Wolverine Mountain in late July. It was a great crew headed up by Rob Shurmer who had three of his former students in tow – Harry, James and Andrew.

P1010271We dropped into Skolai Pass for the start of our trek on a sunny day and headed east towards the Russell glacier. We had to do a bit of scouting around to find a good campsite but came up with a nice one overlooking the glacier. A short hike after setting up camp took got us up close and personal with this impressive glacier.

Next day it was hiking up to Chitistone Pass by way of the ‘back door’ past some dramatic hanging glaciers. We had to do a bit of jumping, leaping and rock hopping to avoid some stream crossings but I seem to recall that we were able to keep our boots dry.

The guys in the group were big Lord of the Rings fans and as we hiked through a section of grassy knobs we dubbed it the Barrow Downs. The fog drifting in and out of the hummocks really added to the effect. However we completed the passage without running into any barrow wights.

The Scree SlopesThe Scree Slopes

The highlight of that day was the traverse across the infamous scree slopes. The slopes can be a bit intimidating at times. But we managed to stay on the high route and avoid the more hazardous lower path. Our reward was topping out on the ridge where we were treated to a parting of the fog to reveal some truly stunning views of the Chitistone river far below.

Here’s a short video from the ridge top posted on our Facebook page. As you can hear the wind was whipping around pretty hard.

That day turned out to be a long one as we pushed on farther than usual and found an amazing place to camp at the head of Hasen Creek. We saw lots of Dahl sheep there too. Down the creek, up and over a saddle on another ridge, down the other side, over the morraine… and then to a small pool created by rockslide that blocked a stream’s exit. Some of the guys were ready for a break and stripped down and jumped in to cool off.

One of my favorite camps was at Grotto Creek where we had some really sweet late afternoon light – great for taking some photos of Wolverine Mountain. And the final camp near the airstrip is always a great end to the trip. The views are amazing as you stand at the top of rocky cliffs… right next to the dragon eggs. All in all it was a wonderful Alaskan backpacking adventure with delightful companions.

There was never a dull moment with this group, especially if you were a card player and have a good knowledge of history for trivia games.

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