Depart Reagan Airport: 8 am Thursday 17 July.
OVERVIEW OF SUMMER 2014 TREK: Next summer we return to the rugged back-country of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park for a two-week adventure like no other. Of course rugged point-to-point backpacking will be featured, but this year we’re hoping to add a sea-kayaking component. If you’re looking for a true wilderness experience, this is it. The mountain wilderness of Wrangell-St. Elias stretches across an area equivalent to six Yellowstone Parks, almost all of it devoid of human habitation.Bush-plane fly in. No trails. This is seriously big land, home to Mount Saint Elias, the second highest mountain in the United States, and another ten peaks above 14, 000 ft. Lush glacial valleys and rocky plateaus provide ample opportunities for wildlife viewing; caribou, elk, dall sheep, moose, and bear are common.
Backpacking here is truly a special experience. There are no trails or designated routes; the terrain is rugged and the weather can be harsh, even in July. I can still summon the emotions felt the first time I hiked in the Wrangell-St. Elias, the adrenaline rush as we stood by our gear as the single-engine de Havilland Beaver that had brought us in lifted into the sky and disappeared down the valley. Surrounded by a landscape so vast and untouched by the hand of man, one gets the anxious feeling, step by step, that you are truly walking away from the comforts and communications of the known world. An almost physical sensation overcomes you when you take the plunge into such an awesome land with the knowledge that for the next 10 days we shall rely solely on our bodies, the contents of our packs, and each other. We spotted our first grizzly after only a few hours of trekking up the ridge-line. Each visit since, I still leave with a sense of gratitude for the incredible fortune that has allowed me another chance to explore such a place.
After landing in Anchorage and picking up our gear (which we send ahead), we drive eastward to the tiny community of McCarthy, AK (pop.42), where we will rendezvous with our bush pilots at Wrangell Mountain Air for insertion into the Wrangell-St. Elias wilderness. For the next 11 days, we will push through strenuous point-to-point backpacking in some of the most dramatic country in Alaska. We are heading into pristine backpacking country, along lush valleys, up across high barren passes, and along rocky ridge lines. A wide variety of terrain awaits us. Stepping off from the landing strip at Jake’s Bar, we head toward the slopes of MacColl Ridge, where we are likely to be exploring land that has never been trod upon by human foot. We share the land here with wolves, wolverines, foxes, and grizzlies.
After returning to McCarthy we have time to relax, take a dunk in the river (this has become a right-of-passage of sorts for each trekking group), and head to the Golden Saloon to get a real burger, listen to some music, and rub elbows with the locals.
Our final days in Alaska will be spent on a 3-day fishing adventure on the Gulkana River, a designated national wild a scenic river. It is also teeming with fish: salmon, dolly-varden, trout, and grayling. We meet our local guides from Alaska River Wrangellers at Copper Center. This is wonderful opportunity to learn or perfect the art of fly fishing in a pristine wilderness environment.
WHEN: Thursday 17 July to Monday 4 August 2014
PRICE: before 1 January $2900 …after 1 January $3600 (air-fare goes up). Price includes all flights, meals, guide services, and fishing gear and group camping equipment.
We update the itinerary as it develops, so check back with us periodically to see what’s new.
Without self-discovery, a person may still have self-confidence, but it is a self-confidence built on ignorance and it melts in the face of heavy burdens. Self-discovery is the end product of a great challenge mastered, when the mind commands the body to do the seemingly impossible, when strength and courage are summoned to extraordinary limits for the safety of something outside the self – a principle, an onerous task, another human life. – Kurt Hahn