- Glacier crossing
- Stunning scenery
- Wonderful variety of terrain.
Travel in the wild back country of Alaska with the security of experienced guides. WFR First Aid Certified - Group gear provided - Back country gourmet meals - Perfect safety record.
It’s hard to resist heaping superlatives on the description of this route which features some of the best that Wrangell-St. Elias has to offer, and that’s saying a lot. Glaciers, towering snow-capped peaks, verdant valley floors, alpine lakes, airy ridge lines and wind-swept passes. You will be constantly amazed by the ever changing variety that you will encounter on this exceptional route.
This is not an easy route. Some days will be shorter and more moderate but there will also be some more demanding, longer days. A great choice if you are looking for a bit of a challenge. Wildlife spotting is good on this route - bear, moose and wolverine have been spotted in the past.
The trek is geared towards the person who has some backpacking experience, is in good physical condition and is ready for a bit of a challenge. You will begin the backcountry portion of this trek from the remote bush community of McCarthy, Alaska. We’ll squeeze our gear and ourselves into a single engine DeHaviland Beaver for the 30 minute flight to our starting point - Iceberg Lake. The flight into the back country is a highlight of the trip and will give you a perspective that allows you to appreciate the immense scale and grandeur of this amazing place.
We touch down on a sandy airstrip near Iceberg Lake which is only a few miles from the massive Bagley Icefield. As the plane disappears over the ridge, and you remember the miles of rugged terrain that now stretch between you and McCarthy... it starts to sink just how remote and alone we really are. Exhilarated, we heft our packs and begin our journey by heading west along the valley floor.
The next 8 days are spent traveling through richly varied terrain that seems to be constantly changing. One day will find us camping in a lush green valley and the next we’ll be at an alpine lake in a rock strewn pass high above. The first several days of the trek will be demanding at times as encounter some of our biggest challenges including two glacier crossings, some steep ascents and descents, a rugged moraine crossing and one potentially challenging stream crossing. But then we get a breather - two very welcome short and easy days when we hike for about 3 hours each day with plenty of time at the end of the day for side trips or a bit of serious loafing.
After heading up and over a few more passes (there are 3 total) we drop down into the Bremner valley to meet our ride back to McCarthy. Depending on when we arrive at Bremner, we might have time to explore some of the remains of the regions gold mining days from the early part of the last century. As we fly back to McCarthy and watch the landscape pass effortlessly below us, we’ll enjoy making such good progress while sitting comfortably.
The Adventure at a Glance:
- 1 night in Anchorage, Alaska
- 2 nights in McCarthy, Alaska
- 8 days/7 nights trekking in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
- Days of trip total: 11 days, Anchorage to Anchorage
- Arrival/departure city: Anchorage, Alaska
- Single supplement: $125
- Group Size: 4 to 6 participants - cost is higher for groups under 4 people
- Grade: Strenuous
- Style of trek: In McCarthy we will be staying in a 3-star hotel. The wilderness trek will be 8 days of backpacking over rugged terrain with no trails. Participants will carry all of their personal gear as well as a share of group gear and food. This is a strenuous backpacking adventure. Some prior backpacking experience and good conditioning are required.
- Detailed Itinerary: The Seven Pass Route. There is considerable variation in the type of terrain that we will travel through, so rather than list mileage for each day, we have listed the amount of time we usually hike for each day of this trek.
Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage, Alaska. Arrive in Anchorage and make taxi arrangements to your hotel or B&B.
Day 2: Van transportation from Anchorage to McCarthy. Overnight McCarthy, Hotel. You will be picked up at your lodging in Anchorage for the van ride to McCarthy. It will take about 8 hours for the drive but you won’t get bored. The route passes through some stunning country in the Matanuska valley. When you see Mt. Drum looming straight ahead, then you will know we’re getting close. We arrive in McCarthy around 5 - 6:00 PM. As soon as everyone is checked into the hotel, we meet with our backcountry guide at their headquarters. The guide does a gear shakedown to make sure everyone has what the need... but nothing that they don’t. We all get a plastic, bear canister chock full of tasty meals and snacks. After cramming all of our newly acquired gear into our packs, we meet up at the New Golden Saloon for some dinner, a few brews and if we’re lucky maybe a bit of local bluegrass entertainment.
Day 3: Fly from McCarthy to Iceberg Lake (about 5 hours hiking). Overnight Camping. We meet up early for our flight into the back country. The adventure begins with an awesome flight in a DeHaviland Beaver, from McCarthy to Iceberg Lake, which is situated at the head of a valley near the Bagley Icefield. Iceberg is not a true lake but is created each summer when melting snow is prevented from draining away by an ice dam. At some point during the summer the dam bursts and the water drains. So depending on when we visit the area we may find a lake full of icebergs or a bunch of icebergs stranded on the sand. Either way it's a great scene. We will want to do a little exploring and take some pictures before we shoulder our packs.
We head down the lush valley carved out by glaciers long ago. But part of that glacier remains and blocks the valley floor so we don crampons and head up onto the ice! This is a very flat glacier with few crevasses of any size so the going will actually be pretty easy. This will be a great introduction to the world of glacier hiking. It’s actually a lot easier hiking across the ice than over rocky ground. Once over the glacier we drop down to another lake and make camp. This spot offers wonderful photo opportunities, especially late in the day when the sun is low in the sky. Includes: (L), (D).
Day 4: (5-6 hours hiking). Overnight Camping. We continue hiking west towards the end of the valley. Our route follows along near the stream until we head up the side of the valley to a saddle at the end of the ridge. It's a bit of a hump to get up there but we are soon on top enjoying a well deserved lunch by a bubbling brook. the view is fantastic of the entire valley as well as part of the bremner glacier. A lovely little lake about an hour and a half farther just begs to be camped at and we are happy to oblige. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: (about 6 hours hiking). Overnight Camping. About a mile out of camp we veer off a bit to a high point that gives us a breathtaking view of the next valley, and glacier, that we will cross. The sweeping vista is a favorite photo spot on this trip and we'll want to linger a bit. The hike down from our perch to the ice involves a bit of scrambling. At the glaciers edge is a great spot for a lunch break before we put the crampons on once again. We get up onto the Bremner Glacier and head due north. This is a much different and larger glacier than the smaller one of a few days ago. We'll have the chance to see some larger crevasses on this day. When we arrive at the edge of the glacier we stop and set up camp on the most convenient spot – right on the ice! This location positions us perfectly for our next day’s journey. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: (about 7 hours hiking). Overnight Camping. A short hike takes us off the ice and over the glacial moraine. The next hour or so involves a bit of a steep grunt but this high traverse route takes us up and over what would otherwise be a very nasty bushwhack. We also get a nice reward for our uphill efforts - a stunning view looking back over our route of the last two days including the full sweep of the Bremner glacier. Life gets easier as we head down into the valley, stopping for a well-earned lunch just before our stream crossing. After lunch we continue on up this verdant valley and part way up a low pass near its end. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: (about 3 hours hiking). Overnight Camping. After four days of sometimes challenging travel everyone will be ready to take it a bit easier. We can sleep in today as this will be a rest day. If we hit the season right we can have blueberries in our granola this morning. Our hike today will only be a few hours long in less than an hour we top the pass. This is a very different sort of pass than our last one and has an almost otherworldly and monochromatic look to it due to all the rock that fills the pass. We camp near two lovely alpine lakes on an oasis of tundra amidst the rock. Those with a little extra energy can take a side trip up to a small, nearby glacier. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: (about 3 hours hiking). Overnight Camping. Another easier day. We will do a little backpacking but only for about a half day and it’s all downhill! After making our way over a challenging boulder field the going gets easier and we have a fairly easy and very pleasant day of hiking through some "Sound of Music" type terrain and down to a stream junction at Monahan Creek. The terrain is easy, lush and green - making for a delightful hike. After setting up our camp near the stream junction, we spend the afternoon exploring some interesting canyons and rock outcroppings in the area. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: (6-7 hours hiking). Overnight Camping. Well rested from two easier days, we’re ready to tackle our last challenging hike. After a gently rising valley traverse we turn up the last pass of our trek. This is our biggest elevation gain on the route and the last bit will have us huffing and puffing. But the view from the top of the pass makes it all worthwhile. We’ll stop for lunch here to enjoy the expansive views both near and far of snow capped peaks. You will want to linger at this amazing spot.
From the pass it’s a fairly easy hike down to our final lakeside camp - and it’s a beauty. The lake is surrounded by soft tundra that makes a very comfy sleeping surface. Nearby are huge cliffs towering a thousand feet high. I call this Golden Pond due to the golden glow that the lichen covered tundra takes on in the late summer and fall. It would be hard to find a better site for our final camp. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10: Fly from Bremner Mine to McCarthy (about 4 hours hiking). Overnight McCarthy, hotel. We don’t have far to go today but we do have a plane to catch! After a quick breakfast we saddle up one last time. Our last hike is a pleasant walk over tundra and it’s all downhill as we make our way to Golcanda Creek and the airstrip. A wonderful flight takes us back to McCarthy and hot showers. After everyone has cleaned up and changed into fresh clothes we reconvene at the Golden to toast our adventure. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 11: We depart after breakfast for the return trip to Anchorage. We should arrive in Anchorage by 6:00 PM. You can make arrangements for a night flight out of Anchorage or stay overnight and depart the following day.
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USA Alaska Outdoor: Land Rambler Hiking & Trekking