It’s another glorious day in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. From Anchorage, it’s an eight-hour drive to McCarthy, gateway to the park. We took our Honda Pilot (see below).
It has some extra clearance for the gravel road between Chitina and McCarthy. Take it slow on this portion of the road, since you’re driving on an old railbed.
Just before you arrive at the footbridge to McCarthy (no cars are allowed to cross into town), there’s a parking lot and a phone to call Kennicott to come pick you up.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the nation’s largest park–and includes the historic mining district around Kennicott, which once was the largest and richest copper mine in the world. Kennicott Glacier Lodge sits in the midst of the old company town of Kennicott–and it’s a great base camp for your adventure.
You have to take a tour of the old Mill Building (pictured here) and learn more about the area from the park rangers–they offer several other historical tours of the area.
But then it’s time to strike out into the wild country surrounding the town. You can choose a glacier walk or ice climbing adventure with St. Elias Alpine Guides. Both trips start with a walk from Kennicott to the Root Glacier–about two miles. Then, you sit down and put on your crampons for walking on the ice.
Don’t forget your sunscreen. Even on cloudy days, the sun is reflected off the glacier and can give you a nasty sunburn!
Last time we visited Kennicott, we took a flightseeing tour with Wrangell Mountain Air. Owners Kelly and Natalie Bay have a variety of air tours–including some that sweep right past the old mine and up the glacier! But the tour got me thinking about a flyout adventure. Here we are on the runway at McCarthy with pilot Bill McKinney.
So, this time we had St. Elias Alpine Guides set up an overnight flyout to a remote camp near the Tana Glacier. We took ice climbing gear, long underwear and our rain gear. Here’s a shot of Base Camp.
Our guides, Nick and Duff, were well-prepared with all the proper safety gear–including a satellite phone.
During the day, we hiked to a nearby hanging glacier
and took turns descending into deep-blue crevasses–snapping pictures and taking videos. In fact–you’ll get a treat when our friends at Alaska HDTV come out with their adventure segment. Stay tuned! Here’s Host Scott Slone climbing back from the blue abyss:
Nick and Duff cooked our meals and helped plan out the itinerary for our hikes. This was pretty tame stuff for them–they’re used to taking folks out on multi-day adventures, serious treks and float trips down the Copper River. I’m looking forward to doing another adventure!
Back at the lodge, it’s great to sit out on the deck with a hot cup of coffee and watch the sun warm up the surroundings as it arches over the Kennicott Glacier and across the sky. The staff is getting ready for breakfast. All the meals at the lodge are served family-style. There’s one selection for dinner-and it’s always good. You can opt for a sack lunch (sandwich, chips, snack and drink) if you’re headed out on a day-long hike or adventure. Breakfast is a serve-yourself buffet. As long as I keep typing I can resist the siren call of those big cinnamon rolls! Yikes!
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