Choosing Your Trek

    Confusion

    I get it.

    You’re looking at a variety of totally awesome Alaska backcountry trips and you have no idea which one to choose.

    Tough decisions.

    I go through the same process every year in considering trip planning, exploratory trips, personal trips and more. I don’t want to just do the trip that’s best for ME. I want to do the best trip there IS. Period. It’s tough to figure out what to do.

    Rest assured that if you’re looking at ANY commercially available backcountry trip in Alaska you’re probably not going to be disappointed.

    You may choose a trip that’s too difficult, too challenging for you. It may be too long for your allotted time frame. It may be too easy for you. You may get some nasty weather along the route. You may have atrocious mosquitoes or high water levels.

    Or all of the above.

    But you won’t be disappointed in the place.

    Take comfort in the knowledge that if it’s a commercially available trip, some guide somewhere scouted it out and came back smiling and nodding, loudly exclaiming a big old “YES”! This one works.

    There are many, many locations in and around Alaska you don’t see available for commercial trips. That’s more than likely because the terrain is too challenging. Or the logistics don’t work. Or  some combination of those or similar dynamics.

    But the ones you DO see listed on the websites? Those rock. Those TOTALLY rock. Every one of them.

    So focus on getting the trip that best matches your needs, your interest, fitness and experience, budget and available time frame. Those factors will play the biggest role in how rewarding your backcountry trip experience is going to be.

    What Matters Most

    Perhaps the most difficult task in planning a trip is deciding which trip will work best for you.

    Matching a trip with you, or more accurately, tailoring a trip to best match you, your interests, goals and experience is an important task.

    My recommendation to you is to spend some time really trying to define what kind of trip you want to have.

    Here are few common types

    1. a more leisurely basecamp trip, dayhiking and wandering around without heavy backpacks every day,

    2. a combination of backpacking and basecamping, maybe not moving camp every day, or maybe having shorter backpack days and afternoons to wind down, dayhike and explore the area from camp,

    3. a moderate backpacking trip, probably backpacking every day, focused more on getting from point A to point B,

    4. a more strenuous backpack, completely off-trail, on a little explored route.

    There are plenty of other choices. My suggestion, if you’re new to Alaska hiking, is to consider #2 and #3 above. You don’t want to get in over your head and end up on a hike that is more challenging than you’re up for. Allowing yourself a day or 2 more than you think you might need is also a good consideration.

    Most folks who’ve hiked a bit in the Lower 48 states typically have that “trail mentality”, which steers them to want to do a Point to Point route, with little time for any exploration along the way. I generally don’t suggest this for Alaska. There’s simply too much great stuff to poke around and explore along the way.

    The beauty of a fly-in trip is that the air taxi essentially takes you from the trailhead to where you want to be. You don’t need to do those long arduous hikes to get where you’re going! Step out of the plane and you’re “there”.

    Remember ...

    Alaska’s tough

    Secondly don’t overestimate your own experience and hiking strength. As a general rule of thumb, I’d suggest that what is rated a ‘moderate’ hike in Alaska is very probably more of a ‘moderate to strenuous’ rated hike for most places in the Lower 48.

    The lack of real trail system is a game changer. It’s harder than you think it is. Particularly for (most) folks who’ve never backpacked off trail before.

    It’s imposible to accurately gauge this kind of thing, as it’s so contextual. We all have our own points of reference to measure things by so the ratings really just help you find a ballpark to get started in.

    Time Frame

    Also consider your time frame. Most trips will involve some travel time before you even hit the backcountry. Travel to Alaska, a day to travel to the trailhead/departure place (eg, McCarthy), and then fly in to the backcountry. When we finish a trip we schedule a night back in McCarthy.

    Then a day to return to Anchorage (and I strongly recommend you spend the night in Anchorage before flying home – weather delays, especially with backcountry flights do happen).

    So 5 full days in the backcountry really means you want 7-9 days for your vacation time. Alaska’s a big place!

    Backpackers crossing a stream on a glacier.

    What's A Challenge?

    Trips can be challenging for a host of reasons you may not be familiar or experienced with. It’s not all as simple as how in shape you are.

    Dialog

    The best thing we can do at this point is start a discussion to identify your strengths and desires, and build a framework to find what will work best for you. Any trip itinerary on this website is really a skeletal outline of what a trip might possibly be. I need to learn from you about your experience, your background, your interests and goals, then flesh out a trip and tailor it to meet that. This is possibly the greatest strength of dealing with a smaller guide company like myself; you’ll be discussing this stuff and planning your trip with the same person who’s guiding the trip, an immeasurably more productive process.

    Trip Flexibility

    A simple example could be the Seven Pass Route. I’ve done that hike more than a dozen times. Sometimes in 4-5 days, with strong, experienced backpackers who wanted a challenging route. I’ve also done that walk over 10 days, with a mix of basecamps, exploratory dayhikes, and shorter days backpacking. The hike might be tailored further, by basecamping in the Iceberg Lake area, or hiking to Allie’s Valley instead of Bremer, or taking a different route across the Bremner Glacier, and so on.

    It’s simply not enough to say ‘oh, that’s a 6 day hike’, or that a particular trip is rated ‘moderate’. That trip, like every other trip you might consider, can be many, many different things. Our goal is to discuss those things you would like the trip to be, and find a way to plan a trip that fits your interests and experience.

    Featured Trips

    A NEWSLETTER WORTH READING

    A great way to keep up to date with new trip offerings, special discounts, Alaska photos, trip stories and more.

    Plan With Your Guide

    Here you benefit from the real power of an owner-operated business. You plan your trip and your itinerary with the same person who’s likely guiding that trip (and if not, I certainly HAVE guided it previously).

    I can’t stress enough how beneficial this is. Talking with your guide about what you want, what you’re interested in, what your likes and abilities are in the initial planning stages makes such a difference to your trip. It’s a critically different process and result than being one or 2 people removed from the guide until you’re in the mountains.

    The last piece of information I might offer you is this. Most trips and routes we hike up here are flexible enough to accommodate you and whatever interest/ability you may have. The key factor is assessing what level of experience, fitness, etc, you’re at, what level you’re looking for, and then finding (and maybe tailoring) a route to match that.

    I hope this page is of some help to you in your planning process. Give me a ring at (770) 952-4549 or drop me a note if you have any questions.

    Expeditions Alaska
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