Ross Green Lake and Thompson Ridge

Fall Colors and Ross Green Lake and Thompson Ridge, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

"This has been, by far, the most memorable trip I've taken. Carl was an incredible guide who bestowed upon me and my fam an incredible amount of information that I'll be able to use on future trips of my own. His enthusiasm for the beauty and tranquility of the surrounding environment is contagious. It was an incredible bonding experience with my dad and brother - Carl is a top-notch guide (and person) with a highly contagious enthusiasm for the rugged Alaskan wilderness. The trip was full of memories that will last for a lifetime, or at least until I take another trip up to Wrangell-St. Elias." -- Steve New, Philadelphia, PA. More testimonials here -->

Alaska Exploratory Trips

Each season I try to lead at least one exploratory trip. Some years I might do a couple of treks, or one trek and one photo tour, etc. For 2014 I'm tentatively planning 2 exploratory treks; a loop around Thompson Ridge near Ross Green Lake and Bagley Icefield, and also a hike along The Lost Coast, in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park's southern coastal area. Details are below, but first, a bit about exploratory trips.

 

Exploratory Treks

 

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Thompson Ridge Route

 

I've spent a week or so in this area before, dayhiking and basecamping, photographing, but never traversed around to the south side of Thompson Ridge from Ross Green Lake and along the edges of Bagley Icefield.

 

Proposed Route

Fly in to the landing strip near Ross Green Lake, hike west to the edge of Tana Glacier, sticking close to the ridge, loop around to the southside of Thompson Ridge, and follow east. Drop south across the glacier to Juniper Island and explore this massive nunatuk.

 

Hike back to Thompson Ridge, heading east along the ridge. Drop through a hanging glacier to the north back to 12 Mile Creek. Potentially packraft down the creek, portaging the nastier falls and rapids, back to Ross Green Lake.

 

How long will this trek take?

I like to allow a little longer for exploratory treks than needed, giving us time to scope different side trip possibilities out, as well as scout out the options for specific routes through valleys and passes, etc. We also need a little extra time to cushion against the unforeseen and unexpected. This is probably a 5 day hike, but I think 8-10 days gives ut a good amount of time to explore Juniper Island and really cover the route well.

 

Aqua blue lake, or tarn, and Tana Glacier, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.
A deep blue tarn, or lake, on Tana Glacier, near Thompson Ridge, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

 

What might we encounter?

Glacier travel. Glacier camping. Views of Mt. St. Elias and the Saint Elias Range, Bagley Icefield, Tana Glacier. River crossing, some bushwhacking.

 

Where is this trek?

Wrangell - St. Elias National Park & Preserve.

 

Do we need special gear?

Crampons, extra or insulated sleeping pad. Extra layer of warm clothing for glacier camping. Extra guy lines to tie out your tent (stakes don't workon ice).

 

Expeditions Alaska provides glacial travel safety gear such as rope, ice screws, etc. If you need crampons provided, let me know. if we decide to packraft, Expeditions Alaska will provide packrafting gear.

 

How tough is this trek?

You'll definitely need to be in good shape, with some reasonably backcountry experience. You don't need to be a mountaineer. just an experienced backpacker.

 

Price

$1850, per person.

Got a map?

Sure. Check it out below.


 

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What's an exploratory trip?

 

An exploratory trip is simply a route I haven't done before, or have only done part of. Some of the hikes are extensions of other treks I've done, and some of the routes are just ideas I have for a good trip from studying maps, aerial flights and photos, talking with other folks who've done routes, or whatever.

 

They are not, typically, a trek that no one has done before. Most often someone has done the route before, in one form or another. But sometimes we end up taking a particular valley or pass or specific section that may well have not had backpackers trek it before.

 

So why run an exploratory trip?

 

I generally don't like the idea of a guide taking people on a trip the guide hasn't done before. Certainly most every guide I know of has more than enough alpine experience and backcountry skillset to manage just fine, I think part of the understanding of what a "guide" is involves the guide having some experience in the area and experience with the route before.

 

I also enjoy the excitement that comes with trekking through an area for the first time. The excitement and the "not knowing" are unique to that experience. It's a great way for me to stay connected to that same feeling and sense that

most clients experience on their trip. It's easy to forget how that feels when I guide a route I may have done more than a dozen times, yet the client has never been anywhere close to. An exploratory trip keeps me in touch with what that feels like, with what you're experiencing on your trip.

 

Exploratory trips are also a great opportunity for people to come on out and experience a real adventure of route-finding and navgiating and be somewhat more involved in the decision-making process along the way. It's a good way for people to effectively do their 'own hike' a little bit, with the added benefit of having an experienced guide and Alaskan backcountry traveler along for those bigger moments.

 

What kind of experience is required?

 

Well, like always, it depends on the specific trip, who else is on it, and so on. In general, I think it works well for return clients, and/or people with at least a solid backcountry experience already. You'll need to be in good shape, a little more self-sufficient maybe than for most other guided trips, and have a spirit of adventure. It's definitely a different experience finding our way through the mountains than having me (or anyone) guide you on a route I'm familiar with.

 

Some exploratory treks are very difficult and challenging, and suitable for experienced hikers only. Others are milder, such as the Lost Coast hike, below. I'll do the research and get the beta on the route, and be very clear what kind of level of experience is required.

 

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Hiking the Lost Coast, packrafts on hand

Hiking Lost Coast, Wrangell St. Elias Park, Alaska.

A walk along the beach in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park. The lofty Sitka Spruce forest here is a rarity in the park.

The Lost Coast

 

This section of Wrangell - St. Elias National Park is a real gem, and hardly anyone ever goes here. That's part of what makes it such a treat. Hike along the shore of the Pacific Ocean, trek through temperate rainforests, across a glacier and glacial moraine, packraft across streams and rivers, watch for sea lions in the surf, and enjoy a fire on the beach at night. Oh, and how about a view of Mt. St. Elias?

 

I've hiked, twice, the western reaches of this route, but never gone end to end along the coast. The plan is to start on the western side, near Fountain Stream, and hike easy as far as Strawberry Island and Grand Wash River. We will spend some time up on Malaspina Glacier, poking around on the edges of the glacier. We'll also packraft and paddle part of Malaspina Lagoon, just for a change of pace.

 

Proposed Route

Fly in from Yakutat, AK, to a landing zone on the beach near Fountain Stream. Set up camp, and then we might try to venture up on Fountain Stream to the edge of Malaspina Glacier, and spend some time on the ice before paddling back down to the beach and hiking to camp. A tough slog the next day over Sitkagi Bluffs, aka sitkagi Boulder Fields. But we have all day to take it easy, or packraft along the lagoons and ponds just inside the forest line. The boulder fields are also a good place to look for sea lions hauled out on shore. There are some wonderful Sitka Spruce forests just east of this section, and great campsites as well. We'll paddle Sitkagi lagoon, and use another spot to get up to Malaspina Glacier.

 

Keep heading east. There are a number of areas we can venture inland a little, and explore, such as Alder Stream, or Malaspina Lagoon. Or we can stick to the coastline the entire way, until we get to the area intended for our air taxi pickup and flight back to Yakutat.

 

Hiking in forest, Wrangell - St. Elias Park, Alaska. Hiking along an old bear trail in the rainforest.

How long will this trek take?

Point to Point, hiking hard the whole way, 5 days or so. Optimally? I'd suggest 7-10 days.

 

What might we encounter?

Rivers. Glaciers, ice, grizzly bears, Stellar's Sea Lions. Mt. St. Elias. Malaspina Glacier. Beaches and shoreline.

 

Where is this trek?

Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The north side of Disenchantment Bay, across the bay from Yakutat.

 

Do we need any special gear?

Oh yeah. We'll bring packrafts for the river crossings. Some small dry bags for your gear. Mostly we'll just paddle across the rivers and streams, so we won't be running anything much. Good rain gear. Bugspray and headnets. Other than that, standard backpacking gear.

 

How tough is this trek?

Not. Some people might struggle on the boulder field. But there's really no elevation gain to speak of, some bushwhacking though.

 

This is a good exploratory trek for someone with less experience, but an adventurous spirit and a willingness for a really wild and unique trip.

 

Price?

$1750, per person.

 

When is it?

Aug 15-26, 2014

 

Got a map?

Sure. Check it out below.

 


 

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Trips at a Glance

 

Thompson Ridge Trip

 

Trip Highlights Gacial travel, glacier camping, solitude, St. Elias Range.

 

Trip options Packrafting, camping on ice, photography.

 

Level Intermediate/Advance

 

2014 Dates TBA - August

 

Price $1950.00

 

Elevation 1000' ASL

 

How much further is it? approx 55 miles.

 

Duration 8-12 days*

 

Group size Guide plus 5

 

 

Lost Coast Trip

 

Trip Highlights Gacial travel, coastal hiking and camping, packrafting Views of Mt. St. Elias.

 

Trip options Glacier exploration, photography, wildlife.

 

Level Beginner - Advanced

 

2014 Dates TBA - August

 

Price $1750.00

 

Elevation It's on the beach

 

How much further is it? approx 50 miles.

 

Duration 8-10 days*

 

Group size Guide plus 5

 

 

 

All About Exploratory Trips

 


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