Sanford Plateau Backpacking trip, 2009.

November 1st, 2009 by Carl D
School teacher Natalie keeps up with her reading on the Sanford Plateau trip, July 09, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.
School teacher Natalie keeps up with her reading on the Sanford Plateau trip, July 09, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a photo of school teacher Natalie from this past trip. We had a great walk across the Sanford Plateau in July. The weather was awesome, as you can, and we had an absolutely gorgeous evening after dinner up on the Plateau; the sun going down to the north lit up the entire region just beautifully. Natalie wanted some photos of her reading a book that she could show to her school students when she returned to teaching after the summer. I took a couple of her in front of Mt. Drum, and a few with the awesome west flank of Mt. Sanford as a backdrop. You can also see some of the glacial moraine in the valley below, a remnant of the receding Sanford Glacier. We hiked across the lower portion of the moraine, and then climbed up on to the plateau the following morning. It’s a steep climb, but as is the case so often with climbs like this, so well worth the effort. Once upon the plateau, the walking is easy, and the vast open range of tundra really a great place to visit.

This trek was a first for Natalie, she’d never taken on quite a trip like a backpacking trip in Alaska before, and I admired her willingness to jump right on in with a fly-in trip like the Sanford Plateau hike. Even when we got a little re-routed by high water in the Dadina River, and had a bit of bushwhacking to do in order to get to our landing strip destination, she handled it with aplomb! Far better than I did on my first ever bushwhack through Alaskan alder. Great job, Natalie.

This trip is really a nice walk, and generally gets far fewer visitors than some of the better know hikes on the south side of the park. We didn’t see another hiker on the entire trip. We saw a grizzly bear, found a huge moose rack, and saw bison (and a grizzly bear den) from the plane on our flight back to Glennallen. Don’t let the lower visitation deter you; the views don’t get any better than from the Sanford Plateau, which offers spectacular vista of Mt. Drum, Mt. Zanetti, Mt. Wrangell and Mt. Sanford, all of which stand over 12 000′ high, Mt. Sanford topping out at over 16 000′ high! Snow-capped peaks like these, bathed in warm summer alpenglow, make for great hiking, camping, backpacking, photography, and even reading.



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5 Responses to “Sanford Plateau Backpacking trip, 2009.”

  1. Wes Mickanin


    Looks like you had some great trips this year, if this is any indication. Hope that the economy has not been too bad for business. We’ve had a good year, but did not get out all that much as I got involved in a consulting project and ended up working full time – not exactly what I planned for retirement, but sometimes it is good to get back into things, as least for a while. Of course, working is good at the end of the month, but not good for backpacking time.

    We’ve hoping to do a trip to Nepal next fall – will be our first into that region. We hope to get back to Alaska in the next couple of years – waiting for a “dought’ after the abundant rain we had on our last trip.

    I always admire your great shots – I know how hard you work for them, but the pix do make it look so very easy (ha! how many years have you been working at this…) Hope you are carrying a bit less camera gear, so your hikes are less tiring – the new equipment is pretty amazing for the weight.

    Wishing you all the best,
    Wes and Ellen Mickanin

  2. Hey Wes,

    Great to hear from you guys, man. I hope all’s well.

    That doesn’t sound like a great retirement, working all the time. 🙂 I hope you managed to get out for some walks at least. Nepal sounds awesome; I have to go hike over there sometime, I’ve never been. Let me know how it is. WHen do you go?

    Man, Ellen’s gunna kill me, but we did the Iceberg to Bremner hike this year at almost the exact same dates as your trip, and the weather was absolutely amazing. Incredible, sunny skies like nobody’s business!

    Thanks for the kind words on the photos. I’ve cut my camera gear down a bit, but it’s still heavy. And I always seem to manage to find something else to replace it with in the pack anyway. 🙂

    Thanks again – Be well,



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