Protected: Skolai Pass PhotoTour

March 28th, 2008 by Carl D

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27 Responses to “Protected: Skolai Pass PhotoTour”

  1. Maggie Hallam

    Hi!! I was fortunate to have Carl as my guide last year.He really knows his wilderness and how to be prepared. He’s also alot of fun and considerate.
    I decided to join this tour for the venues and the guide. I live in Illinois and we couldn’t be more flat, prairie. It takes me ~2 days to acclamate to the altitude. I enjoy hiking but don’t get much chance to immerse myself in nature. I’m not a photographer but am bringing a small sketch book and water colors ( not that I’m a painter either ). I’m a periodontist with an 8 yr old boy and a 10 yr old girl. I was surprised as to how proud my kids were about my outback trip last year. They liked to brag about their mom – just like all kids. I hope to bring them along in the near future.
    Last year was my first time in the outback of Alaska. For me, it’s hypnotic in expanse ( not disturbed by humans ) and beautiful in it’s tiny details. I found that my time on Capital Mountain gave me a great sense of gratitude for being a part of nature.
    I look forward to enjoying everyones company on our trip!

  2. Hey Maggie

    Great to hear from you, and thanks for the thumbs up!

    I think you’re gunna be blown away up at Skolai Pass. I’m glad you’re bringing a sketch book too .. very cool. I’ll try to stay out of it, and not get paint over everything. πŸ™‚



  3. Christine

    Hi All….

    Christine checking in. I’m getting pretty excited as I have finalized all my reservations, etc for this trip. I am taking my Dad out with me for the first week – heading to Denali overnight, Brooks Camp, Seward and over to Valdez and then heading out to McCarthy to meet up with you all.

    I am catching up on sleep now so I can enjoy the long daylight hours…. πŸ™‚ Looking forward to meeting you and can’t wait to be a part of that scenery!

  4. Hey Christine,

    Thanks for the post. It sounds like you’re in for a treat this summer! Brooks is awesome. If you want any info on either the Denali or Brooks leg of your trip, let me know.

    I hear you on the long daylight hours. I’m ready for summer myself. it’s been a moderate winter here in AK, but I do love those endless summer days. It’s not bad now though .. we’re already got longer days than most people .. and by the end of this month sunset is at 10pm!



  5. Bob Schlatter

    Hi everybody,

    I’m from California, retired but still working as a contractor in the aerospace industry. Do photography when time permits.

    Carl your plans sound great, my only question is about a flightseeing flight or do we get that on the way in and out? Am really looking forward to this trip and it sounds like are are going to have a great time with great people. I still need to finalize my trip plans, I may come a few days early or stay a over afterwards.

    I think this is a great idea so we can get to know a little about each other. Please excuse my spelling.


  6. Hey Bob

    Thanks for dropping by.

    We should be able to do a flightseeing trip the afternoon before we drive back to town, the 26th. We’ll fy out of the backcountry, grab a bite, shower, etc, and then we canhead up to kennecott for a walk on the glacier there (I know Christine is keen on glacier travel), or go up to the abandoned mines there, and/or take a flight). That’ll depend on weather, who wants to go, etc. If the weather’s clear, a flight to shoot from is a treat .. we can shoot a little on the way in and out of skolai, but the plane won’t facilitate shooting thru open windows, so it’s not really that great .. it’s a spectacular flight though.



  7. Hey Folks,

    Just as a quick afterthought – to let you know, I don’t filter water on this trip (or virtually anywhere in Wrangell St. Elias, so if you’re uncomfortable with drinking unfiltered water, let me know, and be sure to bring a filter – I have one if you need one. Nobody on my trips has filtered water on this route, and they’ve never gotten sick, as far as I know. Nor do I know anyone who does filter water on the route, or heard of anyone getting sick. But, different people have different tolerances and different ideas, so feel free to treat the water if you want, or discuss it further with me. Just a headsup.



  8. Christine

    Hey Bob/Maggie…..

    I have a couple of extra pairs of crampons if either or you are interested in hiking on/around the glacier in Kennicott the day before we head out. They are adjustable but you will need a fairly stiff boot as they are mountaineering crampons. Let me know and I will bring them along.

    Bob….I also spent some time in the Aerospace Industry in Supply Chain working for Allied Signal/Honeywell….but I promise I won’t bring that up while we’re out in the mountains….too many other things to do πŸ™‚

  9. Hey Christine,

    Thanks for dropping in again. Also, we’ll have another fellow on the trip, Stan, he should be dropping by the blog sometime soon.

    By the way, the Kennecott Glacier we’ll do the day AFTER we fly out – our flight out of the backcountry is in the morning, and we can spend that afternoon out on the glacier. I know Bob is keen to do some flight-seeing as well, so we may do a bit of both, or split up as we choose. The Kennecott Glacier is pretty easy walking, and really the crampons are necessary only for the first hundred yards or so, once you’re up on the ice it’s super easy.



  10. Bob Schlatter

    Hi Everybody,

    Christine thanks for the offer on the crampons. The more I thought about it and after seeing a show on tv showing the melt water running down into the glacier the more excited I got about a glacier hike. After all how often does a guy from Los Angeles get to hike on a glacier. It sounds pretty cool. Whatever the group decides is fine with me.

    I am an old Hughes guy and then Boeing, Boeing made me appreciate how fortunate I was to work for Hughes. I agree we will have other things to talk about than work.

    Stan welcome aboard, I think we are in for a fantastic adventure.



  11. Hi Guys!
    I look forward to getting back to AK! I flew out to McCarthy about 10 years ago and the Wrangells really made an imprsession on me, so im excited to get back to this really cool place. I work as a meteorologist for the weather service here in Colorado. I lived in the Pacific NW for a while so ive done lots of glacier travel (Rainier etc) and i really miss that here in dry Colorado. I’ve gotten pretty serious about my photography hobby (I know Carl from Nature Photographers Network) and this will be the first time ive tried my luck at some real backcountry photography. Hope the mosquitos arent too bad–they love me but i hate them. Anyhow, look forward to meeting y’all! -Stan
    BTW–no filltering necessary?! Wow, what luxury!
    PSS-i have crampons but if they are easily available to rent, i might just rent to save myself from having to pack (i feel uncomfortable about packing sharp metal things even when theyre in a case)–are they?

  12. Hey Folks,

    Just a quick note to let you know I’ll be in the office here this week if you have any questions, and heading out on saturday for 2 weeks in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, so I won’t be around until right before your trip. I should be back in the office on the 15th at the latest. I’ll have my buddy Jeff reply to emails, but he won’t be checking in here, so if anything is urgent, just email [email protected] and I’ll be in touch with him via sat phone a couple of times during the 2 weeks, so can answer your questions that way. Also, if you could email me your accommodation info in Anchorage, that would be great, so I’ll know where to find you on the morning of the 19th. I’ll pick you up from your hotel/hostel/b&b/etc, and we’ll head to McCarthy.



  13. Bob Schlatter

    Hi Everybody,

    Hope things are going well for you.

    Carl a question on your list of clothes, additional thermal barrier, could you explain. Is this a fleece shirt and fleece pants or a down jacket and fleece pants? Just what did you have in mind? I want to bring the right amount of clothes and not to much.

    Thanks, see you next month.


  14. hey Bob,

    Thanks for the note.

    It’s a tough one, it depends a little on how you feel the cold. Some people feel it more than others, and need a little more insulation. What I’d recommend is an undershirt, like a mid-weight capilene shirt, a hiking shirt (breathable, lightweight, etc – nylon is great, long sleeves are good in case bugs are bad – though they’re generally not bad at Skolai), a fleece jacket, a rain jacket and as an extra, something like a lightweight fleece shirt .. I have a cheap 100 weight polartec fleece shirt by Columbia that works great .. that way if it does get cold, I’ve got enough gear. Rarely do I wear all that.

    Some folks like a down jacket, and that’s a great option – maybe instead of the fleece jacket. I’d say, at this point, pack an extra piece or so, and we can go over it when we get to McCarthy.

    I think that should cover it – I’m heading out in the morning, and will be back on the 15th. As I said earlier, the email will be better than the blog for this next 2 weeks after today, if there’s any more questions.




  15. FWIW, my colleagues up in AK (NWS dudes) recommended to me to “bring more clothes than you think you need–you won’t regret it” They estimated highs 60s-70s, lows 40s 50s, rain, even snow possible. Apparently its been somewhat of a damp year so far. They also emphasized the need for bug dope and bear spray. Hopefully Skolai is not a bugfest, since i hate deep woods off but its the only thing that seems to work well–if anyone knows of a less nasty approach im all ears!

  16. Christine

    Hey Maggie…

    I don’t know if you’re planning on bringing/carrying your own tent….but I just invested in a new 2-3 person with vestibule so if you’re looking to save on weight and don’t mind a roommate you’re more than welcome to share with me.

    You can also decide the evening/mornging of…as I’ll be brining/carrying the same gear regardless. πŸ™‚


  17. I just took a glance at the latest computer forecasts for that week. Wish i had better news, but it looks rather cold and wet. A series of low pressure systems look like they will affect much of AK, would not be surprised to see snow down to 5K ft. There may be some breaks, and a drying/warming trend towards the end of the week. Still a long ways off, so hopefully im wrong. Will keep you posted every couple of days, more specifics as we get closer.

  18. I wish i had better news, but it seems pretty clear now that next week will be cool and wet. A cold storm over the Bering sea will move into central AK thursday, bringing heavy reain to the coast thu and fri. By Saturday, the storm will be directly over the Wrangells and snow levels may fall to 5-6K feet. More showers and cool through sunday. There may be a brief break monday-early tue, but hen another storm moves in from the west, more in a series. The later ones will be warmer (rain). It does not look at all promising; the one possible piece of good nes is that the primary storm track will be from the W or SW, looking at Google Earth it looks like Skolai is somewhat sheltered by the Wrangells to the south and west; i dont know enough about local weather patterns to know for sure. But a string of sunny 75 degree days aint gonna happen.

  19. Maggie Hallam

    HI! I haven’t been checking the blog closely for a while.
    Christine….. Thank you for such a friendly offer. I’ll very likely bring/use my own tent. I think you’ll love having a bit of extra wiggle room.
    Regarding weather:I haven’t checked just yet but i can tell you that last year there was a little rain a couple of days. Luckily, it was short lived. Evenings get chilly. I loved my zero degree rated sleeping bag!! I’m a total wimp when I have the combination of cold,wind and wet – ( two out of three I can handle ) – but even I was fine. You’ll be surprised how little bad weather fazes you when you’re in a beautiful place with new friends. I am bringing a book and might try my hand at origami if i get stuck in my tent for a while due to weather. Which reminds me, I have to run out and buy a tarp for the tent.
    Carl will supply each of us with our own can of bear spray.
    See everyone soon!!

  20. Hey Folks,

    Sorry – I just got back in from 2 weeks in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Stan, thanks for dropping in here, and the weather updates. Hopefully it won’t be too bad and we’ll get some decent weather.

    I don’t know why your first posts didn’t show up until just now – weird.

    I think your yaktrax will be fine – if you want to go out on the Russell Glacier crampons will be better, it’s a nasty crevasse-fest. But if you want to just go out on the Root and Kennecott Glaciers back in McCarthy, yaktrax will be fine.

    As for clothes, yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised to see temps in the 40’s .. and it can certainly be cold enough to snow – I sure hope it doesn’t though. πŸ™‚ I don’t pay weather forecasts too much heed here in AK, but particularly in places like the Wrangells – there’s too many microclimates going on. It can be snowing in one valley and the drainage over the ridge is sunny. Bring good rain gear, warm fleece layers, gloves and a fleece hat. And a smile!

    Oh, the bugs really shouldn’t be too bad – Skolai rarely gets bad bugs. There’ll probably be SOME, but not the thousands like in some places (like where I was this last 2 weeks). Oh, I found the permethrin treatmented clothes (or treating your own) works pretty well too .. but if you’re really sensitive to bugs, bring a small bottle of some kind of repellent – I use some 95% deet in the arctic … but I don’t bring any repellent on trips in the Wrangells – but some people seem to be bothered more than others.

    I think that’s it. I haven’t looked over all my emails yet, and I know some of you have emailed me your contact info for Anchorage, but if you haven’t, go ahead and drop that off to me. I’ll let you know what time I’ll try to pick you up once I see where everyone is staying – it’ll probably be in the 8-9am time frame. I’ll grab some bagels an we can get some coffee before hitting the road if you want.

    Christine, if you’re still around, check in with Wrangell Mountain Air in McCarthy – they’re right beside the hotel, you can’t miss them. We’ll have breakfast at the Saloon before flying up to Skolai, I think breakfast opens at 8 or 9. We’ll be staying across the river at the Kennecott River Cabins (Brad’s place) – you can ask anyone where it is if you want. It’s on the left hand side of the road as you drive towards the river from outside the park. It’s pretty easy to find.

    Hope all’s well with all of you, and I look forward to meeting you all and revisting with Maggie soon.



  21. Thanks Carl, here is my latest forecast:
    The good news is that things do not look quite as bad as they had. From a photographer’s standpoint the mix of weather could actually be a good thing.
    One potential problem–I see that NWS ANK even mentions that the erupting volcano OKMOK will seed the clouds and create more clouds and rain.
    Saturday looks to be the most problematic day, even for air travel. A strong storm will be over the gulf. The upper level storm will be over the Wrangells, winds aloft could be from the east. So, the Wrangells will offer little protection and steady precipitation will be likely. Snow levels will likely fall below 5K ft saturday night.
    Sunday there will be improving conditions, but it will still be cold (40s) and showery. By monday-early Tue, we could see break and relatively nice conditions. Another strong storm will move in Wed-Thu, more cool and showers/rain. Improving conditons from Friday onward.
    Terrain will definitely affect the exact conditions, but the general pattern will shape how the terrain shapes the weather, and i am fairly confident of this pattern. I’ll submit one more forecast tomorrow–i leave friday morn for Anc.

  22. Last One: Looks like the optimistic runs of yesterday are no more, forecast still looks cool and wet. Snow levels falling to as low as 5K ft sunday morning. I see no break in the cool wet pattern until friday. Just one storm after another–The first one is just now affecting the area. Don’t shoot the messenger πŸ™‚

  23. Christine

    Hey All..

    I just wanted to check to make sure everyone made it home okay…sorry for being the first to bail πŸ™

    All…please drop me an email and let me know how/when you made it out. My email Address is: [email protected]

    Maggie …I tried to track you down and HoJos…but they could not find a maggie listed as registered…not sure which one you were scheduled to be in.

    I got home on-time no issues….flying over Wrangell St. Elias…were perfectly blue skies …

  24. Hi Christine, glad you got out okay. Hope Carl survived the craziness. I watched the others hitch one-by-one but decided to spend my last night in McCarthy rather than Anchorage, so i got to watch the pouring rain (and lightning!) sunday night from Cabin #4. 2 French dudes popped in at 3 am, they looked like theyd been through WWII! Parts of McCarthy road were washed out by monday–a real mess. I got back fine though sleep-deprived. Had some good reindeer sausage along the way. Will send you a link once i get my photos posted in a couple days.

  25. Bob Schlatter

    Hi Everybody,

    I got back to Anchorage about 10:30 Sunday night, had a ride from two young guys that came up for the party. My flight got delayed about 1.5 hours so I got home early Tuesday morning otherwise everything was OK.

    Did get a voice mail message from Carl that he made it back also, when we passed him he was driving the van.

    Christine it was a beautiful flight over the Wrangell-St. Elias.

    My e-mail address is: [email protected]

    Great people and trip.


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