Mt Drum from the Sanford Plateau.

August 6th, 2008 by Carl D
Mount Drum, Sanford Plateau, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.
Dawn on Mt. Drum.

Hey Folks,

We just got through a great trip up on the Sanford Plateau, on the north side of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The hiking was great, the views sublime, and the group awesome. This image is from our campsite on the 2nd night, where we spent 2 full days enjoying the high alpine tundra and incredible views of the massive mountains nearby – Mt Sanford (over 16 000′), Mt Wrangell (over 14 000′) and Mt Drum (over 12 000′). This image is of early morning at Mt Drum.

The weather wasn’t too bad – a mix of rain, clouds, wind, and calm sunny weather as well – a welcome respite. Much better than the weather on the previous trip to Skolai Pass, where rain, sleet and even a little snow bound us up tight for much of the trip. I’m excited to start doing more treks on the north side of the park and exploring this area further – we’ll definitely be back on the Sanford Plateau in 2009, and hopefully be able to do a few other trips in the area as well.

I’m off tomorrow for the 2 week trek from Bremner Mines to Tebay Lakes, which I’m very excited about, and hopefully we’ll get some good weather. We’ve a great group of hikers again, and this promises to be loads of fun. I need to get to bed and get some rest, because tomorrow evening, we’ll be in the backcountry. I’ll try to put a trip report together when I get back on the 20th. Stay tuned!

Cheers

Carl


Sea Kayaking Icy Bay, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

June 24th, 2008 by Carl D

Sea kayaking Icy Bay with Mt. St. Elias in the background, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

I just got back from a sea kayak trip to Icy Bay, down on the southern edges of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. This will definitely be a trip for next year. It was my first time in this amazing place, and it really is cool. There’s SO much to see and explore in the area. It’ll be a sea kayaking/hiking trip, a little of everything. the scenery is awesome, and the geology of the place is fascinating. 100 years ago it was a wall of glacial ice, now 3 glaciers have receded, and the valleys left in their wake filled with water, creating 4 deep cold fjords. The Taan fjord is the most navigable for paddling, the Tsaa fjord is almost covered with icebergs. Here’s a shot from a camp site along the shores of the Taan fjord, Icy Bay, looking out over the bay towards Mt. St. Elias, as it catches the last rays of the sun for the day. Pretty sweet view, eh? Continue reading…


Summer’s here! Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

June 9th, 2008 by Carl D

Great Horned Owl Chick, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

hey Folks,

Just a quick post before I disappear for a couple of weeks. The blog will slow down even more the next few months, as I’m too busy hiking and photographing to get much posting done, but I’ll try to update it from time to time.

Anyway, here’s a photo I took a few days ago, when I was lucky enough to find a few Great Horned Owl fledglings, just learning to fly, and not far from their nest. The light wasn’t so great, but these little guys were SO cute! I’ll probably not run into them again as they’ve gained their wings and are heading off on their own before too long. I’m about to head off for a trip for 2 weeks, then heading up to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for 2 weeks, which I can’t WAIT to do, so in the meantime, have fun, stay safe, and enjoy the mountains.

Cheers

Carl


Spring Gear Sales

May 21st, 2008 by Carl D

Backpacking in the Chugach mountains, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Summer’s rolling around the corner, and now’s a good time to grab some gear if you need it. A few sales are on that might save a little cash.
Mammoth Gear are selling some a bunch of items cheap – I just bought a winter bag for super cheap!
Backcountry are also having a Memorial Day sale – up to 30% off.
REI Outlet have some stuff on sale too which might be worth browsing, depending on what you need.

I’ve dealt with all these retailers, and recommend them all. No hassle, reputable folks.

Good shopping, and don’t go overboard – remember, after you buy it, you still gotta carry it!

Cheers

Carl


First Aid in the backcountry

May 7th, 2008 by Carl D

A wilderness First Responder course simulation has this rescuer stabilizing a patient

Hey Folks,

With the summer season just around the corner, a few tips on some basic First Aid might be helpful. In this simulation, you can see my friend and Wilderness First Responder, Lisa, stabilizing the patient’s (Jason) neck. Stabilizing a patients spine is super-important in critical care for all patients who have suffered major trauma, or where the mechanism of injury is unknown. In other words, when the rescuer doesn’t know what happened, and why the patient is suffering. The best position for a patient whose may have a spine injury is flat on their back, with a rescuer holding their head in what’s called ‘anatomical position’ – basically, as straight as possible. Moving the head, or allowing the spine to flop around, can easily cause the spinal cord to be ruptured, or severed, causing permanent disabilities to the patient. Continue reading…


Protected: Bremner – Tebay Hike

March 28th, 2008 by Carl D

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Protected: Skolai Pass PhotoTour

March 28th, 2008 by Carl D

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Bear Spray Effectiveness – how effective is bear spray?

March 27th, 2008 by Carl D

Grizzly bear cub photo, Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

A lot of people ask about bears and bear spray and guns and what we do for safety. We don’t carry guns on our trips, and nor would I be comfortable with someone on the trip carrying a firearms, unless there were some very extenuating circumstances. I do carry bear spray, and we usually take 2 or 3 cans per trip, depending on the size of the group.

A recent Canadian study showed bear spray to be quite a bit more effective than firearms might be. The study looked at data from the last 20 years, and concluded bear spray is generally a safer option than firearms. “Despite persistent doubts among hikers and campers venturing into bear country, you’re better off with an eight-ounce can of bear spray than a gun, according to an analysis of 20 years of data.

Canadian and U.S. researchers announced Wednesday that they found the spray stopped aggressive bear behaviour in 92 per cent of the cases, whether that behaviour was an attack or merely rummaging for food. Guns were effective about 67 per cent of the time.”

The news report in the Canadian Paper is here. From the actual report itself, ” Of all persons carrying sprays, 98% were uninjured by bears in close-range encounters. “ The study looked at incidents involving brown or grizzly bears, black bears and even 2 polar bear incidents. What’s also important is that in each incident where the person/s using bear spray suffered some injury, those injuries were relatively minor (i.e., no hospitalization).

Here’s an abstract from the actual report:

“We present a comprehensive look at a sample of bear spray incidents that occurred in Alaska, USA, from 1985 to 2006. We analyzed 83 bear spray incidents involving brown bears (Ursus arctos; 61 cases, 74%), black bears (Ursus americanus; 20 cases, 24%), and polar bears (Ursus maritimus; 2 cases, 2%). Of the 72 cases where persons sprayed bears to defend themselves, 50 (69%) involved brown bears, 20 (28%) black bears, and 2 (3%) polar bears. Red pepper spray stopped bears’ undesirable behavior 92% of the time when used on brown bears, 90% for black bears, and 100% for polar bears. Of all persons carrying sprays, 98% were uninjured by bears in close-range encounters. All bear-inflicted injuries (n = 3) associated with defensive spraying involved brown bears and were relatively minor (i.e., no hospitalization required). In 7% (5 of 71) of bear spray incidents, wind was reported to have interfered with spray accuracy, although it reached the bear in all cases. In 14% (10 of 71) of bear spray incidents, users reported the spray having had negative side effects upon themselves, ranging from minor irritation (11%, 8 of 71) to near incapacitation (3%, 2 of 71). Bear spray represents an effective alternative to lethal force and should be considered as an option for personal safety for those recreating and working in bear country.”

The report can be purchased if you subscribe to the Journal of Wildlife Management, published by the Wildlife Society.

It’s illegal to fly in the US, in most places, with bear spray, so if you are coming to Alaska, realize you won’t be allowed to bring bear spray with you, nor will you be allowed to return to the Lower 48 with it after your stay here. That’s the primary reason why we provide the spray for each trip. If you intend to do some other hikes after or before your trip with us, I definitely recommend you grab a can of bear spray in Anchorage, from either AMH or REI. Some flights in Alaska the airline will let you transport bear spray, as long as you hand it over at the counter at checkin . They seal it in a Ziplock bag, and stow it safely in the rear of the plane – You’ll be responsible for getting it back at the end of your flight though, so don’t forget about it and wander off to get your luggage – usually you pick it up as you get off the plane. Smaller planes, like bush planes and float planes, tend to either duct tape it onto the wing or stow it in the floats of the plane – the danger, of course, being if the can of bear spray does explode whilst you’re flying, you don’t want that stuff going all through the plane, particularly the cockpit. 🙂 Nor will your pilot. So make sure you remember before getting on or off a bush plane to hand over your bear spray, and let the pilot put it outside the plane.

Bear spray is extremely powerful stuff, so treat it with caution. Make sure you understand how it works, how the can works, and follow basic safety procedures that you might for any dangerous weapon. Read the label warnings and directions before you venture out hiking, and then keep your bear spray handy, but safe, whilst you’re hiking. Leaving the can in the bottom of your backpack is NOT going to be of much use to you if a bear pops out of the woods and gets a little feisty. I carry mine in my pants pocket, or in a water bottle pocket on the outside of my backpack, where I’ll usually tie it on, so I don’t lose it if (when) it falls out).

Thanks folks – if you have any questions, shoot me an email or leave a comment here.

Travel safely.

Cheers

Carl


Winter Outdoor Gear?

March 23rd, 2008 by Carl D

The Kennecott Glacier and moraine covered in snow one early winter morning and Chugach Mountains in Winter, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

hey Folks,

Well, as winter just wound to a close, I thought I’d post a short note about winter outdoor gear. All in all, what’s the best outdoor hiking and backpacking gear I bought this winter? What piece of gear really rocked my world? A $40.00 pair of Sierra Designs Down Booties! These things rock! Kept my feet warm and happy during the coldest of days – not quite 50 below zero! I was really impressed with them. Sierra Designs make some good gear, but these are the best buy of the season. Comfortable, light, durable, cheaply priced and stylish! Other candidates for good buys or just good winter gear were:

* My Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap. I don’t even know if this is still made – I’ve had mine for over 10 years, and it’s still good as new. It now officially counts as my oldest piece of 1st-tier gear. My North Face Firefox sleeping bag, which is no longer made, is just as old, but I don’t use it most of the time, after buying the Western Mountaineering Ultralite 18 months ago. Regarding the cap, I have the Triple Point Fabric version and they also have a Gore-Tex version. This hat is awesome, fleece-lined, and toasty! And it looks cool as well!

* A surprise contender, for me, is the REI fleece gloves I have .. they’re fingerless, but with a little extra fold-over mitten .. these are great, I can fold the mitten cover back, exposing my fingers for operating a camera, and quickly cover them back up as it gets cold. Unless it got REALLY cold, these gloves we re just fine this winter. Well-priced, and warmer than I thought they might be.

* Atlas 1030 Snowshoes. Excellent shoes for getting around in the powdery snow in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, good traction cleats, lightweight rugged construction, and easy to fix buckles. Great snowshoes for just about any snowshoeing trip, though not cheap either.

If you’re looking for something to spend your tax refund on, you won’t go wrong with any of the above gear, and it’s probably all marked down for end of season sales.

Cheers

Carl


Book Lists

March 21st, 2008 by Carl D

Sunset over Skolai pass, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Anyone out there looking for some good reading material? I thought I’d make a post that lists some books I’ve really enjoyed – I’ll add to it as I go, and would appreciate any visitors adding their favorites to the list. I’ll start with some great nature books:

Thoreau (of course): My favorite is “Walking”
Jack Turner: “The Abstract Wild”
Derrick Jensen: “Listening to the Land”
Paul Shepard: “Coming Home to the Pleistocene”
Jack London: “Call of the Wild” (I know, I know, it’s fiction, but wow, what great fiction!!!!)
Wendell Berry: “Another Turn of the Crank”
Doug Peacock: “The Grizzly Years”
Aldo Leopold: “A Sand County Almanac”
Bill McKibben: “The End of Nature”

That’s enough for starters – I’ll add more as they come to me!

Cheers

Carl


Expeditions Alaska
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