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. I’ll do the research and get the beta on the route and be very clear what kind of level of experience is required.
What’s Included – MXY trips?
All multi-day trips (backpacking, basecamping, packrafting, photo tours) out of McCarthy include transport to/from Anchorage/McCarthy, 2 nights accommodations in McCarthy, air taxi flights McCarthy/The Backcountry, group gear such as cook tents, stoves, fuel, BRFCs, bear spray, etc. Hiking poles are included if you don’t have your own.
We include a satellite phone for emergencies and one backup emergency contact device, such as PLB or Garmin InReach. First aid kits, map and compass included. All guides are Wilderness First Responder Certified.
Storage of your overnight travel gear is limited but available (keep it small).
Outfitting of equipment such as tents is available. Expeditions Alaska can either fully outfit your trip (all food, tents, etc) or adjust things a la carte if needed.
Guide gratuities are not included but most appreciated. Trip insurance is not included but I urge you to purchase it on your own.
For a full outline of What’s included/not included, please see this page
I Have More Questions
I know you do. I do as well.
I recommend starting with the General Trip FAQ page
Upon your reservation I’ll also send out a comprehensive trip information packet that covers just about everything and more you might imagine about your trip.
Route finding is always a tough gig on glaciers. Even glaciers we’ve hiked a lot. They’re so dynamic, they can change drastically within a summer. Year to year it’s somewhat remarkable how much they might change.
The Tana Glacier has broken up quite a bit near the toe and it can be difficult to find good route. Patience is your number one required skill set here.
The packrafting option means carrying a heavy load. Packrafts and whitewater boating gear, plus crampons, and a decent glacier camping setup. It’s heavy.
The packrafting is for advanced, experienced boaters only.