A week in the Wrangell St.-Elias Mountains Ski Camping
This April I got lucky enough to do a ski mission in the Wrangells. A good friend, Rene Welty, called me up and threw out the idea for this trip. I was in! In my mind, there was no way I could pass up an opportunity like this. Rene is a badass climber and pilot that grew up in McCarthy, Alaska in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Her dad, Don Welty, is an amazing pilot and he flew us in there.
After a 9 hour drive from Girdwood, we arrived at Rene’s parents house in McCarthy. Luckily the road to McCarthy was open and in good shape. In the winter, the only way in and out of McCarthy is by plane. We spent the entire next day gathering our gear, doing crevasse rescue scenarios & finding the zones we wanted to scout. We had a hard time deciding whether we wanted to fly into the Bagley Icefield and traverse out to the Ultima Thule Lodge or if we wanted to fly in and set up camp for the week to ski. Either way it was bound to be an epic. We heard word from the locals that the snow was really good, so we decided to ski camp. That night I could barely sleep I was so excited.
Day 1 – We woke up packed the plane and headed out to scout our home for the next week. As we were flying deep into the mountains, I could not believe the size of everything … the gnarliest ice features & the biggest most massive mountains I had ever seen. There was gnarly hanging glaciers, bergstrunds, seracs and huge crevasses everywhere. Don flew us over the spots we wanted to check out, all the way to the border of Canada. We found an area off of the Bagley Icefield on the Jefferies that we decided looked like our best opinion to spend a week. We landed on the glacier and got out of the plane. The wind was howling, it was so ridiculously cold it had to be easily -30 with the wind chill. Rene and I quickly found a located for camp and starting build a wind wall. We spent the rest of Day1 building camp.
Day 2 – We woke up to beautiful blue bird skies, howling winds and negative temps. We hurried to make breakfast so we could get moving.