The Holy Macaroni Tastes Like Chicken Tour Trek America - Where the crowds can't go!
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Wrangell St. Elias N.P.

Ice climbing in the middle of nowhere

Our story of McCarthy finally just had two chapters.

On Edgerton Hwy 10

Chapter one: Getting there and out. It's 96 miles drive from Chitina to McCarthy, all gravel road. You must drive in the middle of the road to be safe from sliding. Lots of small bump make most people drive slowly. But does it help? No! Drive quickly, if you can. You must be prepared to slightly slide sideways. But you won't feel the bumps. It's more like flying low. The shock absorbers of your car will make it hop over the small bumps. And we were somehow lucky. It was raining. At that made it much less dusty.

At some points you may see that the road was originally built on the trassee of the old railway. The bridges are about wide enough for a train and they have no rails. So don't be afraid.

Chapter two: Ice climbing. The second day we hired two alpine guides for ice climbing on Root Glacier. You get driven to Kennicott where you stop at the lodge. From the lodge it's about a one hour walk to the glacier. We even saw some bears on the way (and some campers food stores on trees).

On the glacier we started walking with crampons. It feels funny at the beginning but you get used to them quite easily. After setting up the base camp (backpacks and equipement), we started duck walking and other base techniques. Next was rappelling. A bit scarry. But no problem once you're over the edge. You'll find detailed descriptions on the SEAG home page.

Ice climbing Root Glacier Looking down into the moulin

After a whole day ice climbing, up and down and finally down into a moulin, which is not always possible, we were quite tired. We took the chance to take a few photos in the old copper mining town of Kennikott, which is currently being restored by National Park Service. They want to make this historic site a place worth looking, a museum.

And what came in between. Back to the small bits. We arrived in the afternoon of the first day. What a surprise. Our camping was a parking and there was snow on the ground. We stopped at the small office and got some warm drinks. After a short stay, we decided to go down town and check our options. So we had to cross the river and arrived on the other side with only "imported" cars. We checked for flights, but the weather was very unstable. And then we also checked the ice climbing option which was a bit more weather independent.

Back at the car park, we decided to look for an other camping. There is one with warm water. But we finally found the lodge and the even had a cabin with 5 beds for us. Trevor and Eric got a bed each in the main building. There was a group kitchen, with already a small group of Americans and a Japanese cooking. Wee cooked later and had the chance to chat with all these people, share some experince and some food. The shower is also worth mentioning. There's only one. And since the used water must be brought out by truck, it's $5 per shower. But still better than none. At least we spent a great warm night in the lodge. Of course we enjoyed the group kitchen again next evening.


Along Glenn Hwy north Along Glenn Hwy north Along Glenn Hwy north Along Glenn Hwy north Along Glenn Hwy north Edgerton Hwy to McCarthy
Edgerton Hwy to McCarthy Ice climbing near Kennicott Ice climbing near Kennicott Ice climbing near Kennicott Ice climbing near Kennicott Ice climbing near Kennicott
View to the glacier View to the glacier Kennicott Kennicott Kennicott Kennicott
  Kennicott Self portrait near Kennicott McCarthy back country McCarthy back country  


  • Ice climbing
  • Hiking
  • Old copper mine in Kennicott
  • Scenic flights
  • A big ride in the van - flying low!

Driving Route   

  • From Anchorage take Glenn Hwy 1 north through Palmer to Glennallen.
  • Near Glennallen take Richardson Hwy south direction Valdez.
  • In Willow take Edgerton Hwy 10 east to McCarty.
  • You must stop at the camping before the bridge. There's no through way into McCarty and Kennicott. You must walk over the bridge. Transportation is available on the other side.

Hints and Tips   

  • Be prepared for cold weather. Temperatures may drop on the glacier.
  • Bring good and strong gloves for ice climbing. They should protect your hands from massive scratches. A hat may come handy too. And full rain gear protects you from water on the glacier.
  • If you stay on the camping and sleep in tents: mats and very warm sleeping bags are a must. You'll sleep on gravel or snow.
  • Don't forget about bears! They are there.
  • Manage flights early and be prepared for cancelation due to bad weather conditions.


McCarthy: McCarthy Hostel

  • Pay shower, toilets, electricity, group kitchen
  • Cabins available (limited number)


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