Wrangell St. Elias N.P.
Ice climbing in the middle of nowhere
Our story of McCarthy finally just had two chapters.
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.
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,
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
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.
- Ice climbing
- Old copper mine in Kennicott
- Scenic flights
- A big ride in the van - flying low!
- From Anchorage take Glenn Hwy 1 north through Palmer to
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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)
© June 2001 by