Kick Back in McCarthy
One Fine Day: Take a tour of the abandoned Kennecott Mine mill buildings; then float the Class IIII Kennicott and Nizina rivers in the shadow of the Wrangell and Chugach ranges. Contact Copper Oar Outfitters (800-523-4453, www.copperoar.com). J. D.
Acres: 13,175,901 Contact: 907-822-5234
PLANNING AN ALASKA WILDERNESS trip can be dauntingespecially if youre heading into the vast glacier- and grizzly-filled WrangellSt. Elias. But this park is surprisingly user-friendly, compared with some parts of big, bad Alaska. Its home to St. Elias Alpine Guides, one of the most experienced outfitters in the state, and its relatively accessible via a 60-mile gravel roadno bush plane required. At roads end youll find the town of McCarthyand, four miles beyond that, Kennicott, your stepping-off point for a four-day expedition to Wrangells Donoho Peak.
To get started, youll hoist your pack and hike toward Donoho and the Root Glacier. St. Elias Alpine Guides trips are small (no more than six people), and theyre tailored to fit your groups skill level, with instruction available on everything from ice climbing to alpine mountaineering. Because Wrangell is one of the most glaciated parks in the U.S., the Donoho trek is the perfect setting for learning the rudiments of glacier exploration. Before breaking camp at the base of the Root, your guide will give you pointers on crampon use and safe route-finding. Then youll start the traverse, planting your feet on an undulating sea of ice. Once you arrive at the west side of the glacier, youll set up camp and mull your many options. You could make the nontechnical scramble up 6,698-foot Donoho for views of 16,390-foot Mount Blackburn and 18,008-foot Mount St. Elias, the second-tallest peak in the U.S. You could rope up and go ice climbing on the Kennicott or Root glaciers, or hike across the tundra to an alpine lake. Or you could just do it all.
GETTING THERE: St. Elias Alpine Guides four-day Donoho Peak Trek is $699 per person, assuming a group of six. A variety of other options are also available, including custom expeditions and first ascents (888-933-5427, www.steliasguides.com).
WHEN TO GO: July through September.