High Alaskan Ascents: Mt. Bear Ski Expedition with International Mountain Guides
Wrangell/St. Elias is the largest National Park in the United States. It is greater in size than the entire country of Costa Rica. Of its 13.2 million acres, 5 million are permanently covered with snow and ice. This region has the largest concentration of mountain peaks over 14,500 feet in North America and very few visitors. It is definitely one of my favorite places to climb in the world. Come climb in this fabulous pristine wilderness before it gets "discovered."
Access is surprisingly easy from Anchorage. After a 4 hour drive from Anchorage we'll either fly straight onto the mountain or spend the second night at our bush pilot's remote lodge on the Chitina River. Either way, the next morning bright and early finds us on the glacier at the base of our climb. Most of our objectives are in the Wrangell mountain range. This is inland from the coast and has less precipitation than you might imagine. The temperature range is similar to Mt. McKinley in June, varying from sunny, shirtsleeve days to storms with high winds of 40 mph or more and as cold as -20°F.
Our primary goal will be to make an ascent of one of the major peaks in the range (10,000+ to 16,500 feet). Working together as a small, mobile team, we will develop our own "Alaskan style" approach to climbing from a base at our landing site on the glacier. As we fine tune skills in preparation for our climb, we won't overlook opportunities to make other ascents of unclimbed peaks near camp. Our "Big Peak" will involve one or more additional camps above base camp. It will be a route that requires route-finding skill, exciting climbing and the chance to climb where few have been before.
The peaks of Wrangell/St. Elias Nation Park provide a perfect step up from glacier climbing in the lower 48 states, and are excellent preparation for Mt. McKinley or other big expeditions. They remain the ultimate destination for those who want to escape crowded popular routes and experience mountains on their own terms.
Mt. Bear Ski Expedition
Alaska is the place dreams are made of. Wild rugged remote peaks. The very definition of wilderness. And endless amounts of snow. It's a ski mountaineer's dream.
We will travel into the heart of the wilderness to Mt. Bear (14,831'), nestled deep in the St. Elias Range and only 4 miles from the Canadian border. Mt. Bear is the ideal ski mountaineers peak with 8,000 feet of nearly unbroken skiing from its summit. Surrounded by views of Mt. Logan, Mt. Bona, and Mt. Churchill, we plan to fly into the East Fork of the Barnard Glacier and ascend the South Side of Mt. Bear.
The team will meet in Anchorage, AK on day one of the expedition to do gear checks, and last minute packing before a team dinner. The following morning the team will travel by van to Chitina, AK to meet our bush pilot. We fly with Ultima Thule Outfitters, one of the most renowned fight services in all of AK. Head pilot Paul Claus is truly a legend and has many first ascents and descents in the St Elias range. Weather permitting Paul will fly us right onto the glacier and the beginning of our expedition. If weather does not permit, we may travel to Paul's lodge to await our weather window. Once on the glacier we will utilize intermediate camps as we work our way up the mountain. Days will be spent ferrying loads, moving, camps, practicing skills, and of course skiing! Form our high camp we will launch our summit attempt. If weather and conditions permit we will ski directly from Mt Bear's summit. Of course once the summit bid is made, the trip is far from over, and we still have thousands of feet of prized ski descents waiting for us. Once back on the Barnard Glacier, we'll fly out with Paul prior to returning to Anchorage and our flights home.
Ski Mountaineering Skills: Combining both excellent general mountaineering skills and backcountry ski skills into ski mountaineering gives us the opportunity to experience one of the most exhilarating sports, ski mountaineering. Your guides will help you combine these two wonderful disciplines as we make our attempt on Mt. Bear.
Alaska Adventure: The very name Alaska makes us think of adventure. In a place where nothing is certain, we will embrace the adventure laid before us. Weather, snowpack, and route conditions dictate our final plan. Rest assured, your IMG guides and team are ready to take on this unique aspect of ski mountaineering in such remote place. Check out our Trip Report from IMG's 2014 Mt. Bona expedition for more about the adventure of climbing in Alaska.
Skills Needed: Team members need to have solid skiing skills and experience with general mountaineering.
- Advanced to expert skier on off-piste terrain in a variety of snow conditions
- Experience backcountry skiing
- Experience with uphill travel on skis (skinning)
- Experience skiing with a heavy pack in intermediate terrain
General Mountaineering Skills:
- Cramponing skills on moderate snow and ice
- Ice axe usage on moderate snow and ice
- Self and team arrest
- Rope team travel