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DescriptionWrangell St. Elias National Park is 13.2 million acres of rugged wilderness that contains 18 peaks over
13,000ft tall. This park is six times the size of Yellow Stone National Park and is made up of four major mountain ranges; the Wrangell Mountains, St. Elias Range, University Range and the Bagley Ice Field. This large expanse of mountains includes peaks up to 18,000ft tall to smaller peaks that are 5,000ft tall. Due to the weather patterns and terrain this area host some of the most severe and complex weather patterns in all of the North, which also creates a very diverse type of snow-pack across the zones.
As remote as this area is, it has been explored and pioneered by the likes of Bradford Washburn, Paul and Jay Cluas, Ruedi Homberger, Danny Kost,Dave Hart.
One of the most notable adventures is Bradford Washburn and Bob Bates Escape From Lucania. They used McCarthy as a hub when it was still a copper mine to fly in and climb Mount Lucania. It's a epic tale of survival and human perseverance. David Roberts wrote two great books worth checking out on the history of the area; "Escape from Lucania" and "The Last of His Kind.".
The primary ski plane service in Wrangell St. Elias is the Claus family. They are the owners, operators and pilots of Ultima Thule Outfitters. Their remote lodge is far up the Chitna River, close to the Canadian border. This family knows the park inside and out, the three generations of Claus's have pioneered many landing zones, peaks, routes and rivers in the area. Paul Claus is the main pilot along with his son Jay.
Even thought Wrangell St. Elias National Park is our largest park, it has limited amenities and services, there's not even a user fee or gate to get into the park. There is no NPS search and rescue, if you are in serious trouble the military can help. But they are based in Anchorage and Fairbanks, a long ways away. Your best bet for rescue is self-rescue.
Getting ThereThere are only two roads that access the park. The Nabesna road is a sixty mile dirt road on the north side of the park that lies on the north side of the Wrangell Mountains. The Nabesna road is very desolate and does not have very good access to the mountains, but along the road in the fall is a very prime spot for frozen waterfall climbing. The McCarthy road is another sixty mile dirt road that pierces into the heart of the mountains and wilderness.
The towns of Kennicott and McCarthy are located on the southern side of the Wrangell Mountains and provide a good launching pad for expeditions. There is an airstrip that three plane charter services fly out of. The towns are very seasonal and have full amenities late May thru September.
This area is a bit pricier to fly in to than the Alaska Range. The premier ski plane service is Ultima Thule Outfitters, and they have ski planes available year round. The other plane services out of McCarthy are excellent options for objectives that require a non-ski plane landing. The other option is Copper Valley Air, based out of Glennallen, this is a prime and practical location to fly into the western Wrangell Mountains.
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