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Alaska In October
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Mar 17, 2013
So I'm thinking about a trip to Canada & Alaska and hoping to get some of you guys who live there to chime in....

The plan is to drive from Seattle to Anchorage, then to Prudhoe Bay on the Dalton Highway. I've always wanted to do this roadtrip, and want to do some climbing along the way. As of right now planned stops include Vancouver, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. I'd like to do a climb each in the Coastal Range, the Chugahs, the Alaska Range, and the Brooks. Will probably also do a hike in Denali Natl Park, stop at Gates of The Artic, and take a (quick) swim in the Artic Ocean.

What mountain would you climb in each range? Ideally I'm looking for climbs that take a week or less (i.e. on a smaller scale than Denali)--something to get my feet wet climbing in Alaska, something that doesn't take a few weeks to aproach and climb. Something moderate in difficulty (steep snow, WI3-4, 5.6, M2-3, Grade III-IV).

What stops would you make along the way on this drive? Any suggestions for stuff to do (climbing or otherwise) anywhere between Seattle and Prudhoe Bay?

Last: I am thinking about doing this trip in October. I've been told that October is generally a stable month with enough daylight for climbing and snowing mainly just in the high mountains. I've been told that by November 15th all bets are off. I know Alaska won't be as green and pretty this time of the year either. Good time to go or not? Suggestions? Advice? Special preparations? Thanks guys!
Eric Rich
From Denver, CO
Joined Nov 25, 2008
95 points
Mar 17, 2013
Nice, you'll have a blast!

The 12 times that I have done that migration I have encountered bad weather along the coast, especially around Squamish and the coast ranges. I prefer the inland drive up through the Ice Field Parkway; which hosts tons of road side mountaineering, glaciers, and water ice climbs. The Cassiar HWY is the most scenic route and allows for the chance to easily access glaciated peaks by the towns of Hyder and Stewart. Haines Junction in the Yukon has a good glaciated peak close to a road called Mt. Archibald and it's in the St.Elias mountains. Nabesna, Ak can have some of the earliest roadside WI climbing in the country. The AK range can be great that time of the year, with lots of ice and low avalanche and cornice hazards. It all depends on the weather, the time of year your looking at is one of the wettest months for the north, so I would try and stay inland as much as possible.

From Valdez, AK
Joined Oct 20, 2009
2,030 points
Apr 12, 2013

Sounds like a great trip.

First and foremost. Don't expect to be able to drive to Prudhoe and take a dip. It's an active oilfield and security is high. The only way I know of to get to even touch the Arctic Ocean is to take a private tour with a tourist company up there. Or fly to Barrow. Anyway, dont get your hopes up on that front.

The Hual Road, or Dalton Highway is likely to be treacherous and Atigun Pass through the Brooks Range can close at anytime due to Avalanches. It will be snowy up there in October. Remember that a CB radio is required.

As far as climbs, it can be really hit or miss with conditions at that time of year. For example, one of my favorite play areas in the Alaska Range is the Gulkana Glacier, on the South side of the range, just north of Paxson. On October 10, 2011, there was over 2 feet of snow already at the base of the glacier. On October 12, 2012 however, there was just a trace of snow. We didn't have any measureable snowpack in that area until well into November. So conditions are going to be highly varibale, but October is a good time of year. Hopefully it's not 40 below already. Also, the bears are not quite asleep yet, I've had close calls with bears in the mountains in October.

I can't give you a whole bunch of beta personally for particular mountains and climbs, but you might try getting in touch with the Alaska Alpine club, which is a student/non-student organization out of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. They regularly host/lead trips into the Alaska Range, and might be able to help you out. They probably can put you in contact with club members who can advise on the other ranges as well. Their web address is

Hope that helps, and you're going to have a great time. Make sure you check out Liard HotSprings in BC on your way up. I've heard of some good climbing around Whitehorse but never been myself. Have fun!
James Smith
From Fairbanks, AK
Joined Nov 30, 2011
15 points
Apr 12, 2013
Sounds like an awesome plan. Keep in mind that Denali National Park closes the road into the interior of the park sometime in October, I believe. Lots of sub-Denali peaks are easily accessible from that road in the summer (Scott, Sunset, Mather, Brooks, etc), but after that the approaches increase by many, many miles. After the road closes, your best bet to climb in the Alaska Range is to fly in, or focus on the southern end like James suggests? I have only been there once, so others may chime in if i'm off-base here...

Have fun.
Andy Novak
From Golden, Co
Joined Aug 22, 2007
5 points

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