Wrangells

ADVENTURE 003: WINTER IN THE WRANGELLS

This spring has thrown us a curveball and instead of skiing deep in the Chugach day after day, we have been forced to find new adventures until the conditions improve.  Trying to find a route to the Bagley Icefield had been on the mind for a few years, and we wanted to give it a shot. 

 

Castle Peak and the edge of Blackburn catching the last of the evening light.

Castle Peak and the edge of Blackburn catching the last of the evening light.

The gang throwing rocks off the trestle bridge on the McCarthy Road

The gang throwing rocks off the trestle bridge on the McCarthy Road

Getting to McCarthy in the winter is an adventure in and of itself, with 60 miles of roughly maintained, unpaved road.  We rode in old trucks pulling trailers with sleds, which made the numerous ice sheets of overflow even more exciting.

We got all sorts of information from the McCarthy locals, who were amazingly welcoming and supportive of our crazy ideas. The first day was a test run and gas drop.  We cruised out on our intended route until our gas gauges read half tank, dropped gas, and rode back to our cabin in McCarthy.  We needed more gas, and luckily we found some in McCarthy since the closest gas station was 90 miles away.  

Cruising back to McCarthy from our gas drop.

Cruising back to McCarthy from our gas drop.

That night we packed up all our camping gear and more gas.  We were planning on staying in a backcountry cabin for the next few nights, but we were a little nervous about the temperatures hovering around -5.  Would we find the cabin? What kind of shape would it be in? Could we get any firewood into the alpine where the hut was located?  If not, it was going to be a chilly few nights.

Packing up outside of the McCarthy B&B next to the owner John's experimental plane. 

Packing up outside of the McCarthy B&B next to the owner John's experimental plane. 

Lesley using her over packed sled as a lounge chair.

Lesley using her over packed sled as a lounge chair.

After 50 miles and almost a full day of exciting backcountry riding, the hut was in sight, and we didn't have to bivy.  Spirits were high, and tree line was only 5 miles down valley from the hut, so firewood was the priority before it got dark.   

Cutting up the trees we drug behind our sleds.

Cutting up the trees we drug behind our sleds.

The hut was incredible, full of tons of antiques from gold mining in the early 1900's.  It didn't take us long to settle in, starting a fire and setting up old cots for everyone. 

The next day was supposed to be a long day of riding, putting us on glaciers and if everything went our way, the Bagley Icefied.  After hours and many attempts of trying to push through the last crux, we called it.  The route was too bushy, and too steep.  We settled on spending the afternoon in the sunshine on a high ridge talking about the plan for next time.

The crew basking in the sun and taking in the endless view.

The crew basking in the sun and taking in the endless view.

Everyone in our group is drawn to the power of the unknown and that's exactly what the Wrangells provided.    I could not have asked for a better group of people to share this experience.  Oh, and the barrel stove might have been my favorite part of this expedition, with the wind chill values around -35 I am not sure I would have reflected so positively on the trip without it.  

The end goal was ambitious, and the fact that we did not reach it did not matter.  The trip was full of good characters, amazing adventure and it left us with something to look forward to.  We will try again.  We will get there, maybe next week, next month, or not until next year.  

Our final night, cold and clear,  in the Wrangells.

Our final night, cold and clear,  in the Wrangells.