Into The Wild West

The Angel, Revelation Mountains. Taken in 2006.

The Angel, Revelation Mountains. Taken in 2006.

I am now in the planning stage for next year’s expeditions. My main focus is the west end of the Alaska Range. Remote, isolated and difficult to access, few have explored its secrets.

The dominate mountains in the west/south-west end of the Alaska Range are the Revelation Mountains. The Revelation Mountains are becoming more popular in the climbing community because of the exploits of my friend Clint Helander. For the past few years, the Revelation Mountains have been his obsession. He has made numerous first ascents in this land of wicked steep peaks, inspiring others to follow in his crampon points. With that said, the Revelations only see an average of three expeditions a year, all of them aimed at climbing new, difficult routes. There is plenty left to discover in the Revelations and I look forward to returning to them.

In between the Revelation Mountains and the mighty Tordrillo Mountains is a land of  unknowns. During the early explorations of the Tordrillo Mountains, the hardy mountaineers would look west from the frozen summits and see a large cluster of jagged peaks, tucked behind the Todrillos and in front of the Revelations, they called them the “Hidden Mountains”, they have continued to stay that way, hidden.

Unnamed, unclimbed mountains, Hidden Mountains, South-West Alaska Range.

Unnamed, unclimbed mountains, Hidden Mountains, South-West Alaska Range.

On the north/northeast ends of the western Alaska Range are two small pockets of peaks, the Terra Cotta Mountains and the Teocalli Mountains. The fame Iditarod Trail runs through these hills. At the far south are the Neacola Mountains, which create the southern anchor of the Alaska Range as its crashes into the Aleutian Mountains.

Only a couple of the mountains have names on the USGS maps. The most obvious one in the Hidden Mountains is Snowcap, which is actually on the wrong peak (that is also a problem in the Revelations Mountains, certain maps have names on the wrong peaks.) The true Snowcap Mountain (ca 8,350′) was visited in 2010 by legendary climber Fred Beckey along with Alaskan Legend Richard Baranow and Zach Shlosar. Beckey did not make the summit but Richard and Zach did.

Less than a handful of climbers have tried to push into the Hidden Mountains from the closet access point, Merrell Pass near Gold Pan peak. Outside of that, there has been little activity in the area, especially by an explorer or photographer. In fact, the only photographs I can come by (outside of the Revelation Mountains) are photographs taken by large, mineral extraction companies, looking for alternatives to the Pebble Mine.

The western Alaska Range is one of the toughest terrains I have travelled through. Access is limited, the glaciers are moraine strewn and busted up, so ski planes have few options. There are no large lakes to land a float plane on. That leaves access to far off strips on the fringes of the area or by expensive helicopter.

There is nothing but bogs and forest beyond the western Alaska Range, all the way to the Bering Sea.

There is nothing but bogs and forest beyond the western Alaska Range, all the way to the Bering Sea.

Needless to say, this will be the most demanding season of expeditions. It is also the last season, so it is extremely important that I reach these areas. This will also be the most expensive season.

If you would like to support the project please consider buying a print, this a great way to get some great mountain art for your house or office and at the same time support the project. Here is the link to my holiday print sale.

If have back-country skills and would be interested in joining an expedition, feel free to contact me (read this post first).




Aerial Photography in the Alaska Range

The yellow sea, Neacola Mountains.

The yellow sea, Neacola Mountains.

The Alaska Dispatch, Alaska’s leading online newspaper has an article on the Alaska Range Project with an emphasis on the aerial photography aspect.

Check it out at:

Planning a Remote Wilderness Photography Trip Using Google Earth

I have six major trips planned this year along with a handful of shorter jaunts. I have spent the lasts few weeks digging through maps and staring for hours at Google Earth.

Obviously, the first thing I considered is “What areas offer the best chances for successful image making?” For some of my trips, there is a at least one major objective, and for the Alaska Range project, it’s usually a big mountain.

After I choose an objective, I look for bodies of water or other features that could add to an image of the major objective or just give me more variety. Other mountains in the area, steep valleys that could have waterfalls, glaciers that may have caves or interesting features and of course lakes, especially ones that have chances for reflections. Variety is key. There is always a good chance that your main mountain will never be seen, so there should be plenty of other interesting things to go explore.

Google Earth helps me figure out if a location has enough variety. One of the main issues I have found by using only topo maps is that its hard to figure out if you will be able to see your objectives. I have been in valleys that were too tight to see the actual mountains and have had views blocked by small hills that I hardly noticed on the map.

Google Earth’s Street View isn’t exact and should be only used as a guide but its usefulness can’t be denied. Once you have found the location you can use Google Earth’s night/day feature to determine if and when light will actual hit you main objectives. You can also get exact sunset and sunrise times along with the moon’s cycle. You just type in the exact dates of your trip and watch the screen as the light crosses the landscape, pretty cool.

lima bean lake

Google Earth View of Lima Bean Lake (it’s the blackness in the front) This is the Street View. This tells me that the mountains are in view from the lake shore and that there is potential for a reflection type shot.

Unnamed mountains reflected in Lima Bean Lake (local name), central Alaska Range

Lima Bean Lake, Denali National Park and Preserve. My study of Google Earth showed possibilities at this lake and  it proved right.

I never plan a trip where I am trapped by the terrain. I like to explore and if the there is just one possible angle of a mountain and not much else, then its just not worth the trip. If there are impossible icefalls, dangerous rivers, steep terrain or just too much bush whacking, then I look somewhere else.

Google Earth is really good for determining where the “green zone” is these days. Most topos of Alaska are over fifty years old. The green zone on those maps (the areas with bushes and trees) has changed dramatically. Some areas that were pretty easy to access just ten years ago are now nightmare bush whacks. Google Earth can also show you how far the glaciers have receded, which I find very useful since most of my trips involve glaciers! Pay attention to the date the images were taken (its in the lower corner of the screen), this can  help you decide when to go and what the terrain really looks like. Some images were taken in winter, which really doesn’t help you plan a summer trip. But I find late season images great for planning routes, especially on glaciers.

The next question is if you can actually get to your location? Are there lakes a float-plane could land on? long enough glaciers with enough snow coverage? Or gravel bars that a tundra plane could land on? There are plenty of secret strips in the mountains of Alaska and sometimes I can spot them on Google Earth.

Probably the most valuable tool for me, is using  Google Earth to identify mountains I have taken photos of, especially aerial images.

Google gives a pretty wide angle images but its still very useful for indentifing Mountains.

Google Earth gives a pretty wide-angle image but it’s still very useful for identifying Mountains. Can you see the shot below in the Google Image above?

The Citadel and Peak 8505, Mount Iliamna in the distance.

The Citadel,  Peak 8505 and Mount Iliamna in the distance. These peaks were easy to identify using Google Earth and a topo map together via the Hillmap Website.

If you don’t have two big monitors then its difficult to use a topo program and Google Earth at the same time, which can be frustrating. Luckily there is an awesome website called Hillmap. It splits your chosen topo with Google Earth and seamlessly moves them together, so what’s on one side is mirrored on the other, Brilliant! Their website is

Google Earth has its flaws of course. Most of the remote areas have poor resolution, making the usefulness of the images questionable. We should try not to get our hopes up either. It’s always best to enter a remote area with a fresh mind, open to new things and not filled with all the possibilities you saw on a computer screen hundreds of miles away.

Happy Travels!

Where The Peaks Have No Names

Last light on the Neacola Mountains

Last light on the Neacola Mountains

It was the first really clear day in awhile and the wind was absent. I was still feeling down about not getting any good images this year from the southern section of the Alaska Range, when I thought “Maybe I could get one more aerial shoot in”. So I called up my buddy, photographer and pilot Dan Bailey.

“Want to fly tonight?” I asked with lots of enthusiasm. He was hesitant, I am sure he was very busy and wasn’t even thinking of flying.

“I don’t know, let me call you back.” I sat there waiting. I sent an email to another photographer-pilot I knew, Joe Connelly, but he was out-of-town.

Finally Dan called back and agreed to fly.

“Where do you want to go?” he asked.

“Hidden Mountains” I replied.

“Where is that?” He questioned.

“North of Merrill Pass, though we may not make it that far, it’s a long way”. I met him at the airport at 4:30. He went through his pilot checklist, fueled up and we were in the air by 5:00.

Dan’s little Cessna 120 has about four hours of fuel (not counting reserve) and goes about 80 miles an hour. It’s a great plane for photography, it goes slow and low, but it takes a long time to get to the Alaska Range from Anchorage and I knew we would be pushing it.

The flight plan was to go through Merrill Pass and then head north into the Hidden Mountains, a remote collection of mountains sandwiched between the Revelations and the Tordrillos. I have seen very few images from these mountains and only know one person who has been in them. The only peak of any notoriety is Snowcap, which is incorrectly named on the USGS topo map, a common occurrence on those maps from the southern Alaska Range.

Mount Spurr

Mount Spurr

Crevasses, unnamed glacier

Crevasses, unnamed glacier

We flew next to the pure whiteness of Mount Spurr, just glorious in the clean sunlight. As we approached the pass we saw a wall of clouds, hovering around 2000 feet. The clouds stretched as far as we could see. We debated on whether or not to travel through the pass. Before we made our decision about the pass we flew around another known peak, The Tusk, a granite fang that protrudes out of the tundra. I had seen a few images of the Tusk and it looked pretty cool. Because of the tightness of the surrounding peaks, we had to fly above it and honestly, The Tusk, isn’t very impressive from the air, especially with so many huge, looming mountains off in the distance.


Peaks 6625 and 6945, just two of the hundreds of unnamed beauties in the Hidden Mountains.

To the south I could see the mighty high peaks of the Neacolas. That was the area I was supposed to have travelled through during my ill-fated July trip, I knew that was where we needed to go.

“Forget the pass, let’s go there” I suggested and Dan agreed.

We flew up the Neacola River towards the Neacola Glacier and peak 9,426, aka Mount Neacola. But then we were side tracked by one of the most beautiful mountains in the entire Alaska Range, Peak 8305. The peak was climbed in 1965 and they called it the Citadel. My friend Dan Oberlatz showed me a picture of that beauty from a ski trip he guided many years ago, it’s sexy shape still imbedded in my mind. The Citadel is the north anchor of a collection of high peaks around the North Fork, Pitch Fork and Neacola Glaciers. The other major monster mountains are Peaks 8908 and 8505, Mount Neacola and the chubby 8105.

The mountain god, Peak 8305, The Citadel!

The mountain god, Peak 8305, The Citadel!

The Citadel and Peak 8505, Mount Iliamna in the distance.

The Citadel and Peak 8505, Mount Iliamna in the distance.

But there were plenty of other beauties around, in fact, everywhere I turned their was a nameless, perfect representation of the word mountain. To add more drama to already amazing scenery Mount Redoubt and Mount Iliamna towered of in the distance.

Peak 8065 and Mount Redoubt.

Peak 8065 and Mount Redoubt.

We flew to the west side of the mountains and ran into the same wall of clouds. As the sun set they became a glorious yellow ocean that stretched all the way to the Bering Sea.

The yellow sea

The yellow sea

Perfect light

Perfect light

We weaved in and out of mountains for an hour until the light left the peaks, only a pink glow remained in the sky. Our absolute amazement of the mountains and the light made our stay out there a tad bit too long and we had to race out of the mountains before it got too dark, we were flying by sight!

Mount Neacola

Mount Neacola

West face of peak 8505

West face of peak 8505

Luckily, we made it to the flats right before dark. We flew in the pitch black of night, with only the lights of Anchorage as our guide. We landed with ease at Merrill Field, exactly four hours after we had left.

last light on Mount Redoubt

last light on Mount Redoubt

I am still basking in the glorious light of that amazing flight. Thanks again Dan!

Also, Thanks to my friend Steve Gruhn who informed me of the names of the peaks that I thought had no names!

Neacola Nightmare


I hate cold water. I always have. When I was a teenager I wanted to surf, but the water (central California) was too cold for me, even with a wetsuit. I have never liked like cold swimming pools or swimming holes, know matter how hot the outside temperatures were. When I moved to Alaska, my dislike of cold water grew. I learned  that is was possibly the most dangerous thing in the state, more dangerous than the bears or avalanches, cold water was an unforgiving killer and I swore to avoid it as much as possible.

We landed on the shores of the ethereal Turquoise Lake. It was late afternoon and we had many miles to cover. There were four of us: lead guide Andy, clients Colin and Patrick and me, the tag-a-long. I was not a client or a guide, however,  I was not an outside observer, I was part of the group and I wanted to make sure that everyone felt that way.

There have been many stories of photographers joining expeditions, brought on because of their mountain skills, not their photo skills, whom later let their team down, putting photography above the well fair of the group. I was not going to be that photographer. This was not my trip.

We worked our way up valley, switching between boots and river shoes, crossing braided streams, then rocky cliffs. It was drizzling and I was not amused. Alaska was having the best weather of any summer anyone could remember, except in the Alaska Range and except for me. This was my third trip this year and once again the weather was foul. But my mood was still high, this was only day one of a twelve day trip, the weather would get better.

Patrick crossing glowing moss and River Beauty.

Patrick crossing glowing moss and River Beauty.

Our goal that day was to camp near the firn line on the Turquoise Glacier. There is only one way to get onto the Turquoise Glacier and that was on the other side of the river. We marched on spongy, glowing green moss and around black lichen blanketed rocks. A fine mist hung on the mountain tops, we felt were sneaking into the mountains of Mordor, there was a gloomy, dark feeling to everything around us.

We reached the crossing spot, a place Andy had crossed before. It looked big, swift, scary. Andy went out a third of a way in the brown river and decided that it was too swift. It was already 7:00PM and we were wet and hungry so we decided to camp at the crossing and tackle it in the morning when the volume would be lower and we would be warm and well rested.

We had a great dinner under the cooking tarp, learning about each other, telling jokes, sipping a little whisky (Colin owns a popular bar in DC and had brought up some of his finest drink). The rain let up around 10:00pm and I spent the last hours of daylight photographing the moody cliffs and the abundant waterfalls that descended down every gully.

We got up early but had a leisurely breakfast, no one seemed motivated to tackle the river. It had rained all night and the river looked more swollen than the night before. During our after dinner explorations we had discovered a heavily braided section up river and decided that would be the better crossing.


One of the many beautiful streams that rush out of the Neacola Mountains.

We were already a little behind schedule and had a huge day ahead of us, including a high, steep pass. We needed to get moving. We lugged our monster packs to the first of many braids and put on our river shoes, wrapping our boots over the back of our necks. We were only a mile from the toe of the glacier and the water was cold, evil cold, ice chunks were floating by. Quickly my feet went numb as we splashed through braid after braid, looking for a good spot, nothing. My feet slowly became bricks, lacking feeling. I was feeling nervous and apprehensive, I was having doubts the river would go. My feet hurt.

“Can we go another way, the other side of the glacier?’ I asked Andy, the only one familiar with the area.

“no, the river is the only way.” he insisted. He had crossed the river multiple times before, it would go.

I have always been known as mister safety, the guy who always turns back. I have had many disgruntled climbing partners, not impressed with my lack of courage and unwillingness to push the safety envelope. Part of me wanted to just say no, no way, and yet I didn’t want to be that guy again, safety boy, the one to alter the trip, end the journey.

We found a spot, ten feet across, but moving fast. We were all starting to shiver a little, it was time, now or never. We set up a pack line, Andy, then Patrick, Colin and me at the tail. We listened to Andy’s commands: left, right, left, right. I kept my head down, swearing to myself that I wouldn’t swim. We were hardly moving, I looked up and witnessed water boiling deeper up Andy, nearing his naval. Colin was shaking, so was I.

And then it all ended.

Andy went first, in slow motion I watched him go by, down the river. Then Patrick, six-foot four and 250 pounds, gone. Colin and I held our ground but it was useless, down went Colin.

I screamed, I was going to die the way I told myself I would never would, via cold water.  The next thing I knew I was under water.

Proper river swimming etiquette goes like this: Unbuckle your waist and sternum strap before crossing. Take pack off and sit, facing down river, feet up. You then use one arm to paddle to shore while the other arm holds onto your pack.

What I was doing was text-book alright, text-book on how to die!

I was rolling sideways down the river, like a big rock. Under water, then above, under then above. I screamed for help each time my head was up. What had I done wrong? I had made a stupid, critical decision, I had kept my sternum strap on.

I tried to un-snap it while I was rolling but my hands were unresponsive and I was panicking, Mr. Calm and Collective was freaking out. Then I snapped out of it.

“Shut up Carl, no is going to save you, save yourself.” My brain said, ignoring my cries for help. I struggled and got myself pointed down river, looked at the river and realized I was about to float near the shore, I flipped, swam like hell and clawed the bank, I made it.

I lay there, half way in the river screaming at my useless hands as I tried to undo the strap. Finally, I got it unbuckled and dragged myself on the shore. I put my head in my hands and tried to comprehend what just happened, why I did what I did. I was terrified but alive. I looked up and saw Patrick way up river, Andy and Colin were down near me. Andy looked at me and gave me the thumbs up, I returned the signal. Then put my head in my hands again. I looked at my legs, gushing blood, my feet were purple, swollen, cuts everywhere. One of my river shoes had been torn off. My ankle looked broken, but I didn’t feel any pain, but there could be no way that I was okay, everything looked bad. I looked up, Andy was still staring at me, Again he signaled, thumbs up or down? Down I signaled this time.

Something else seemed wrong, I couldn’t see well, I had lost my glasses. Luckily, I had a pair of prescription sunglasses too. But something else was not right and then I realized, I was on the other side of the river, they were not.

I was shivering and then my years of experience kicked in.

“Your own your own now, time to get moving”, I thought.

I stripped naked right there on the rocks, opened my pack and pulled out my dry bag, opened it with worry, but everything was dry. I put on warm dry layers and socks. I grabbed my tent, sleeping bag, water, a little food. I looked at Andy, he knew what I was going to do. I also noticed that Colin was jumping up and down and that he didn’t have a pack.

“Where’s Colin’s Pack?” I yelled across the river. Andy pointed down the river.

I don’t think I have ever set up a tent so fast and within a few minutes I was in my dry sleeping bag, eating food, getting warm. I sat there, angry at myself.

Ego usually plays the main role in mountain accidents. Had my ego played a role? Was being tough and brave all of a sudden important to me? It was strange. Part of me did believe the river would go and we made a team decision, my gut however knew it was a bad idea. No one was at fault, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had messed up, that I let Ego prevail.

And then there was the sternum strap issue that almost drowned me. It was a conscious decision. I knew better but I still didn’t unbuckle it. I think part of what I was thinking was that an explorer never loses their pack, your pack is your life. The other thing was that the pack was heavy and the sternum strap kept me balanced. If I had been calm, I would have unbuckled the strap as soon as I saw Andy swim. But I wasn’t calm, I was cold, scared and stubborn and was NOT GOING TO SWIM! If I would have just relaxed and went with the river, my swim would have been a much less dramatic of an experience.

An hour later I heard my name called. I crawled out, Andy was on a river bar mid-river.

“Are you Okay?” he yelled.

“Yes, I have got food, I am warm and I think I can hike out.” I screamed over the rage of the river.

“Okay, we are heading out, I will return, maybe tonight.” He waved and the three of them descended into the mist.

My swim was terrible, however, the others did fine. Andy got beat up a little and lost a river shoe. Patrick managed to muscle himself to shore, on his hand and knees. His knees were swollen and he had lost his boots and poles but he was in good spirits. Colin, the one with the least experience, had a smooth swim, calm and relaxed, until a huge rock hit him in between his legs, making him let go of his pack.

They hiked the four miles down to the lake shore.  Colin carried Patrick’s pack because  Patrick had no boots. On the way down they watched Colin’s pack float by and get stuck on a bar in the middle of the river. When they reached the shore, Andy called Lake Clark Air and scheduled a pick up for Patrick and Colin. He also told them to,

“Bring me a pack raft.”

Back in the tent. I kept going over and over the event in my head. I couldn’t shake it. I was mad and disappointed in myself. I believed the trip was done, I mean, Colin’s pack was gone (I didn’t know at the time that Patrick didn’t have boots either). I tried to listen to music but realized everything on my iPod was sad and depressing. Then I remembered that I downloaded a bunch of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me podcasts, just what I needed to lighten my mood.

I was still very concerned about my legs and especially my feet. They were very swollen but I felt no pain nor did any of the cuts hurt. I cleaned out as many as I could but ran out of wound care supplies.  I tried to keep them elevated.

The river, doesn't look so bad does it?

The river, doesn’t look so bad does it?

Twenty four hours past and still no Andy. Plenty of scenarios were running through my head. Again, my self-preservation mentality kicked in.I decided to prep for my escape. First, I needed to decide if I was going to be able to hike. My feet felt really strange; was it a cold related injury? impact injury? Or were they swollen for other reasons? I decided to hike up to the glacier and see if I could cross at the toe and come back down. Andy was positive it would not go, but I would rather take my chances with a glacier than a river, no matter how sketchy it was.

My feet worked, they felt strange but no pain. The glacier would go, I was sure of it. Unfortunately, on the other side of the river, near the glacier’s toe, was one of the most spectacular and frightening waterfalls I had ever seen. It exploded out of the mountain with utter rage and descended to the main river without hesitation, it was impassable. Another option was to head down river but at some point the river hugs the cliffs and I would be screwed.

I didn’t want to accept it but, I was going to have to cross again.

Survival mode sent me into a series of decisions.I couldn’t cross without poles (I lost mine during the swim). So I took my tripod apart and created two poles with its legs. My pack was too heavy to cross by myself or to swim with, so I needed to lighten up. The bear canister was drenched inside so I took out all the food out. Everything that was waterlogged; rice, noodles and granola, I dumped in the river. I decided to keep four days worth of food. I didn’t have a stove so I dumped my fuel.

My conversion from tripod to trekking poles. Worked great.

My conversion from tripod to trekking poles. Worked great.

The rain had stopped and a good breeze came from down valley. I draped all my wet gear on the bushes. My plan was to watch this small stream on the other side. It would be my meter on how much water was coming out of the mountains. The night before the swim it was just a trickle, now it was flowing really well. When that creek went down, I would look for a crossing.

An hour later I saw two figures heading my way on the other side. It was Andy and Colin. Colin? Why was he still here? He didn’t have a pack! They walked past me and went to an area where there were no braids in the river. Andy looked at me, made a swimming motion and pointed at the spot.

“No Way!” I thought,  “He wants me to just dive in and swim?”. I packed slowly, trying to imagine the suffering I was about to endure. Then I saw him blowing up a raft. (I would later find out he made a paddling motion, not a swimming one.)

We then shuttled the pack raft back and forth, first with my pack and then with me in it. It went without a hitch and the raft ride was fun. Our morale shot through the roof as we headed down stream, happy with our successful rescue.

“We plan to keep going” Andy said. I stopped.

“What? Colin doesn’t have a pack!”

“We rescued it with the pack raft!” Colin exclaimed.

With heavy heart I broke the news that I had dumped food and fuel. They had also lost food because of flooded bear barrels but they were bound and determined to continue the adventure. We stopped at the bottom of a pass that led on a different route. I got caught up in their enthusiasm and agreed to continue with them.

They hiked down to retrieve the rest of their gear and I stayed and rested. They were gone about three hours, long enough for me to come to grip with the fact that the trip was over for me. I was still rattled mentally and my feet were swollen and not right. Together, we barely had enough food and fuel for four days. We had a ton of extra gear: pack raft, paddles, ropes.

When they returned I told them I was going to head out. It just made sense, I was a third wheel now, possibly injured. I would carry the extra gear out and would give them my food. The fuel would last longer with just the two of them. I decided to stay one last night with them. We ate good and sipped more whiskey from the one flask that survived the river.

The next morning I left my two wet friends, huddle under a tarp. My pack weighed more than it did when we started the trip but I was happy to help them out. I wanted Colin to have a good adventure in Alaska. I was jealous that they were able to continue.

I marched for three hours under a heavy burden, both physically and mentally. It rained the entire time. My lifeless feet crossed slippery boulders, skirted cliffs and crossed braided stream after braided stream. The Neacolas were doing everything they could to encourage my departure. For the first time in my life I felt rejected by the mountains.

I set up my tent on the shore of Turquoise Lake and waited for the plane.Then the rain stopped and a brightness over took my tent. I crawled out to some glorious sun, the first I had seen the entire trip and at that moment the sound of the plane echoed through the valley. And for the first time in my life I said out loud,

” I hate you mountains”.

Packing for my next trip: Neacola Traverse

In 2007, my friend Dan Oberlatz and his longtime client Mark Stevens made a 55 mile traverse of the Neacola Mountains in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Since that trip he has told me its one of the best trips in the Neacolas. So next week I will be tagging along on that same traverse with a Alaska Alpine Adventures guide and his two clients. I won’t be guiding the trip, just tagging along, but will help out if need be.

The Neacola Mountains are the southern anchor of the Alaska Range, jumbled together with the northern end of the volcanic Aleutian Range. My first Alaska fly-in backpacking trip was to the Neacolas in 2002, Turquoise and Twin Lakes area. I also did a trip in the northern end of the Neacolas in 2007, Shamrock Glacier area.

Shamrock Lake, from my 2007 trip to the Northern Neacola Mountains

Shamrock Lake, from my 2007 trip to the northern Neacola Mountains

This trip is consider one of the hardest trips that Alaska Alpine Adventures offers. It’s all off trail with 30+ miles of glacier travel, 4 high passes, lots of scree and moraine, deep river crossings and even some good old fashion bush-whacking, sounds awesome! This trip will take us across the longest glacier in the range along with the highest peak, Mount Neacola.

Because I am a guest and not a paid guide or paying client, I need to be able to handle anything and be self-sufficient. When it’s not your trip, you need to be conscious of the other members, their desires and skills. The last thing you want to be is a burden, you want to contribute to the team. Weight is a major concern on this trip. Food for 11 days will be heavy, and the rugged terrain will be awkward with a heavy pack, so my camera gear needs to be minimal.

I have really enjoyed using the 70-200 f4 with my D800e but I just can’t justify the extra weight of a second lens. Everything needs to fit in my Naneu C7 bag. So I will bring the following:

D800e with L-plate, Nikon 24-70mm lens, 10-stop B+W ND filter, B+W polarizer, 2- 32gb media cards, remote release, 4 batteries and my trusty old Gitzo Mountaineer tripod with its Linhoff head.

Like my other trips, I have partnered with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation and will be looking for ice worms along with collecting water samples from various sources.

This should be a great, tough trip and I am looking forward to the challenge. See you in a few weeks.