SMG in AK (again)


Alaska seems to have a strong pull on guides from SMG.  Kirk heli ski guided there for years, Erik has done numerous trips, Marc H. has done guide training on several occasions, Hatch did a trip a couple years ago…and this year it was calling name.  3 months ago Evan Ross, a friend from Colorado, and I started planning our trip which would take us to the Turnagain Arm, the legendary Chugach Mountains of Thompson Pass (Valdez) and the Big Peaks of the Wrangell Mountains.  Our itinerary: the whole month of May!

mt blackburn

Mount Blackburn 16,390ft

Our main objective for the trip was to climb and ski Mt. Blackburn, which at 16,390ft, is the highest peak in the Wrangell Mountain Range.  Blackburn doesn’t see much traffic, especially ski descents, and we didn’t see a soul during our 17 day stay.  Our base camp was at 7200ft and we had 1 high camp at 9900ft.  Skiable vert?, you do the math.  We chose to go alpine style, light and fast, so we could enjoy skiing as much of mountain as possible.

At high camp we got rocked by weather, stuck with a dwindling food/fuel supply, completely buried by snow and skunked on the route twice due to avy and weather conditions.  Things were looking grim as we sat snowbound in the tent for yet another couple days, pondering the the deeper things in life, while mainly cursing the weather.  However, on May 17th after wallowing through waist deep snow, weaving gaping crevasses, seracs and climbing alpine ice, we were finally rewarded with a beautiful summit view and a 6500ft descent.  With a meter of new snow from two days before, we had the bottom 4000ft to high camp in perfect boot top to knee deep powder!  Ahhh, now we can go back to Anchorage and binge on food…almost as good as the freeze dried!

Special thanks to First Ascent and Smith Optics!




7 Responses to “SMG in AK (again)”

  1. Taylor Says:

    Nice job on sending Mt. Blackburn. Thats the prize jem of the Wrangells. I have a great photo looking from Mt. Jarvis. We skiied the N Ridge a few years ago and the NW ridge had a lot of ice on it. I think I met you guys at the Thule lodge, If your ever in McCarthy I’ll buy guys a drink.
    Peace & Powder,

    • ccrift Says:

      Thanks man…yea I remember we hung out at the Thule lodge. The Nabesna Glacier is amazing and Mt. Blackburn was huge. The north ridge looked pretty cool for sure, but after hearing about your trip, we figured that maybe the NW ridge isn’t in that often so we should take advantage. We stopped in McCarthy on the flight out, super cool spot, when we’re back we’ll hit you up for sure! Have fun up there…


  2. Philip Says:

    Hey Clark,
    great trip! Planning on doing the same! Is Blackburn skiable from top to bottom? The pictures do not look like thats possible?…
    Thanks for your help!
    Ride on!

    • ccrift Says:

      Hi Phil,

      The route we did was skiable from the top, but not clean. The summit is broad, and the first couple thousand feet were pretty mellow, but there was section that we had to rappel further down. There’s a variation to the route that probably goes clean (I think Taylor skied it), but the mountain changes a lot, so it could be different now. When is your trip?


      • Philip Says:

        Hey Clark, thank you for your reply.
        We are planning for 2014 – around April / May. We would definitely like to ski it, if possible! Would you be around the area?

      • ccrift Says:

        I don’t think I’ll be in the area, but I’d hit up Taylor as he lives at the toe of the Kennicott glacier which drains off Blackburn! Shoot me an email if you’d like any photos or other info:

  3. Taylor Says:

    Hey Philip,
    Drop me a line about Blackburn beta. I live out in McCarthy and can point you in the right direction.

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