Neacola High Route
Lake Clark National Park

Neacola High Route - Lake Clark National Park

In 2007, owner Dan Oberlatz and longtime client Mark Stevens (a man who this year took his 13th consecutive trip with AAA) completed a 55-mile traverse of the remote and rugged Neacola Mountains, deep in the inner sanctum of Lake Clark National Park. Their route took them from the astonishingly breathtaking Turquoise Lake and north to the remote and rarely visited Two Lakes. Rather than choosing the path of least resistance by following the tundra country on west side of the rugged Neacolas, they instead chose to go east and into the glaciated gut of the range. Their route took them across 30+ miles of glacier ice, over 4 high glacier passes, down polished granite slabs, up miles of loose talus and moraine, across braided glacier rivers, through thickets of dense green alder, and along ancient bear trails to the shores of Two Lakes.

*While Alaska Alpine Adventures endeavors to follow our itineraries as written, odds are in fact slim that you actually will.  The expeditionary factors at play quite often compel our guides to deviate from the written itinerary.  Guide considerations could include weather conditions, group preference, individual ability, specific safety considerations, or unforeseeable circumstances; collectively what many have called “The Alaska Factor.”  Therefore we strongly suggest that you approach any adventure in Alaska with an open mind.

Trip Details

DURATION 12 Days
LENGTH 60 miles
INTENSITY Level 4
SEASON Summer
MIN AGE 14
BEGINS IN Anchorage
ENDS IN Anchorage
AIRPORT Anchorage International Airport (ANC)
WILDLIFE/
SCENERY
bears, mountain passes, glaciers

Their route took them across 30+ miles of glacier ice, over 4 high glacier passes, down polished granite slabs, up miles of loose talus and moraine, across braided glacier rivers, through thickets of dense green alder thickets, and along ancient bear trails to the shores of Two Lakes.  They were so impressed with the route, that despite their exhaustion, they agreed that if they had a resupply it would be worth turning around and doing the trip again in reverse right then and there.   In 2012 they got the chance and with 3 dedicated AAA family members who were looking for a real challenge, they repeated the Neacola High Route.  To this day, Dan Oberlatz calls the Neacola High Route one of the greatest traverses he's ever done. 

What's Included

  • All group gear: Expedition quality tents, group tarp, all cooking equipment & eating utensils
  • Safety Equipment: Satellite phone, maps, GPS, and medical kit
  • Trekking poles
  • Complementary airport transfer
  • Ground Transportation to Merrill Field on Day 1
  • Round trip bush flight transportation from Anchorage to Port Alsworth
  • All internal bush flights
  • Lodging on the final night at the Farm Lodge on Lake Clark
  • Professional guide service at a maximum 4:1 client to guide ratio
  • All meals from dinner on day one through lunch on the final day of the itinerary
  • Storage for your extra travel items while in the field
Day
1

This morning an Alaska Alpine Adventures representative will pick you up in Anchorage by 8:15,  You’ll start the day with an orientation and gear check at our Anchorage facility before heading to Merrill Field for the flight from Anchorage to Port Alsworth, and of the most stunning bush flights in Alaska.   Your guide(s) will greet you when you land, and as you enjoy a delicious lunch along the shores of Lake Clark,  you’ll discuss the adventure and wrap up the trip orientation.  We'll then load into float planes and lift off into the afternoon skies bound for Turquoise Lake. We'll shoulder our loads and head up into the Turquoise Canyon and to our first camp.  After our first delicious wilderness dinner, we'll sit back and bask in the solitude of this amazing wilderness.  Lunch & dinner included.  Distance: 2 miles, Elevation Gain: 300'

Day
2

After breakfast and hot drinks, we'll break camp and continue our way up the stunning "grand canyon" of the Turquoise watershed.  This canyon boasts nearly 6000' of relief, spectacular waterfalls, huge cliffs, and the tumbling waters of the river that shapes the valley.  By early afternoon, we'll be stepping onto the ice of the Turquoise Glacier.  We'll travel un-roped on the sheet ice for the first few miles at which point we'll don harnesses, crevasse rescue gear, and crampons.  After a thorough orientation to roped travel and route finding, we'll continue our journey up the ice.  Camp 2 will be located between 4500-5500 feet and will offer a direct view of our Intuition Pass - our first and the steepest and highest pass of the trip.  All meals included.   Distance: 6-8 miles, Elevation Gain: 2500- 3000'

Day
3

Intuition Pass!  Butterflies will occupy camp this morning as we sip our hot drinks and prepare for the day's challenge and our first pass of the trip.  Intuition Pass (tongue-in-cheek) starts with a steep (up to 45º for the first 200') snow climb which eventually ramps up into a notch which divides Turquoise Lake water from Twin Lakes. After a brief photo and snack stop at the 6700' pass, we'll begin our descent onto the un-named glacier that feeds upper Twin Lake.  As soon as the snow transitions into ice, we'll un-rope and continue our descent off of the ice.  By late afternoon we'll be camped along yet another un-named creek in the Neacolas.  All meals included. Distance: 6-7 miles, Elevation Gain: 2400-3000’

Day
4

Chickalusion Pass!  Another astounding adventure will be drawn from today's tap - the intimidating Chickalusion Pass.  Though completely straightforward in execution, our second pass offers plenty of challenge,  absolutely insane views of rock spires and hanging glaciers, and an exciting descent down the granite slabs on the pass's east escarpment.  But what really sets this day apart from the others is the fact that today you'll truly feel the commitment of the trip as you enter the inner sanctum of the Neacolas and the approximate geographic center of the 4-million-acre Lake Clark National Park.  We'll set up camp on the ice of the North Fork Glacier at approximately 4000'.  All meals included.  Distance: 5 miles, Elevation Gain: 2800'

Day
5

Today is a built-in layover day or a weather day that may have already been used earlier on the expedition.  If not, we'll take today to explore the massive North Fork Glacier.  All meals included.

Day
6

Moving up the North Fork Glacier, over Drop C Pass and down onto the Neacola Glacier will fill today's agenda.  Again, after the morning's hot beverage and granola, we'll begin the day with a 5-mile march up the spectacular east flank of the North Fork Glacier.  Weather permitting , we'll enjoy rarified views of Mt. Neacola (Peak 9400') the highest peak in the Neacola Mountains and the 3rd highest peak in Lake Clark National Park.  Eventually we'll round the corner trending north to crest Drop C at nearly 5400'.   By early afternoon, we'll be descending the upper reaches of the Neacola Glacier - the longest valley glacier in Lake Clark National Park.  We'll un-rope as soon as we step off snow and onto the blue sheet ice and will continue down toward the confluence of the 3 forks of the Neacola Glacier and camp 4.  All meals included.  Distance: 9.5 miles, Elevation Gain: 1800'

Day
7

From camp 4 on the Neacola ice, the views of the surrounding granite peaks are sublime in kind weather conditions.  The solitude from this vantage point in the park is only exceeded by the sheer magnitude of the encompassing real estate - this is BIG country!   Today's route will take us down and off the Neacola Glacier, and up into the alpine tundra of Telaquana Pass.  As we make our way along the descent route, the easy walking on the ice will be replaced by difficult walking on talus covered moraine.  For nearly 2 miles, we'll cautiously meander our way through seemingly endless boulders characteristic of the lower reaches of large valley glaciers in Alaska.  After lunch, we'll cross the north fork of the Neacola River and head east and up toward Telaquana Pass.   We'll finish the day with more talus, a bit of alders, and the ascent to camp 5. All meals included.  Distance: 6.5 miles, Elevation Gain: 900'

Day
8

Waking up in the alpine tundra will be a welcome and warm change when compared to life on the glacier ice and we'll spend the morning enjoying the splendor of Telaquana Pass - the divide between water that feeds Cook Inlet from those feeding Bristol Bay.  By mid-morning we'll be ascending the yet another un-named valley on our way to The Gift Pass - perhaps visually the most intimidating pass of the expedition.  Our route will take us up onto the glacier on the south side of the pass, up a steep headwall, onto the pass's ice cap, and down another headwall on the northwest aspect.  We'll then roll off the glacier and into the Tlikikila River valley.   Camp 6 will be situated among large boulders and the tumbling waters of the upper Tlikikila.  From this camp, it's all down hill to our pickup at Two Lakes.  All meals included. Distance: 6.5 miles, Elevation Gain: 2800'

Day
9

The character of the country will begin to change as we continue our descent down the Tlikikila River.  Here we'll be transitioning from the alpine into the boreal forest common along lower elevation rivers in Alaska.  Today's route will involve some of terrain already encountered along the trip and a sampling of moving through the "big green."   Short thickets of alder and willow thickets will be traded with long stretches of cobble-strewn river bar.  We'll finish the day with an exciting crossing of the Tlikikila River within a mile of camp 7.  All meals included.  Distance: 6.5 miles, Elevation Loss: 1200'

Day
10

Today is a built-in layover day or a weather day that may have already been used earlier on the expedition.  If not, we'll take today to explore the valley to the north of camp 7 - home to a massive granite wall as large as Yosemite's Half Dome.  All meals included. 

Day
11

Of course, how appropriate to save the most difficult day of the trip for last!  Today's route down the north side of the raging Tlikikila River is both difficult and arduous.  It involves nearly 12-miles of alder thickets, river bars, ancient bear trails, and challenging route finding to link it all together.   Today offers the full-on conditions of traveling through the green portion indicated on Alaska topographic maps - this is the real Alaska!  Thankfully, the fact you've now been moving through the Alaska wilderness for the past 10-days straight will provide you with the salt to complete this most amazing expedition.  By early evening, we'll be standing on the shores of Two Lakes and celebrating completion of the incomparable Neacola High Route.  Too soon for most, our float plane will arrive to return us to Port Alsworth and the Farm Lodge - home for our final night.   After showers and a celebratory dinner at the lodge, we’ll tally up our wildlife sightings, and revel in the adventure that we will never forget.  All meals included.   Distance: 11 miles, Elevation Loss: 1100'

Day
12

After breakfast at the lodge, we’ll pay a morning visit to the Lake Clark National Park visitor’s center, where you’ll have a chance to purchase maps and postcards. We'll spend the rest of the day hiking to Tanalian Falls, before boarding an afternoon charter flight back to Anchorage.  If you are departing Alaska on this day, please schedule all homebound flights for after 9 pm.  Breakfast & lunch included.  Distance: 5 miles, Elevation Gain: 800'

*While Alaska Alpine Adventures endeavors to follow our itineraries as written, odds are in fact slim that you actually will.  The expeditionary factors at play quite often compel our guides to deviate from the written itinerary.  Guide considerations could include weather conditions, group preference, individual ability, specific safety considerations, or unforeseeable circumstances; collectively what many have called “The Alaska Factor.”  Therefore we strongly suggest that you approach any adventure in Alaska with an open mind.

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