On an Alaska Alpine Adventures ski trip, these skiers prepare for a descent from a pass in the Neacola Mountains. Beyond the glacial valley below them, the iconic peak, Citadel, looms large.
For almost two decades we at Alaska Alpine Adventures have been inspired by the Neacola Mountains of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.
On winter ski tours, volcanic summit expeditions and summer backpacking traverses, we have enjoyed exploring the incredible peaks, passes, valleys and glaciers of this seldom visited mountain range. See the Neacolas for yourself on our featured Trip of the Month: Turquoise Glacier High Route.
In the winter of 1989-90, I was a 19 y/o enjoying my first season as a real ski bum, and I’d chosen Tahoe’s Squaw Valley as my playground. Squaw had an evolving reputation, and for me it felt big and scary. So the notion of backcountry skiing, in areas beyond the eyeballs KT-22 or Headwall lifts, seemed inconceivable. But less than a month into that season, we mid-week pass holders were kicked into the annual two-week Christmas break ski embargo. If necessity is the mother of invention and boredom is the father of recreation, then my friends and I were both needy and bored. So we strapped our skis onto our backpacks, loosened our stiff and tight ski boots, and spent the better part of the next two weeks “booting” up a timbered ridge adjacent to Squaw’s neighboring resort, Alpine Meadows. Then and there my backcountry ski career began exactly as it felt - a forced effort of lugging a heavy alpine ski kit with not much more than a book bag. It kind-of sucked and sort-of worked, but it got us out and helped fill the longest two-week period of our lives with fresh air and a few turns.
This shot of Aaron Fetter and me was taken by our friend and ski partner, Dan Young last week as we enjoyed a day of Piper Super Cub skiing in deep in the heart of Alaska's Chigmit Mountains. Cub skiing could be called "poor man's helicopter skiing", but after 10,000 vertical feet of powder in 4 spectacular runs, we felt far from impoverished! In all honesty though, I think our pilots had more fun than we did.
When the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in 1989, the word's attention was drawn to Alaska and, more specifically, to Prince William Sound. While the oil spill was most certainly devastating, it did introduce to the world to this most spectacular and diverse marine ecosystem. Today, nearly 30 years later and despite lingering evidence of the spill, the Sound is alive with abundant wildlife and classic Alaska scenery. Glaciers, fjords, dense conifer forests, upland peat bogs, alpine tundra, and interesting geomorphology characterize this astoundingly beautiful region of Alaska. With nearly 60 inches of rain annually and close to 300 inches of wintertime snows, Prince William Sound's climate is characterized as a coastal temperate rainforest. With average summer high temperatures in the 60's and average winter lows in the 20's, the Sound offers incredible summer sea kayaking tours and incomparable backcountry skiing during the winter and spring months. Alaska Alpine Adventures has been guiding tours in Prince William Sound for over 10 years, and we're excited to share this incredible wilderness with you.
Established in 1917 with the mission of conserving wildlife, Denali National Park encompasses 6 million acres of Alaska’s wilderness, and is often seen as the crown jewel of the National Park System. Flaunting complete unaltered ecosystems, countless rivers, glaciers and expanses of tundra, and the tallest peak in North America, Denali is not to be missed. Since it’s creation, Denali National Park has been the laboratory of a phenomenal group of scientists who have been able to study the magic of an intact subarctic ecosystem. From Denali’s famed wolves to the abundant caribou and moose populations, the Park holds within its boundaries one of the most incredibly diverse, stable, and most studied wildlife populations in Alaska. Denali has also provided the venue for some of the most amazing feats of exploration in North American history. From the first ascent of The Great One (Denali) to rugged circumnavigations of the park, Denali’s size and magnitude attracts explorers from around the globe. The name Denali is an Athabascan word meaning “the high one”. The peak was originally named Mt. McKinley after President William McKinley of Ohio, who actually had no ties to the area. However on a visit to Alaska in September of 2015, President Obama announced that the name would officially be change to Denali!
Denali, the mountain, and the area surrounding Moraine Lake, where we operate our wilderness trips, are all within Denali National Park and Preserve. Mt. McKinley Park was created in 1917, however most of today’s park, including the summit of Denali, was not within this original area. The Park’s original purpose was to serve as a preserve for Dall’s Sheep. Denali National Monument was designated by Jimmy Carter in 1978. And in 1980, Denali National Park and Preserve, as it exists today, was created by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (known as ANILCA). The park and preserve today are comprised of over 6 million acres.
Alpine Adventures has been guiding trips to Denali since 2003. From hiking to backpacking trips and multisport tours in Denali, our crew of Alaska guides knows the park well.
To this day, Lake Clark National Park represents the roots of our enterprise. Not only is it where we guided our first trip and the base of summertime operations, it is also the backdrop for most of our itineraries and, quite simply, our favorite place on earth to explore. From white summits of glacier-clad volcanoes, laced ribbons of wild and scenic rivers, endless expanses of verdant tundra, to salmon choked waters of azure lakes, Lake Clark is without equal. Since its creation in 1980 to protect the amazing scenery, abundant wildlife and traditional lifestyles of its residents, it has been hailed as Alaska’s epitome and for Alaska Alpine Adventures it remains home. Lake Clark National Park is situated where the mighty Alaska range collides with the expansive Aleutian Range. It contains roughly 80 miles of rugged coastline, countless rivers, glaciers, and unnamed peaks. At just over 4 million acres, Lake Clark is roughly twice the size of Yellowstone National Park and larger than the state of Connecticut.
Dan Oberlatz, owner of Alaska Alpine Adventures, has been exploring Lake Clark National Park since 1992, and thinks it is the finest, yet most under-appreciated wilderness area in the entire national park system. Not only does Lake Clark National Park offer the rare opportunity to truly explore wilderness that has never seen a human foot print, it is also home to some of Alaska’s most spectacular backpacking, hiking, kayaking, and rafting trips – a few of which are now considered Alaska classics and originally pioneered by founders Dan Oberlatz and Derek Nelson.
In August of 2008, Dan Oberlatz was joined by writer Daniel Duane, an editor from Men's Journal Magazine, and renowned adventure photo journalist Corey Rich, to write a feature article on threat of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay region (See our Pebble Mine page for details). Corey was so impressed with the area, and with Lake Clark National Park in particular, that he is now regards it as "...one of the wildest places on the planet!"