Getting to the Wrangle-Elias Range

Several people have asked me about options for getting to the southern end of the Kluane Park and the peaks around Mount Kennedy, Vancouver and Augusta.

You could drive from Seattle. I’ve always thought it would be a pretty interesting trip. Last time we took the ferry back from Haines to Skagway and that was really cool . It’s about 1600 miles from Seattle to Haines (you can’t drive to Yakutat). So I guess it depends if you want to trade time for money. I’ve left Seattle on the morning flight and been on the glacier the same evening! – flying Alaskan Airlines to Yakutat and then to the glacier from there. Even with Paul Swanstrom flying up from Haines you could still arrive in Yakutat and get him to fly you in that afternoon or the next morning, weather permitting. Pilots tend to prefer flying early when the snow is harder as takeoff is easier.

As for air services the only ones I’ve ever considered are:

Andy Newton out of White Horse (is this “Icefields Discovery”?). I’ve never used him but lots of people do. The minus about flying from White Horse is that it’s on the east side of the range and it seems like it’s easier to get stuck there waiting for weather.

Paul Swanstrom out of Haines. I’ve used him once and my buddy Paul has used him a couple of times. He’s very solid and pretty conservative about what’s possible – a good trait in a pilot in my opinion. Haines is about the same distance as White Horse but on the west side. I’d have him meet me in Yakutat – we didn’t do this last time because we didn’t ask the right questions. If you were a party of four doing two trips this would be a lot cheaper as you’d only pay for the Haines-Yakutat leg once with a light plane. To me the only minus of this approach is you get to hang out in Yakutat not Haines (Haines is much nicer).

Flying into Haines is expensive. The puddle jumper flights aren’t cheap and they really make you pay for baggage so that killed us because at that point we had all our food. I would try and avoid additional air taxi flights for this reason alone. Haines has a couple of OK supermarkets but you’d have less choice and the prices are higher than Seattle. You could fly to Haines and buy all your food their just about but direct from Seattle to Yakutat is simpler.

Paul Claus from Ultima Thule. This is a much better option for the University, Bona end of the range. It involves a lot more agro to get to the airstrip and he’s at the wrong end of the range for Kennedy so it’s a longer flight. I considered using him for a trip to the University-Bona area – which is very close to his lodge. He also flies a much bigger plane I think – so it might work out for you economically with a bigger party. His lodge is a really up market affair and not on the road – I seem to remember we would have had to fly in there. Dave Burdick has flown with him, you can read his report on their trip.

If I were doing it again I’d either fly directly to Yakutat and have Paul Swanstrom meet me there and fly in the same day or the following morning weather permitting – spend money save time. Or drive to Haines or White Horse and fly from there – interesting drive save cash.

Note: You pay twice for the aircraft landing in the Kluane Park – once in and once out.