Wilderness Ski Week 2013 Trip Report

Good, stable, safe conditions and a great crew made for a memorable Second Annual Wilderness Ski Week with Andrew McLean based at Ultima Thule Lodge. Here’s the report from guides Eli Potter and Tyler Reid.

 

Wilderness Ski Week at Ultima Thule Lodge

All thumbs up after a five star day.

 

The concept with Wilderness Ski Week is to bring together some of the biggest and most remote skiing in the world, elite mountain pilots including Paul Claus, Jay Claus, Ben Gray, and Steve Davidson, ski mountaineering icon Andrew McLean and a team of guides at the top of their game. Ultima Thule Lodge, a destination in itself, serves as our base of operations.

 

Ultima Thule Main Lodge

Ultima Thule Main Lodge, Spring 2013. Photo by Tod Francis.

 

Ultima Thule Lodge guest cabins in Spring

Guest cabins in spring, looking across the Chitina River. Photo by Tod Francis.

 

Pilots Paul Claus and Ben Gray at Ultima Thule Lodge

Pilots Ben Gray (left) and Paul Claus (right) talk shop in the Main Lodge.

 

The rest of our crew flew in on March 31st and we were psyched to report prime skiing conditions. Over the course of the next five days our group proved not only to be all around great people, but strong, motivated, and experienced backcountry skiers and splitboarders, of which we had two in our group.

 

Andrew McLean at Ultima Thule Lodge with Wild Alpine Guides.

Andrew welcomes everyone to the Lodge with an intro slideshow and champagne toast.

 

Wilderness Ski Week with Andrew McLean and Black Diamond at Ultima Thule Lodge

Andrew talks R&D on his Black Diamond "Whippet".

 

Andrew McLean at Ultima Thule Lodge with Wild Alpine Wilderness Ski Week 2013

Andrew talks knot shop with John and Titus.

 

Paul Claus and the Turbine Otter at Ultima Thule Lodge with Wild Alpine Guides

Paul gives a morning briefing to the team before loading the Otter.

Turbine Otter at Ultima Thule Lodge with Wild Alpine

Loading the Otter.

 

Plane access ski touring in Wrangell St Elias National Park Alaska with Wild Alpine Guides

Bravo Kilo dusts skiers on it's way out of the mountains.

Plane access ski touring in Wrangell St Elias National Park Alaska with Wild Alpine Guides

Bravo Kilo buzzes skiers after take-off.

Weather conditions were stellar with predominantly clear and sunny days, minimal wind, and temps ranging from touring in a baselayer to as cold as -15°F (touring in a down parka). We skied alpine glaciers, big faces, off of summits, 50°+ couloirs, and everything in between, with stats coming in at 26,920′ feet of ascent, and thanks to high landings and low pickups, 33,120′ of descent!

 

Plane access ski touring with Wild Alpine Guides in Wrangell St Elais National Park Alaska

The first steps of daily average 4000' vertical climbing.

Plane access ski touring with Wild Alpine Guides in Wrangell St Elais National Park Alaska

Sunny, snowy skin tracks.

Plane access skiing in Wrangell St Elias National Park with Wild Alpine Guides

Sayaka skinning on Couli Day in the Granite Range.

Skiing couloirs in Wrangell St Elias National Park with Wild Alpine and Ultima Thule Lodge

Couli day!

Plane access ski touring in Wrangell St Elias National Park Alaska with Wild Alpine Guides

Couli's here ... pick yer couli.

Plane access ski touring in Wrangell St Elias National Park Alaska with Wild Alpine Guides

Blue light and long evening shadows, must be April in Alaska.

Plane access ski touring in Wrangell St Elias National Park Alaska with Wild Alpine Guides

13.2 million acres to choose from.

Plane access ski touring in Wrangell St Elias National Park Alaska with Wild Alpine Guides

Mmmmm, yep. That's just how we like it.

Plane access ski and splitboard touring in Wrangell St Elias National Park Alaska with Wild Alpine Guides

John, pow surfing.

Plane access ski and splitboard touring with Wild Alpine Guides in Wrangell St Elais National Park AlaskaPlane access ski and splitboard touring with Wild Alpine Guides in Wrangell St Elais National Park AlaskaPlane access ski and splitboard touring with Wild Alpine Guides in Wrangell St Elais National Park Alaska

Plane access ski and splitboard touring in Wrangell St Elias National Park Alaska with Wild Alpine Guides

Approaching the end of the run, the ride home.

 

Plane access ski and splitboard touring with Wild Alpine Guides in Wrangell St Elais National Park Alaska

Pilot Jay Claus and Axel B heading home in Tango Cub.

Plane access ski and splitboard touring with Wild Alpine Guides in Wrangell St Elais National Park Alaska

Unloading the Otter.

Plane access ski touring with Wild Alpine Guides in Wrangell St Elais National Park Alaska

Guests share slideshows from adventures around the world. Japow on the menu this night.

Plane access ski and splitboard touring in Wrangell St Elias National Park Alaska with Wild Alpine Guides

Bear, Karate Kid, Cowboy ... it was a tie.

 

Plane access ski and splitboard touring with Wild Alpine Guides in Wrangell St Elais National Park Alaska

Daily tally: more than 26K up, 33K down. Not too shabby.

Want to see more fun photos? Visit our flickr photostream. Interested in joining us next year? The roster is already filling up, so get in touch for details and availability. Learn more here: Andrew McLean’s Wilderness Ski Week

 

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