Bush flying in Alaska is the ultimate adventure and is often the only way to access remote regions of the Last Frontier. Travel by small plane is a way of life for many who live in here. Remote regions within the state are often inaccessible by road and characterized by rough terrain. Outfitting small planes with large tires, floats or skis increase the capability for travel beyond the normal constraints of landing strips and runways. Wild Alpine relies on specialize aircraft and highly trained pilots to bring you to the Alaska’s wild places. Our guests (and guides!) often report that flying above the Alaskan landscape is a highlight of their adventure.
A Brief History
In 1921, Carl Ben Eielson flew Alaska’s first USPS air mail delivery from Fairbanks to McGrath. It took him four hours to cross the 250 mile expanse of wilderness. Prior to Eielson’s feat, the only way to travel the stretch of sub-arctic wilderness was to use a team of dogs, known as mushing, which often took up to 20 days.
In the late 1930′s Bob Reeve tested techniques of landing on glaciers with ski-equipped planes. His motto was: “Anywhere you’ll ride, I’ll fly!” Reeve’s son-in-law, Don Sheldon, refined the skill to an art-form. He had generous backing from explorer and photographer Bradford Washburn, who helped pioneer the art of aerial photography while flying over the Alaskan peaks. Before his death in 1975, Sheldon raised the bar for bush flying and a new generation of pilots followed his lead.
Today, mountain aviation is the standard by which bush pilots measure their professional expertise. They push the limits of the profession by flying further distances and climbing higher altitudes aided by powerful technology. These pilots enable hikers, climbers, and skiers to access previously unattainable terrain in the remote wilds of hUltima Thule Outfitters
Wild Alpine is proud to partner with Paul Claus of Ultima Thule Outfitters. Paul is a highly-respected leader in mountain aviation, and a direct descendant and protege of the early glacier-landing pioneers. His father John Claus, a contemporary of Don Sheldon, practically raised Paul in the cockpit. John logged countless hours flying climbers and hunters deep into Alaskan mountain territory. Ultima Thule’s team now includes three generations of Claus’s – Ellie, Jay and Logan – who have all found their wings and help with day-to-day operations.
Paul Claus is also a skilled mountaineer. He has shared the rope with some of the best climbers and skiers of our time, including; Carlos Buhler, Alex Lowe, Peter Habeler, and Seth Morrison. Given his combination of talents and experience, Paul’s knowledge of the Wrangell-St. Elias area is unsurpassed.
“… Recounted and repeated at airfields and grimy taverns all around the Last Frontier, Paul Claus stories constitute a library of tales so numerous and sundry as to demand cataloging. For starters, there are the stories about his flying exploits, many stemming from his unsurpassed ability to insinuate an airplane onto postage-stamp snowfields, boulder-strewn ice shelves, wind-scoured mountaintops, and hanging glaciers — spots so tight and steep that upon landing he anchors an ice screw to tether the plane, and to take off he leans out of the window with a knife, slashes the tether, and hurtles downslope. Then you could add up Claus’s various climbing feats, including first ascents of the Wetterhorn, Mount Miller, Mount Gunnar Naslund, and Mount George…”
— Outside Magazine
Gary Green started McCarthy Air in 1988; however, the idea for an air taxi service was seeded years before. He moved to McCarthy in 1973, swelling the town population to seven, and has been a year-round resident of the area since that time. Like many Alaskans, Gary began making a living as a miner, graduated to hunting guide and in 1975 acquired his private pilot’s license. A year later Gary began flying friends around the Wrangell Mountains and the state of Alaska. Having flown the area for over 25 years in every season, Gary knows intimately the history of this great land. McCarthy Air provides charters to McCarthy from various points throughout Alaska plus backcountry drop-offs in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.