From the Glaciers to the Tundra: 15 Photos from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

A few of my favorite photos from a week long trip into the wilderness of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

At just over 13 million acres, Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the US's largest national park. It is so large, in fact, that it could fit Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Switzerland inside its boundary. If you have ever been to any of those locations you know they take up quite a bit of space by themselves! The park also takes up an impressive amount of vertical space as well. It spans from the ocean all the way to the towering 18,008' Mount St. Elias. 

In early August, I headed to the park to embark on an 8 day/7 night guided trip with St. Elias Alpine Guides. We traversed five glaciers, carefully navigated unstable moraine, and bushwhacked through miles of trail-less terrain. The route was challenging but it was so much more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. Below is a collection of my favorite images from my trip. 

Channels of dirt and ice, and the occasional glacial pool were visible for miles from the mail plane I took into McCarthy.

Each glacier has unique characteristics - crevasses, moulins (pronounced moo-lan like the Disney movie), ridges, pools, rivers, and caves. The first Glacier we crossed was the rugged Nizina.

We spent the first portion of the trip slowly watching Frederika Mountain grow larger and larger on the horizon until we finally made it to the glacier directly below it.

A stunning late-night sunset captured from my tent! I was just about to go to sleep when I decided to look out my tent just once more and saw this incredible light on the Rohn Glacier.

Crossing a stream on the Frederika Glacier. There were countless of these stream crossings on this trip.

At the edge of the Rohn Glacier we stumbled upon an ice cave. We spent just a few minutes exploring it with our headlamps and realized that the cave was massive and there was no way we could (or should) see how far back it went!

Our group dubbed these chutes "water slides." 

Another glacial feature we would stumble upon from time to time were these brilliant blue pools. They might just be my favorite feature of the glaciers!

We tried to make the most of our packs-off breaks. Sometimes that meant bouldering on nearby rocks!

On the first night, we camped on the moraine that abutted the Nizina Glacier. I fell asleep to the sounds of rocks shifting as the ice under the moraine melted and sloughed them off to new resting spots.

One of the things I loved about this experience was getting to walk on five glaciers and see just how much they differ. The Nizina was deeply crevassed and an all-around gnarly glacier but the Rohn (pictured here) was flat and virtually featureless!

This photo shows the scale of the Nizina. Our guide was scouting our route through the crevasses here.

Our second night was also spent on the moraine, this time with the Regal Glacier and Regal Mountain as our backdrop.

Heading up the Regal Glacier and looking for a good point to cross yet another stream.

While the first half of our trip consisted of sunny skies and warm nights, the rain Alaska is so notorious for caught up to us in the second half. We spent two days in our tents, trying to escape from the rain before it finally cleared up on our last day, just in time for our flight.

Published: August 27, 2017

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Sonja SaxeExplorer

Seattle

Seattle, WA based, adventuring everywhere. I'm on an endless journey to explore and photograph the national parks' scenic backcountry!