Pretty much the only paths in Wrangell-St. Elias are game trails. Use these tips when your route intersects boulders, tundra, or scree.
1. BOOST YOUR BALANCE.
A few months before you head to the park, strengthen your ankles, knees, and mental toughness by hiking the steepest, least-maintained trails you can find near you. Use poles for extra stability.
2. DO YOUR RECONNAISSANCE.
Ask park rangers about relevant glacier conditions before you head out. During the flight in, ask your pilot to fly over your intended route, and keep an eye out for landmarks and divergences from your map. “A lot of our topo maps are from the 1950s,” Ebright says; things change fast in glacier country.
3. PICK LANDMARKS WISELY.
Retreating glaciers and changing river courses make unreliable handrails. Instead, use unmovable objects like ridgelines. Getting cliffed out? Scan the horizon for a ramp you can reach by backtracking. Don’t hesitate to turn around—it might be the only way.
4. MASTER THE ‘SCHWACK.
Stick to high ridges, gravel bars, and game trails to avoid bushwhacking when you can. No choice? Streamline your pack to avoid catching branches.
Keep about 4 feet between you and your partner, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. In dense, thorny brush, spare your face and arms by hiking backward.