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Adventurers undertake human-powered trek from Mount Iliamna to downtown Anchorage

Dave BendingerBristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman
Graham Kraft crossing a stream along the Chakachamna River.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
Eben Sargent, Andy Fischer, and Graham Kraft start the hike along the Susitna Flats.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
Eben Sargent momentarily disgusted with how muddy everything is on the Susitna Flats.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
There was no hesitation. What do you do with a huge hotdog that washed up on the beach? Light it on fire! With Graham Kraft, Andy Fischer, Eben Sargent, and Luc Mehl.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
Graham Kraft and Andy Fischer ride the tide to Westchester Lagoon from Point MacKenzie.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
Graham Kraft crossing Cook Inlet at sunset. Mt. Susitna (Sleeping Lady) in the background.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
Jeff Crompton and Andy Fischer approach another ski line in the Chigmit Range.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
Andy Fischer skiing down Iliamna.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
We weathered out a storm in an ice tunnel at the base of Mt. Redoubt. Carrying skies to the upper entrance of the ice tunnel, the first ~50 m were skiable on snow that had blown in.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
Graham Kraft's birthday (April 16th) at 5000 ft. on Mt. Redoubt. We brought a (plastic) Hawaiian Lei, coconut air freshener, and drink umbrellas to celebrate out 'tropical volcanoes' traverse.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
Graham Kraft, Eben Sargent, and Andy Fischer drying out in Lake Clark Pass before heading into the Neacola Mountains.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
Jeff Crompton near the summit of Mt. Iliamna.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
Graham Kraft and John Sykes climbing the flank of Mt. Spurr.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
Storm day in the Neacolas.
Courtesy Luc Mehl
Eben Sargent sleeping below the aurora on Beluga Lake.
Courtesy Luc Mehl

DILLINGHAM -- A few weeks ago, we at The Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman shared the story of a pair of human-powered enthusiasts who traveled from Aniak to Dillingham with little more than backpacks, skis and skates. Their impressive adventure inspired us, and made us feel a little lazy.

Now, as most of us have put up the snowmachines and uncovered the boats, Luc Mehl and eight other friends are reminding us again about the really cool things some Alaskans (not us) are capable of doing for fun, even here again in the backyard of Bristol Bay.

The "Doesn’t Matter to Me Nine" recently set off on (and most finished) a 30-day, 265-plus-mile traverse from the base of Mount Iliamna to Anchorage. (Literally downtown Anchorage; their first stop was for burgers at Humpy’s). The trip was one Mehl could envision on more than just a map.

“Three active volcanoes, Iliamna (10,016 ft.), Redoubt (10,197 ft.), and Spurr (11,070 ft.), can be seen from Anchorage, so I’ve been thinking about an Iliamna-Redoubt-Spurr, IRS, traverse,” he wrote in his trip notes at www.thingstolucat.com. “I wanted to start on tax day to be consistent with the IRS theme, but we pulled it back a week due to the low snowpack.”

With big mountain skis, ice climbing gear, packrafts, and indefatigable lust for outsized expeditions (and suffering), the nine flew to the base of Iliamna and summited the next day. Down from there they crossed the Tuxedni Glacier, heading toward Redoubt.

The group weathered a storm inside a massive glacial tunnel. Redoubt rebuffed them; avalanche danger brought the group to a rare need for a solid consensus to move past without hazarding an ascent. Onward, they carved virgin powder in deep glacier bowls, “Therm-a-rested” across rivers, and climbed towards Spurr’s active vents. After reaching Spurr’s summit, the veteran mountaineers carefully picked their way down Capps Glacier on the back side.

Along the journey, some departed at preplanned exit points. Incoming planes left supplies while collecting outgoing travelers.

Packrafting now, down the Beluga River toward Cook Inlet the remaining travelers traveled, running all but one class IV rapid deemed best avoided. Also avoided was advice to run an incoming Cook Inlet tide in packrafts to Fire Island; instead the group bushwhacked a cold, wet and muddy haul across the Susitna Flats. For that effort they were rewarded a leisurely 3-mile packraft at sunset from Port MacKenzie right into downtown Anchorage.

Wearied and worn, it was straight to Humpy’s for well-deserved grub. “We were filthy, literally dripping with mud,” Mehl wrote. “The waitress brought an extra stack of napkins and said, ‘I don’t know if you guys want these; seems like maybe you aren’t too worried about being clean.’”

Read more and see Luc’s impressive photos at www.thingstolucat.com.

This story first appeared in The Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is republished here with permission.