Kuskulana Glacier, south face of Mt. Blackburn

Josh Mumm, Eben Sargent, John Sykes and I hoped to find a skiable route up the south side of Mt. Blackburn (16390 ft., Wrangell Mountains, Alaska) for a one-week road-to-road climb, March 2012. Shallow snow and huge cracks prevented us from getting up Blackburn, but the landscape, sunset, and northern lights at the Kuskulana-Kennicott pass (10,000 ft.) were spectacular.


Eben’s photos are here, and do a better job at showing the routes (and the holes he fell in).


Mt. Blackburn in the Wrangell Mountains has a reputation for being a difficult climb due to high winds, crevasse fields to the north, and ice falls to the south. 2011-2012 has been such a good snow year that we thought we might luck out with a ski ascent. We chose to approach from the south because we only had one week (my spring break) for the trip. The northern route is more straightforward, but skiing from Nebesna (60 miles), would require a sprint and narrow window for summiting.

The southern option was appealing because the route is ~30 miles one way from the McCarthy road. I was excited to get on the Kuskulana Glacier because I packrafted the Kuskulana River with Timmy Johnson, Tony Perelli, and Jule in 2009.

We (Josh Mumm, Eben Sargent, John Sykes and I) drove to the trailhead Saturday morning, skied 15 miles into the Nugget Creek cabin and fired up the wood stove. The next two days we skied up the Kuskulana Glacier, mostly on rolling moraine and often on bare rock. Our intention was to access the summit ridge from a steep broad face up the 2nd-arm of the Kuskulana Glacier, a route that Todd Kasteler suggested. But with poor snow coverage/strength we had no interest in getting on that face. We continued to the headwall of the Kuskulana Glacier hoping to find the southeast rib skiable. But the big cracks and poor snow precluded that option too. The route was climbable, but we wanted to ski. I have photos of the routes- contact me if you want them.

The pass between Kuskulana and Kennicott Glaciers was spectacular, and at 10,000 ft. we watched an incredible sunset and got a little northern lights show too. We hoped to find a route down to the Kennicott Glacier so that we could ski into McCarthy, but the ice falls were too burly so we skied back down the Kuskulana Glacier to the Nugget Creek cabin, where we thawed Moose’s Tooth pizza on the wood stove.

10 responses

  1. Wow, fantastic images, Luc!

    March 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm

  2. Those pictures at the pass are world class. Thanks for sharing.

    March 18, 2012 at 5:55 pm

  3. aurora

    kid friendly AND kid interested -especially in the aurora’s! ;)

    March 18, 2012 at 7:21 pm

  4. Clo LV

    Fantastic landscapes and pictures. Thanks for sharing this, Cousin!
    Take care!

    March 19, 2012 at 8:08 am

  5. Willy Amidon

    Holy crap Luc. Keep u the good work!!

    March 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm

  6. Charlie

    Incredible mountain photos from the pass, dude!!!! Killing it!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm

  7. Imptressive! Trip of a lifetime for most, but just spring break for you guys–sweet.

    Loved the Portage Triple Crown report, too by the way!

    March 22, 2012 at 11:51 am

  8. Howard Mozen

    Really enjoyed these, as did my kids. We were out in MXY while you were doing this. We had heard about it and thought about you as we watched the weather. Thanks for sharing. Howard Mozen and family

    March 22, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    • Thanks Howard. In retrospect I wish we had dropped into the Lakina drainage, then out Hidden Creek and the Kennicott to get into town. That would have been a great tour! Next time. I mentioned to Eleanor that WMC is welcome to any of the photos.

      March 22, 2012 at 8:39 pm

  9. eben

    you have the 3rd arm of the kusk labeled as the second arm in yer map. seriously the lack of effort in docmenting your trips is embarrassing

    April 4, 2012 at 8:44 am

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