2015 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic Info


The 2015 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic will be June 28 to July 4.


It is difficult to find the right balance of making new folks feel welcome while also conveying that you need to have a lot of experience to safely participate in a Classic. By far the most important skill is the ability to coordinate a self-rescue, and to know your limitations well enough to enact that rescue before it becomes an emergency. The majority of participants on the last 3-year course did not finish. Some floated to Cordova, some hiked to a road, others chartered flights from gravel bars and lakes. Most of these weren’t emergencies, like the Tiekel River attempt: “We spent 8 hours going one mile, we turned around, and it took 5 hours to return that same mile.” But two of these were emergencies. You, as a participant, and us, as the community of people who are deeply attached the the Classics, need everyone to be able to recognize when to turn around, and how to get out. This is really hard for people that aren’t familiar with Alaska’s wilderness and logistics.


In 2015 we will break the three-year standard rotation and do a one-year special course in tribute to Rob Kehrer. In 2016 we will go back to the three-year rotation, location unknown.

The 2015 start will be in the Peters Hills (Petersville), to Rohn, finishing at Nancy Lakes. Rohn and Nancy Lakes were special places for Rob; he was a regular Iditarod Trail Invitational volunteer at Rohn, and has a cabin at Nancy Lakes. We’ll get the exact start/finish locations figured out later.

We’ll ‘Rob-ify’ Rohn… there will be beer and food. It might be fun to have friends/family fly there to see folks pass through. I’d also like to start a Rob ’emergency kit’ and suggest that folks bring appropriate items, such as Flintstones Vitamins, snow machine spark plugs, duct tape, Velveeta cheese, down booties, etc. Details as it approaches.

I expect the highlights to be traveling through/around the incredible Kichatna Spires (google it!), and packrafting the Happy River Canyon (video). There are several convenient fly-out options if folks need to get out for 4th of July festivities (Rohn, Rainy Pass Lodge, Skwenta, etc.).

The course is LONG (~250 miles), the longest of any summer classic, so even with the last ~110 on water, this is going to be a hard course. Getting to the Kichatnas looks pretty rough, and sitting in boats for 100+ miles is going to be leg and mind numbing.

The Happy River has the potential for a few class IV rapids above Rainy Pass. These sections of the river are easy to anticipate, scout, and portage. The canyon section of the Happy River has many class III rapids at corners and only one gravel bar big enough to camp on. Consequences are low, but everyone needs to take the water hazards seriously. Check out the video linked above. Embick: The Happy River is a magical wilderness river of moderate difficulty which traverses a variety of dramatic terrain. At medium flows, Class IV- and III+. Skwenta: … then follows more dreary braided river…

Let me or Todd Kasteler know if you have any questions.

Kichatna Spires from above Rainy Pass Lodge

Kichatna Spires from above Rainy Pass Lodge

Happy River Rapids

Happy River Rapids

Happy River Canyon

Happy River Canyon

Spires in Skwenta River

Spires in Skwenta River

Marshland near Nancy Lakes

Marshland near Nancy Lakes

team heavy w border

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4 responses

  1. Pingback: ITI – 2015 « Go Play Outside!

  2. Luc, how long did it take you guys on that Happy River float?

    April 9, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    • We reached the Puntilla Ck put in after a long hike on the day we flew, then camped at the mouth of the Happy River canyon section and again somewhere near the original Skwentna Roadhouse as shown on the gazetteer. That was at near-max water levels. Embick’s book has float times for kayaks, but I don’t have access to it right now.

      April 13, 2015 at 8:46 am

  3. Pingback: 5 American Races That Are As Tough As The Tour de France | Xpatnation

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