This report from the 2022 course is provided by Matt Kupilik. For information regarding the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic, email Matt at email@example.com.
The 41st AMWC consisted of 190 incredible miles from the Little Tok River gravel pit to the town of McCarthy. Eleven people traveling in five teams departed the gravel pit on the morning of 19 June. Everyone headed for the pass into Platinum Creek near Noyes Mountain, but no one knew quite what to expect of the travel conditions. Early travel went quickly, with a freshly deceased moose carcass on the well established ATV trail motivating people to move along. Teams diverged as they approached the alpine with the two front teams actually arriving at the pass at the same time, after around 16 hours, despite taking quite different routes!
From the pass experiences change as teams encountered very different water levels on Platinum Creek. One thing shared by all was the ever present wood. No one could stay in the boat for long, as fast blind corners with difficult eddies were common, and many were followed by river wide sweepers. Early teams had lower water than later groups, and several later teams pulled the plug on floating, providing them the opportunity to enjoy the heavy foliage.
From the convergence of Platinum with the Nabesna River the course joined a more documented path. We were now on the original Nabesna to McCarthy traverse last traveled by the Classic in 2002, when Roman Dial blazed it in 2 days 4 hours and 24 minutes! That time was always in my head as we continually got beaten down by high water levels and wet cold temperatures that made resting hard. Travel was fantastic and beautiful, the Nabesna to McCarthy traverse is really an amazing piece of Alaska. When traversing north to south, it has this feeling of an endless scenic crescendo. From incredible alpine lakes that appear out of nowhere to huge plains of overflow river ice, each spectacle seems determined to surpass the previous section.
It was with relief that teams arrived at the Too Much Johnson cabin in Chisana. Most teams took the opportunity for a rest and a warmup. The “Too Much” does not refer to the amount of chinking used, and we slept in headnets inside the cabin. I would like to express my thanks to Nick and Mike for getting the cabin to a perfect temperature just prior to our arrival, perhaps next time you could clear it of mosquitos as well. After Too Much Johnson, the next push was to the Solo cabin, which provided an excellent opportunity to catch a bit of rest.
From the storied Solo shelter travel remained good and water remained high. We ended up having to use boats to cross the White and had to cross Flood creek very low. I believe other teams had similar experiences. Traversing above lower Skolai Lake was novel. Rarely have I hiked across such dynamic terrain. The entire glacial slope is oozing into the lake, and not slowly. Often John would jump across a mud flow using a rock, and by the time I reached the same spot, I had to use a different rock, as his was flowing downhill. After an uncountable number of flowing mud gullies, I was glad to see Chitistone Pass, where we would begin the famous Goat trail. I was also glad to see that the team ahead of us (Mike and Nick) had considerately kicked steps up all the snowfields!
The Goat trail was great, until it ceased to exist about 1000 feet above the Chitistone River. All the teams that made it to this point commented on the quality and intensity of the bushwhacking over this short section. We were hoping to begin floating the Chitistone at the end of the Goat trail, but high water levels convinced us otherwise. Travel along the Chitistone was slow, with landslides and overgrown slopes. Everybody walked to near Toby Creek before the fast float down the Chitistone to the Nizina, to somewhere near McCarthy. Two groups went all the way to the Kennicott and a single silly team (us) ended up hiking the May Creek road for what seemed like slightly less than an eternity to reach the finish.
Overall the 2022 Classic was awesome. All the teams managed to rendezvous in McCarthy, although not all at the same time. We had a few great meals sharing experiences. All agreed that the course is harder than the last three years crossing the Talkeetnas. We will continue the three year course rotation together with different months each year. Next year, the 2023 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic will take place in July over the same course. The exact date will be set this fall. If you are looking for a challenge, I cannot think of a more beautiful and rewarding one.