Mt. Sanford

Mt. Sanford (16,237 ft., western Wrangell Mountains) is a semi-technical ski mountaineering must-do. The entire Boulder Creek approach is south-facing, so you enjoy the sun and peak views all day.

John Sykes and I tried to sprint up Mt. Sanford via Boulder Creek/Sheep Glacier the second week of March, 2011. We climbed to 15,100 ft (from 1,900) and covered 80 miles in 3 days, 5 hours. We turned around at 15,100 with the sunset,-20 temperature and wind.

First attempt

Two Weeks later I went back with Toby Schwoerer, Erica Madison, and two snowmachines. We rode 20 miles in, had a comfortable camp with wood and water, and then spent one night at a high camp (~11,000 ft.) before summiting. Toby and I both felt pretty sick at the summit.

Second attempt


We started at the Chistoshina River rest area just past the town of Chistochina. There is another access point a few miles further west on the highway. After a few miles on the Chistochina we turned upstream in the Copper River. The mouth of Boulder creek was more subtle than I expected- I was glad to have marked coordinates on the GPS. Boulder Creek often has a trapping snow machine trail to mile 12 or so, and is pretty easy going by ski or snowmachine. There was a lot of open water up stream, so that could be tricky with a snowmachine. After taking a right up Sheep Creek we climbed up to a gully on lookers left of the morraine. The gully goes all the way to ~6000 ft. on Sheep Glacier, which is a nice option for avoiding the cracks low on the glacier. The rest of the route is pretty straight forward with the exception of the crevasse field between 8,000 – 10,000 ft. I think you really want to camp above 10,000 ft. if you are going to push to the summit.


  1. Lovely photos. Growing up in Chistochina, I never grew tired of eyeballing Sanford in the distance. See you in Valdez this summer for the start of the AMWC??? Cheers.

  2. Great videos, photos and route beta. Thanks for posting! Keep up the good work!

  3. Fantastic. I so enjoy your photos and narratives. This post especially reminds me of childhood daydreams about snow, mountains, and wilderness. And it’s fun to see all the adventures you’ve had in the last few years!

  4. Hi Luc, I am planning a March 28, 2020 start to a ski ascent of Sanford from the highway at Gakona. Any chance my climbing partner and I could meet with you to discuss? We live in Anchorage. Thanks for considering. Curt Pollock

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