Flying to Alaska: Wrangell St. Elias

After another visit to friends in Wasilla, Betsy and I were camped in Gulkana Alaska and were ready to head back down to California. She would drive the van pulling someone else’s snowmobile and I would fly the plane. I know, but it’s just the way it turned out. I had it easy…

My plan was to fly straight over the Wrangell Mountains and over the Bagley icefield, a massive sea of ice 127 miles long.

There is some amount of risk in doing these flights over glaciers and mountains. One engine over big mountains. In this case add the fact that the icefields in the Wrangell mountains in Alaska are extremely remote. My original plan was to do a sunrise flight over the mountains, but adding one more risk factor of flying in the dark made me uncomfortable.

I do carry an emergency locator beacon, a Garmin Inreach satellite tracking device and a backpack of survival gear but still, the thought of this flight in the dark was just plain scary. I chickened out, waited until dawn and completed the entire flight in daylight. It turned out to be a great photo opportunity. Because of an overcast the light was soft and there was still some pink in the sky. Combined with fresh snow the scene was unbelievable. Many of these landscapes just can’t be captured with a camera and at one point I put my Sony down and did a 360 above the icefield, just taking it in.

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