From downtown Anchorage on a sunny evening, you can look across Cook Inlet and see a high, glaciated volcano called Mount Spurr. Left of Spurr is Chakachamna Lake, visible as a large break in the mountains. Further left, the Neacola mountains stretch southwest for 81 miles to the Tlikakila River and Lake Clark.
On April 6, 2006, Doug Brewer of Alaska Air West in Nikiski flew me, Andrew Wexler and Dylan Taylor to 5,000 feet on the Glacier Fork where we cached 100 lbs of booze and food. Doug then shuttled us to the east end of Chakachamna Lake. With six days of food, and a single 1:250,000 scale map, we headed back to our cache, across the high neves of the McArthur, Blockade and Tanaina Glaciers. Once at our cache, we base camped for 10 days on the Glacier Fork, Neacola and North Fork glaciers. We fought constant storms, skied deep powder and the likely first descents of The Gorilla Finger couloir (2,600 vertical feet) off the west side of the North Fork Glacier at 4,150 feet. On the final five days of the traverse we toured onto the Tlikakila River via the Kijik River, Portage Lake, and Otter Lake making another likely first descent of a couloir we dubbed Immortal Technique (3,000 vertical feet). The final 15 miles were alder shwacking on grizzly trails to Lake Clark. On April 27, Doug fetched us in his DeHavilland Beaver on a Tlikakila gravel bar. We found the Neacola Mountains to be a heavily glaciated version of the North Cascades with granite peaks rising to 9,000 feet. Along our tour, we compared ten WAAS GPS elevations to 1958 1:63,360 USGS maps and found and average elevation drop of 70 feet. Our Neacola traverse was about 100 miles and 20,000 vertical feet. We skied 57,000 total vertical feet over 22 days.
This Trip Was Made Possible By
- Osprey Packs
- Mountain Gear
- Alaska Magazine
Articles & Reports
- Alaska Magazine
- Backcountry.com, August 2007
- Off Piste, March 2007
- Canadian Alpine Journal
- American Alpine Club Journal
Chute envy on day one. We had only five days of food to get us 60 miles from Chakachamna Lake to our cache in the center of the range.
We did have some great skiing on that first day.
But most of those first five days were in the fog, roped up and groping through the soup.
We reached our food cache and waited for the weather to clear to ski chutes.
Part of our secret was pills and supplements. Not only did they make us huge, they got us into some big terrain.
Dylan belaying Andrew into the 3,000-foot Gorilla Finger couloir.
North Fork Glacier.
Dylan Taylor skiing the 3,000-foot Immortal Technique Couloir.
We kept skiing the rest of that day.
Until we had logged 10,000 vertical feet by 10 PM. Then we finished the traverse with another four days of touring.
We kept walking until we had touched Little Lake Clark. Andrew is deathly afraid of bears. Dylan loves bears, but had never seen a bear in Alaska.
Doug Brewer picked us up on a gravel bar by the Tlikakila River on day 22.