Glacier Bay Mountaineering

The coastal mountains of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, topped by the 15,300 foot Mt. Fairweather, are among the least visited mountains of their elevation in North America. Many mountains in the range are unnamed and only limited information is available on most routes. Mountaineering is made especially challenging by a stormy weather pattern that includes over 100 inches of precipitation per year. Unpredictable storms frequently cause delays when transporting to a base camp and often forces "holding up" for multiple days or abandoned attempts. Many climbs take as long as one month to accomplish.

Weather conditions

There is limited weather data available on the Fairweather range. It can snow during any month of the year at higher elevations and as low as 6,000 feet during the summer. Overcast days and rain predominate. Conditions in May can be reminiscent of winter. Summer weather patterns in July and August usually cause slush and avalanche conditions. September is susceptible to an early winter with severe storms and heavy snowfall. Current weather conditions and information can be obtained by calling the National Weather Service in Yakutat at (907) 784-3322.

Getting There

Most climbing in the park is accessible via charter boat or floatplane out of Juneau, Gustavus, Haines, or Yakutat. Fixed wing aircraft landings are allowed in the park but helicopter landings and airdrops are prohibited.

Guided Mountaineering

Commercially guided mountaineering trips are generally authorized east of, but not including, the Fairweather Range by a park-issued Commercial Use Authorization. As an interim measure, two guided mountaineering trips are also authorized in the Fairweather Range each year. A list of currently authorized mountaineering guides is available.

In Case of Emergency

Glacier Bay National Park does not maintain a rescue team with high altitude rescue capabilities. Due to this and the remote nature of the area, all climbers need to be completely aware of the skill, experience, and judgment required to plan and accomplish a successful climb. Climbing parties should plan and arrange for their own backup. Our office in Bartlett Cove should be made aware of these plans prior to the trip.

Many parties carry Marine VHF radios or satellite phones. These may be available for rent from local air taxis.

Additional Information

Bears can be a problem in lower elevation camps. Camps should be kept clean and food must be properly stored to avoid attracting bears.Learn more about hiking and camping in bear country.

Our main concern is to minimize human impacts and allow for high quality wilderness experiences. All litter, including wands and fixed ropes, must be removed. Party size is limited to a maximum of twelve people to minimize human impact within this designated wilderness.

Please be aware that the remote access, harsh conditions, and limited availability of rescue require that a climbing party be experienced and totally self-reliant.

Private mountaineering groups should contact the park as early as possible for up-to-date information and should fill out and submit the information form prior to the trip.

For further information, please contact:

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
P.O. Box 140
Gustavus, AK 99826

(907) 697-2608
or the Glacier Bay Chief Ranger at (907) 697-2621.

 
mountaineering history

Mountaineering History in Glacier Bay

History of names for the Fairweather Range and the successful summit attempts

 
American Alpine Journal

American Alpine Journal
A great source of printed information on mountaineering in Alaska is the American Alpine Journal (AAJ).

A comprehensive index now allows you to locate reports of climbs based on region, country, climber, and peak name.

 

Fairweather related reading

Climbing Guide(s):

  • Alaska – A Climbing Guide, Michael Wood and Colby Coombs; Mountaineers Books2001.

Literature:

  • Accidental Adventurer : Memoirs of the First Woman to Climb Mount McKinley, Barbara
  • Washburn with Lew Freedman; Epicenter Press 2001.
  • Alaska Ascents: World Class Mountaineers tell Their Stories, Bill Sherwonit; AlaskaNorthwest Books 2007.
  • Bradford Washburn: An Extraordinary Life : The Autobiography of a Mountaineering Icon, Bradford Washburn; West Wind Press, 2005.
  • Cloud Walkers: Six climbs on Major Canadian Peaks, Paddy Sherman; Toronto,Macmillan, 1965.
  • Exploring the Unknown: Historic Diaries of Bradford Washburn’s Alaska/Yukon Expeditions, Bradford Washburn; Epicenter Press March 2001.
  • Fifty Classic Climbs of North America, Steve Roper and Allen Steck; Sierra ClubBooks 1979.
  • Pushing the Limits: The Story of Canadian Mountaineering, Chris Scott; RockyMountain Books 2000.
  • Ways to the Sky: A Historical Guide to North American Mountaineering, Andrew Selters; American Alpine Book Series, 2004.
  • Near Miss On Mt. Fairweather", Jon Waterman; Backpacker magazine;
    volume 16, Number 6 November 1988.
  • "Southeast Alaska", Fred Beckey; Ascent, 1975-76, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco.
  • "Mount Fairweather, The First Ten Ascents", Bradford Washburn; American Alpine Journal, 1981.
  • "Mt. Fairweather: America’s Little Known Giant", Peter Metcalf; Summit, April –May 1977.
  • "Fairweather, The Centennial Summit", P. Sherman and F. Broda; Canadian Alpine Journal, 1959.
  • United States Geological Survey Maps: Topographical 63,360 Mt. Fairweather D-5 Alaska, 63,360 Mt. Fairweather D-6 Alaska, and 1:250,000 Fairweather, Alaska-Canada.

Websites:

  • American Alpine Club – www.americanalpineclub.org
  • World Mountain Encyclopedia – www.peakware.com
  • Canadian Mountain Encyclopedia – www.bivouac.com
  • Summits of Canada Expedition – www.summitsofcanada.ca/cantrek/summits/bc.html
  • Mountain Zone – www.mountainzone.com

MAPS:

United States Geological Survey Maps:

  • Scale 1:250,000 Fairweather, Alaska-Canada
  • Scale 1:63,360 Mt. Fairweather; D-6
  • Scale 1:63,360 Mt. Fairweather; D-5
  • Scale 1:63,360 Mt. Fairweather; D-4
  • Scale 1:63,360 Mt. Fairweather; C-6
  • Scale 1:63,360 Mt. Fairweather; C-5

Last Updated 2009

 
Backcountry Camping Information

Backcountry Camping Information

Planning, Trip Information, Current Information

Climbers reach summit of Mt Fairweather

Glacier Bay and NPS Links

Additional information on Glacier Bay, the National Park Service, and other Parks in Alaska can be found here.

Last updated: August 25, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
PO Box 140

Gustavus, AK 99826

Phone:

(907) 697-2230

Contact Us