McCarthy exploration – Root Glacier and Donoho Peak

Tennis shoe travel up the Root Glacier, Donoho Peak scramble, mellow camping, and lovely scenery with a good friend . . . as a way to make the most of a trip to McCarthy for a dear friend’s wedding!   Hiking and camping near McCarthy and around Wrangell St. Elias National Park never disappoints!

The story . . .

With the upcoming Chrissy May and Ray Pohl wedding in McCarthy, Sherrie and I decided to head over a week early and spend some time exploring the area before the festivities.  Our vision was to hike up the Root Glacier and over a 5300′ pass to the McCarthy glacier, from which we’d packraft McCarthy Creek the Motherlode Saloon in town . . . as it turned out, the universe had a different plan!

We arrived to higher-than-normal river levels and the first hot days of the season, causing the higher-than-average snowpack to be melting at a higher-than-average rate . . . read: super high rivers, snow-covered passes, and conditions which generally indicated we should consider a plan B.

Pan frying fresh Russian River red with lots of butter and onion – rough life!! 
We decided to head up the Root Glacier and scramble up Donoho Peak in favor of the river trip, so off we went!  The glacier travel was spectacular, straightforward, and scenic – we were stoked, arriving at camp after 2 leisurely hours of wandering up glacier.  The colors were awesome and the daylight plentiful, so we decided to explore the moraine we were camped on, and to check out the local waterfall (which was cranking!)

Jumbo Creek . . . running bigger than normal, but the rivers just got bigger as the week went on!
Sunshine and tennis shoes on glacier . . . good times 🙂
Me headed up the Root Glacier, Donoho Peak on the looker’s left
Me and Mt. Blackburn 🙂
Root Glacier and its moraine
Raging falls . . . big snowmelt while we were there!!
The views from the falls overlook did not suck . . . Root Glacier below
The next morning we got going at a reasonable hour and took off in search of Donoho Lakes and Donoho Peak . . . we thought there should be a trail, but we actually didn’t find it until we got to the lake, so did some unecessary bushwhacking!!  Unfortunately we lost it again as we were heading onto the peak itself, so we figure we added about an hour to the approach – oh well, I suppose!

It was on this schwack that I declared that I give up bushwhacking forever!  Not sure if I’ve recovered enough to try again 🙂
We made good time kicking steps into the snow-filled couloir, appreciating the in/out overcast skies to keep the temps cool and the snow consolidated.  We had 2 pretty sketchy sections of climbing through the waterfall/creek (which is it when it’s not-that-much-water flowing down a 45 deg slope?) but managed to make it back to the upper snowfield where the steps were good again to the ridge!  From there, we scrambled up the last section of scree and tagged the peak!  We arrived to rain, but then the skies broke open and revealed the views we’d come hoping to find!!

Sherrie and I on the peak – all types of weather – had been raining about 30 seconds earlier!
Views of the glacier headed toward Blackburn – big country!!
Sherrie and clearing skies over McCarthy
Eerie Lake from the summit of Donoho – the view we’d come for!!

Unfortunately, as we were descending the upper snowfield, I was plunge stepping in the soft snow and managed to find a buried ice lense, slipping and beginning to slide the upper slope.  Thankfully I was able to self arrest by digging my poles into the ground and kicking in my feet, but the sacrifice was a bunch of skin on my fingers . . .

Ouch!  Thankful to have my favorite nurse-friend along!!
Thankfully, Sherrie is a NICU nurse who travels prepared, and before the shock had worn off, she had me cleaned up, taped up, and ready to descend the peak (she even promised to help with the bushwhacking but that was thankfully not necessary!).  We managed to tennis-shoe-ski down the coolie and made it back to the bushes, this time finding the trail right though, and then connecting it to the main trail for a pretty quick and straightforward return to camp!
Since our original plan to raft the following day was thwarted by my now-inability to hold a paddle, we decided to spend some additional time out near Donoho and enjoy the stunning scenery, bug-free living with the nice glacial breezes, and act like we were on vacation – it was lovely 🙂  The next day dawned super blue and made for a wonderful walk back to Kennicott . . .

Hooray for sunshine!!!
A happy Sherrie that summer has arrived!
These lovely glacier streams were awesome for cleaning my hands in a manner that also numbed the pain!!
Sherrie told me we earned a beer at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge! 
View of the Kennicott Mill from our roamings
 Sherrie headed back to Anchorage just as the wedding festivities were cue-ing up . . . Cmay and Ray’s family and friends took over the Kennicott Glacier Lodge and it was a bustle of comings-and-goings of guests out exploring the local mine ruins, ice caves, bike rides, and mill area.  The rehearsal dinner was a festive barbecue on the lawn, and the ceremony was lovely . . . delivered by Holly Brooks, it was non-traditional and awesome . . . exactly like our favorite Chrissy May!!
Waiting for the bride 🙂
Daddy Don giving Cmay away!  I loved her dress, especially the back!
and they’re hitched!
The MayPohl 🙂
A raging dance party, and we called it a wrap!  Somehow Chrissy managed to fit her wedding right in the 5 days of summer!  The day we left had weather roll in, which made driving home just a bit easier!!
Thanks again to Sherrie for taking care of me, and to Chrissy and Ray for a great excuse to hang out in McCarthy!!

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  1. I'll give u a band aid any day! Glad your alive so we can continue our fun bush whacking adventures, I know u love it!

  2. Raymond Pohl says:

    Thanks again for making the journey, inspiration with vows, delightful reading, and all things Kelly. I hope your paws are healing and that we can venture into the great unknown sometime soon.

    The Ray&May Show

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