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February 1999

Alaska’s Tordrillo Mountains: High, Wild, and Unknown

The Tordrillo Mountains are so rugged, you'd swear you're the first human to set foot there.

Tordrillo Mountains Expedition Planner

Mountain weather, glaciers with lots of crevasses, river crossings, bears, and remoteness make a Tordrillos crossing an undertaking for only the well prepared. Focus on having adequate food, fuel, clothing, shelter, boots, and pack, in that order.

Getting There: Our round-trip tickets from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Anchorage were booked in March for our August trip and ran $523 apiece. From Anchorage, the Tordrillos are less than an hour away by plane. Bush pilots charge according to the type of airplane and number of hours needed for a round trip. We flew with Branham Adventures (P.O. Box 190184, Anchorage, AK 99519, 907-243-4901) and chose a Helio-Courier on balloon tires ($260/hour). To fly us in and out and make a short scouting loop, the cost was $1,248.

(In the end, the three of us averaged about $1,500 apiece for everything-food, fuel, airline, and bush plane.)

Season: Mid-July through early September.

Maps: Our trip covered five USGS 15-minute maps, all titled “Tyonek,” sheets C-5, C-6, D-6, D-7, and D-8. For other route options along the Hayes and Skwentna rivers, see sheets D-6 and C-8. Available for $6.50 each from Map Express, (800) 627-0039.

Skills you’ll need: There are several skills you must have: orienteering, river crossing, and intermediate (at least) glacier travel and crevasse rescue. You should also have experience camping and coping in bad weather, be in good physical condition, and know all about bear country etiquette.

Special Gear: Heavy-duty leather boots, trekking poles, clothing for all sorts of weather conditions, a sturdy tent, and a sleeping bag that handles everything from summery to light-winter conditions. You’ll also need gaiters, an insect head net, Capsicum bear spray, and general-duty glacier equipment (ice axe, crampons, climbing harness, light rope, and a prussik sling). -by S. Howe

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