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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive: June 2014

Alaska's Boundary Range

In 2012, photographer Marc Adamus spent 35 days walking solo across this glaciated, barely-mapped area south of Juneau. It's one of the most remote spots on the continent. Here's what he did, and how to start planning a visit.

by: Rachel Zurer

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"This is the most remote place south of the Arctic Circle," says Marc Adamus. "There are no trails, few of the peaks are even named, and few of the features are even visited on a yearly basis." The 35-year-old photographer spent months pouring over topographic maps to plan his journey. "I didn't see a single person the entire month I was out there, or any sign that anyone had ever been there." (He did see plenty of bears so unaccustomed to humans that they usually ran when they caught wind of him.)  

So how do you even get started in such a remote place? One word: Helicopters. "They give you so much freedom to just get put in where you want," explains Adamus. "I know it's a lot of hassle for someone used to just showing up at a national park, but for a trip-of-a-decade type of experience, it's totally worth it." And he didn't just hitch a ride to the trailhead: The chopper took him to his starting point near British Columbia's Chutine Lake, dropped Ursack-protected food caches for him to grab along the way, and picked him up at the end of his journey near Whiting Lake.

Even with the food caches, a mega-expedition like this required mega-loads. "I carried anywhere from 60 to 80 pounds, depending on the day," he confesses. Some of that was camera gear, but he also had up to two weeks' of food on his person, plus crampons, an ice axe, and a pack raft.

It sounds like a lot of effort, but Adamus assures us it was completely worth it. "The range has huge vertical relief, with glaciers pouring down the slopes and a bunch of different ecosystems packed into a small area. It feels Himalayan, without the altitude." The peaks' eastern flanks receive less moisture than the west, so travel is (relatively) easy and doesn't require any advanced mountaineering skills: Adamus spent some time on glaciers but was able to avoid the gnarliest of them, instead zigzagging his way above treeline and on glacial ice, not seasonal snow which could have covered the crevasses.

And he's already planning his return: "That area has the continent's greatest untapped potential for backpackers, photographers, and wild adventures," he says. "I'm addicted to those mountains."

Trip Planner

Get there
The closest towns are Juneau, AK and Dease Lake, BC.

Helicopter
Adamus used Pacific Western Helicopters as his outfitter; they can help you plan your itinerary. And there's no need to do an epic point-to-point like he did; you can fly into Chutine Lake and basecamp near there. 

Maps
MyTopo by Trimble has digital versions of both the American and Canadian topo maps in its system. Sign up for a Elite account to use their trip planning tools, or print a custom-centered topo based on Adamus's rough route.



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