Just 23 miles as the crow flies from the famed gold rush town of Skagway is an other worldly valley made up of towering granite peaks, flowing glaciers and braided rivers.
Landing near the confluence of the Meade and Denver Glaciers we are standing at the source of the Katzehin River, whose braids flow through granite peaks on its way to the sea.
Having trekked over the ice of the Meade we reach the lake and inflate our packrafts which we will use to paddle across the lake to the beginning of the Katzehin River. We will carefully negotiate past ice in the lake sometimes even getting out of our packrafts to walk along the shore if the icebergs are too many.
Packrafts are stable one person rafts, extremely strong and light for their size. They allow us to easily get out of the river if the water is too fast and carry them past sections too dangerous to paddle and re-enter the river when we reach sections we feel comfortable paddling.
After paddling across the lake we will hike past a sections of rapids and re-enter the Katzehein River as it starts to form braids. We will weave our way from one braid to the next, through gray silty water which just hours ago was the ice of the Meade Glacier. The water is swift but we are still able to take in the peaks of the Chilkoot Range.
All along the river we keep our eyes open for wildlife. Very few people visit this valley but brown bears, wolves, mountain goats and moose are plentiful in the mountains and down in the valley. If we are extremely lucky we may catch a glimpse of a wolverine, one of the rarest creatures in these mountains, a true treasure to behold.
This trip will require us to cross glacial ice, negotiate a swift and cold river as well as get in and out of our pack rafts many times a day, so physical fitness and situational awareness are important. You and your guide will go over packrafting instruction and river safety and you will have a chance to practice your skills before entering the Katzehein River. No pack rafting experience is required for this trip but having river experience will be very helpful as the water on the Katzehin is a glacially fed river, swift and cold.