Hike Fast. Paddle Hard. Dance All Night.

The First Annual AK Packrafting Festival

This past July Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Luc Mehl and friends participated in the first annual McCarthy Creek Packraft Race and Whitewater Festival in Wrangell Mountains of Alaska.  We’re hoping this event, organized by Kennicott Wilderness Guides and McCarthy River Tours and Outfitters, will become an annual happening.  Hyperlite Mountain Gear is psyched to support the rapidly growing packrafting community by making some of the best packrafting packs available. 

Read on for the report on the inaugural 2013, festival.

McCarthy Packrafting Festival Poster

The McCarthy Creek runs through the Wrangell Mountains outside the quirky/charming outpost town of McCarthy, Alaska at the edge of Wrangell St. Elias National Park.  The creek runs fast and strong with rapids up to rated by American Whitewater as a class III+(V+). 

Racers in action on the lower creek.  Photo by Kennecott Wilderness Guides
Racers in action on the lower creek. Photo by Kennicott Wilderness Guides

Packrafting, and the access it allows to remote whitewater, is catching on fast in this corner of Alaska.  The locals, like Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Luc Mehl, have been pushing the sport since the beginning and outfitters like Kennicott Wilderness Guides are making it accessible to locals and tourists alike with guided trips to some spectacular locations.  It makes sense that this would be the chosen spot for a packrafting race and festival!

The festival motto is Hike Fast. Paddle Hard. Dance All Night.  Believe it.

The “Up-and-Over” course was 17 miles, a 6 mile hike up old mining trails (2700 ft elev gain), over National Pass, down a rocky glacier.  Then 11 miles of class II, III+ water.  The 11-mile “Z-Rock Down” course began on Main Street in McCarthy.  The hiking leg of this route was a  5.5 mile of brush and loose rock up McCarthy Creek to the Z Rock. From there participants rafted the creek back to town.

Racers in action on the hike in.  Photo by Robin Child.
Racers in action on the hike in. Photo by Robin Child.

30 racers entered this year’s race.  The results:

“Up & Over”
1st: Luc Mehl 4 hours 1 minute (go Luc!)
2nd: Erik Mundahl 4:28
3rd: Russell Nyberg 5:03

“Z Rock Down”
1st: Dale Meck 2 hours 3 minutes
2nd: Anderson Gibbons 2:09
3rd: Chris Cronick 2:22

HMG Ambassador on the trail. Photo by Robin Child.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador on the trail. Photo by Robin Child.

We hear the after-party was as good as the paddling.

For more on Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Luc Mehl and some spectacular photos of his adventures, check out Luc’s blog, ThingToLucAt.

To be part of next year’s McCarthy Creek Packrafting Race and Festival, check in with Kennicott Wilderness Guides in spring 2014.

To learn more about packrafting, check out the American Packrafting Association.

Alaska
September 2013

 

 

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