Exploring Alaska’s Canyons
Just 10 miles down the road from their home base in Glacier View, guides at MICA have been cultivating a new way to explore the Matanuska Valley; An Alaska canyoneering adventure in the Talkeetna Mountains. This new idea of exploration was seeded a couple summers ago by guides curiosity and building more connections to the area around them. Today, they run guided trips through Jackass Canyon, rated as a 4C section.
Not only is this canyon teeming with spectacular views, multiple rappels take you right down alongside full flowing waterfalls. Luke, a third year senior to the company, has been working with other senior guides and exploratory enthusiasts to cultivate and facilitate this trip. What once started as an idea is now fully grown to be shared with those visiting the valley area.
When you head out for this experience you get to enjoy the fashions of full rain gear, from head to toe. The gear you will need for this trip is supplied to you by the company.
You don’t have to skip your breakfast to make the start of this trip either. Typically the guides can have everything moving and set up for a 10:30 AM departure from base. That way, you can enjoy your morning coffee and have your adventure too.
Heading East from MICA, you’ll wind on over to the base of Sheep Mountain, just ten minutes down the Glenn Highway. A helicopter will be your transportation to the top of the canyon area. This scenic flight will give you beautiful views of the valley and a quick 10 minute flight to the start of your adventure.
Once you land and gear up, leave it to the multiple guides to set you on the right path. You’ll start in the beauty of a high alpine area. This is a gentle start with a hike over the tundra, with a couple easy downclimbs to your first rappel. This day consists of 11 rappels and even a couple spots along the way to bail out on. Sometimes one’s adventure cup fills sooner than anticipated and you need to exit a bit earlier.
All of the descents are off of natural anchors i.e. boulders, trees, etc. The first drop is gentle and kind, being dry and a quick 10 ft. descent. Between the rappel stations you’ll tromp through some alder and brush. But not for long, as the next spot is usually within a quarter of a mile walk.
The second rappel will get your heart thumping after that first rope is pulled down. This drop quickly takes you into a 60 ft. rappel. Simultaneously, you will be on your way to back to back rappels down
waterfalls! This water can be a bit chilly, so your guides will have your back, in addition to your gear, by bringing along your favorite warm beverage in a thermos.
The challenges of the canyon are the cold water and adrenaline that can come with these descents. Other than that, the views, the adventure, and the experience are awe-inspiring. You’ll get to take in the beauty of the surrounding eco-system, spot wildlife, and enhance your rope skills with some guidance. Enjoy the grip and attractive faces of limestone and conglomerate rock, decorated with lichens and mosses as you move downward.
This canyon is easy to navigate through with groups and is generally a comfortable width throughout the trip. There are about 8 rappels from here, with anywhere between 20 and 30 ft. drops. Guests and guides alike agree that this experience can be described as “challenging, hard, and fun”. Sounds like a perfect mixture for an Alaska canyoneering adventure.
The Final Descent
The last rappel is the big one, a 120 ft. descent to the valley floor. After all that practice coming down, and a bit of courage, you will be thrilled on this last section. Once you have hit the ground level, your ride will be waiting for you. It is only about a ten minute hike away to the Glenn Highway to reach your return shuttle.
The trip can range from 5 to 7 hours long typically, this duration is dependent on the size of the group. Regularly, the smaller the group, the quicker the trip, and vice versa for larger groups. This experience works nicely into a variety of itineraries and is a great way to connect with the Southeastern region of Alaska.
With quick access and seasoned guides, you are sure to have a whole new experience in Alaska with this exposure. The crew is even considering bolting the route for future seasons to come. We recommend participants considering this adventure should already be enjoying a healthy and active lifestyle with regular exercise.
You should be prepared to deal with Alaska weather for short periods of time but your day will end with warm drinks and dry clothing. So if you have been considering canyoneering, want to have a private experience, see the less traveled parts of the Alaskan wilderness, and just have a generally fun time, this trip is for you.