Practical Information

Facilities in McCarthy

McCarthy is a small village (a handful inhabitants in winter, a couple hundred in summer) in immediate vicinity to 5000 km2 glaciers originating in the Wrangell Mountains (up to 5000 m a.s.l.). The Root glacier terminates only about 100 m from the village.
(see map here).

Students will camp in tents in a primitive camping area about 1 km from the Wrangell Mountains Center where we will have meals and hold the course. There are 2 outhouses at the camping area but no showers. One primitive "bucket" shower (with water coming from a bucket of water that has to be heated and filled) is available in the yard outside the Wrangell Mountain Center. There is a sign-up sheet for the shower; note that sometimes the hot water available for a shower can be limited. A shallow (under sunny conditions relatively warm) lake is close to the camp site and has typically been used for swimming/"showering"). There are no laundry machines. Instructors will camp or share rooms at the Lancaster's Backpacker Hotel, in the center of McCarthy close to the Wrangell Mountain Center (Rooms have 2-4 beds and there are 2 showers and 2 toilets for the entire hostel which has 10 rooms in total).

Bears and moose roam the area around McCarthy (like anywhere in Alaska) and sometimes wander through town. While there has been occasional property damage (e.g. break-ins of bears into cabins) in and around McCarthy bears are rarely aggressive. We will provide some bear-sprays for your safety and also some basic bear/moose safety training.

All meals will be provided at the Wrangell Mountains Center (which is in the old Hardware Store) by their staff. Note that meals are mostly vegetarian but will not be lacking in protein. The highly-skilled kitchen crew is very experienced in making protein-packed vegetarian meals. If you feel more comfortable with protein from meat products, you are welcome to bring your own dry snacks (or buy them at the very small general store) and store them with labels in the WMC´s pantry. Prior to the program participants will be asked about dietary restrictions (e.g., vegan, allergies ...), and the kitchen staff will accommodate them. All participants are expected to help with washing dishes (no dish-washer), and keeping the facilities clean. Food of any kind is prohibited in the camping area due to bears. Students are welcome to store food (no fridge available though) or gear in a designated storage room at the Wrangell Mountain Center during the length of the program.

All lectures will be held in the Wrangell Mountain Center's stylish Porphyry Place, which formerly belonged to the late avalanche and glacier researcher Edward LaChapelle. The Porphyry Place and the Hardware Store are only 20 m apart (on opposite sides of the small street), and both about 40 m from the center of the village where the only hotel/hostel in town, a pub/restaurant and a small general store are located.

McCarthy has very limited services, so all participants should bring everything they will need. Shopping possibilities are extremely limited and there is no pharmacy or medical services but a number of mountain/tourist guides in town have first responder training. Note that McCarthy is remote (2 hour drive on a dirt road and another hour drive from the main road between Fairbanks and Valdez). There is one ATM machine (which hopefully works) but no bank. Credit cards are generally accepted (e.g., in the bar/restaurant) but sometimes foreign cards don´t work; also purchases below a certain limit may not be possible with a credit card or only for an extra fee. Best to bring enough cash to get you through the course for use at the bar, mercantile, or for purchases at the Wrangell Mountains Center (they sell, e.g. postcards, T-shirts/sweatshirts) or local businesses. Cell phones do not always work (especially AT&T plans do not work at all). Verizon works (usually).

There is wifi at the WMC, however, it is limited and expected to slow down considerably with so many participants. The wifi is, if at all, only good for basic use; it should not be used for streaming or downloading, and any settings that automatically download updates should be turned off. Please note that the quality of wifi has varied over the years and is hard to predict. It can be very spotty, and for example in 2022 barely worked at all. Verizon phone plans (not AT&T) work in McCarthy, so using their data will be helpful. 

The availability of electricity is limited. Note McCarthy is not on the grid; electricity is produced by solar power and generators; consumption should be kept as low as possible (i.e. computers turned off if not used). Power at the WMC is turned off at nights. There is no power at the camp site.

Travel from Fairbanks to McCarthy

We offer transport by van from Fairbanks to McCarthy (7 June, 7 am from UAF campus in front of the main dormitory) and back to Fairbanks (17 June, arriving typically around 7-7:30 pm; we will then have a pizza party in Fairbanks to 'round off' the course). Note that arrival in Fairbanks can be considerably (>1 hr) delayed, for example, by road construction (typically for summer). For most of the drive there are no alternative roads. Therefore, we advise not to book any flights out of Fairbanks before 10:30 pm that night. It is pretty save to assume that any flights thereafter will be reached. but of course no guarantee. We can drop those flying out that night directly at the airport or drop you there after the pizza party (note many flights go out of Fairbanks around midnight).

Alternatively, course participants can travel to and/or from McCarthy on their own and spend time there before or after the course. However, if you opt out of the van transport option from/to Fairbanks, please keep in mind that you are required to be in McCarthy from 7 June at 7 pm to 17 June at 8 am.


Fairbanks has a relatively continental climate with little precipitation. Air temperatures are highest in July, typically around 70-75°F (20-24°C) but can also reach >80°F (>27°C). Temperatures in June and August are slightly colder. Temperatures in McCarthy are similar, possibly a little colder on average. Temperatures in the upper 30s or 40s °F (3-10 °C) are expected at night, and may in exceptional cases even fall below freezing. Rain is not uncommon (snow is possible, but unlikely). The village and glacier tongue will be snow-free. Note that there is no darkness during night. It is light all day and night.

What to bring

You have to bring the following:

Highly recommended:


Note that it is light all night; no flashlight needed (unless perhaps in the tent in cloudy weather).

How to pack

Travel to Fairbanks

Airport transportation and public transportation in Fairbanks

Accommodation in Fairbanks

Staying longer


Practical information while in Fairbanks: