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"). 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, however, they are seldom agressive/charging. 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 bear-spray 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 there is the only hotel and hostel, a pub/restaurant and a small general store.

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. Note that McCarthy is remote (2 hour drive on a dirt road 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 area businesses. Cell phones do not always work (especially AT&T plans do not work at all). Verizon works.

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 will offer transport by van from Fairbanks to McCarthy (7 June, 7 am from UAF campus) 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 before or after the course in McCarthy. 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.

Weather

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 the upper 30s or 40s °F (3-10 °C) are expected at night, and may even fall below freezing. Rain is not uncommon (snow is possible, but unlikely). Temperatures in McCarthy are similar, possibly a little colder on average. The village will be snow-free. Note that there is no darkness during night. It is light all day and night.

What to bring

You need to bring a laptop for the student projects. Most student projects do not have specific software requirements, but software allowing advanced calculations should be available (Python, Matlab, C, Fortran ...). Some projects require GIS software. We do not have any laptops or software licenses to give out. We have to work with what students and instructors bring. We will adjust the projects' content and group composition accordingly. Make sure you download any software/data you need for your project prior to coming to McCarthy given the limited internet access.

Make sure you also bring:

Optional:

Note that it is light all night; no flashlight needed (unless perhaps in the tent), but you may want to bring an eye-mask if you can't sleep if it is light.

How to pack

Space is limited in the vans. Try to pack as compact (and as little as possible), so that all space in the vans (i.e. under the seats) can be used efficiently. If you stay longer in Alaska and want to travel 'lighter', you can store luggage at our institute in Fairbanks before or after the course. Before the course, you need to bring it to the institute (8-10 min walk from dormitory) latest in the morning (6:30 am) just prior to leaving Fairbanks (7 am).

Note that the vans will be parked outside the village of McCarthy, and you will have to carry all your belongings from the parking lot to the campsite (roughly 1 km, partially along a rocky narrow dirt path), i.e. bulky roller bags are a bad idea. A small cart is available to transport material across the footbridge over the river from where you have to carry it. The Wrangell Mountain Center (WMC) will help with transporting heavier equipment (course material etc) to the WMC by truck.

Travel to Fairbanks

Direct flights to Fairbanks are available via a number of US airports (Seattle, Minneapolis, etc).
For European participants the by far fastest connection (about 9 hours instead of >20 hours) is direct flights from Frankfurt to Fairbanks (or via Anchorage) by Condor (http://www.condor.com/us/index.jsp). These operate about once a week to Fairbanks and about 3 times a week to Anchorage. It is possible to go to Fairbanks and leave from Anchorage for the return flight or vice versa. You can also book directly through their homepage your flight from other European cities than Frankfurt. If you fly to Anchorage instead of Fairbanks you can take a bus to Glennallen and we can pick you up by van there (We will pass roughly between 1 and 2 pm).

If your luggage does not make it in time, there is no way to get it to McCarthy, or if you miss a connection or your flight is late, we will not be able to wait for you in the morning. Therefore, especially if you have more than one flight, avoid booking a flight that arrives later than around 6 pm the day before we leave Fairbanks. Missed luggage has to be picked up at Fairbanks airport. It will not be delivered to McCarthy. If you come from outside North America we highly recommend that you arrive approx 1-2 days earlier, i.e. spend 2 (or more) nights before our drive to McCarthy, also to have more time to get over the jetlag; note the course is very intense and starts in the morning on June 8 after arriving in McCarthy after the 12 hour drive from Fairbanks the day before.

Airport transportation and public transportation in Fairbanks

Note that there is only very limited public transportation in Fairbanks. There is a bus from the airport to campus but it does not go very often (maybe a few times per day). Best to take a taxi if you stay on campus (approx. $20; 10 minutes).

Practical information while in Fairbanks:

Insurance

Note that you are NOT insured through university since this is not a formal university course. The organizational type of this event is similar to that of a conference/workshop, where organizers are not responsible for your insurance. You need to organize any necessary insurances (health/accident ...) yourself.

Staying longer

Note that the course is extremely intense, i.e. there is very limited opportunity (only one free 1/2 day) to explore more of the surroundings by yourself. If you want to enjoy more of the fantastic scenery and hiking opportunities around McCarthy, we strongly encourage you to consider coming earlier on your own and/or staying longer. Many participants in the past have done so, sometimes teaming up with other summer school participants, and they have greatly enjoyed those additional days. It is possible to take a bus to Glennalen along the Richardson Highway and from there to get to McCarthy by van or flying in. The closest international airport is Anchorage (with limited bus transportation options to Glennallen/McCarthy).

If you choose to stay longer than the duration of the course (in McCarthy, Fairbanks or elsewhere in Alaska) please note that you need to take care of any travel arrangements (accommodation, transport etc) yourself. We arrange accommodation on campus for the night before leaving Fairbanks and the night after arriving in Fairbanks, but not for any additional nights. For additional nights on campus you need to book via uaf-housing@alaska.edu or call +1 - 907-474-1886. Single rooms were $54 (in 2022); Doubles were $72 (in 2022). More info: UAF guest housing.