This is the sixth post from the 2022 Alaska Flying trip.
Friday morning, my boots were still quite wet. I was starting to talk about leaving Alaska and heading down to Idaho where it was probably drier. Emilie was feeling a little sick. However, the sky was blue and the mountains were beautiful with wisps of clouds around their middle altitudes.
After breakfast, we packed and preflighted the airplane and headed up the Nizina River to a landing area high in Nikolai Pass.
It took a bit of looking to find the landing area which is essentially unmarked. Furthermore, previous landings had not left a clear track. We flew over a tent just south of where we expected the strip to be. That seemed like a good sign. A hiker might wait right near their pickup spot. We knew the runway sloped uphill to the south toward a low summit. Thus we would land to the south. I circled and did a low pass downhill to the north because a climb out over the summit might not be safe at these altitudes with a loaded airplane. The approach took us out over the river 4,000 feet below the landing area before turning back to the ridge. The cliffs and dramatic changes in altitude are not something that I was accustomed to from flying in the eastern part of the lower 48. Though the landing was easy, the visuals made the approach challenging to judge.
We spent a bit of time hiking around the plateau and enjoying the scenery. When we returned to the airplane we found the hiker whose tent we had seen from a distance. She was from NY, on a solo hike and was now waiting for a Wrangell Mountain Air C-185 to pick her up.
Our next stop was at the base of Nizina Glacier. We enjoyed views of a number of tall water falls during the short flight up the valley. The landing area consisted of less consolidated gravel and small stone that might have allowed smaller tires to sink in.
After we ate some lunch, Emilie and Isaac each took a nap; Emilie to help with feeling a bit under the weather. I removed my shoes and socks to let them dry out some more in the sun. I also looked around a bit for a path to the lake and glacier but didn’t find one. When Emilie and Isaac were ready, we bushwacked our way to the lake with a side trip so that Isaac could explore a bluff. Isaac and I poked at a few of the bergy bits in the lake to see if we could hop across them to a glacial island of sorts. We concluded that they were not large and stable enough and decided to not get wet, esp. since I was starting to feel a bit more cheery with my boots drying out. When we returned to the airstrip plateau, we found a use path that seemed to head more toward the river, likely for rafters who get dropped off by air taxi.
Our next planned stop was McCarthy for fuel, but Emilie was feeling well enough to want to try her hand at Nikolai Pass. It was right on our route. She chose to reverse the pattern to avoid potential down drafts from the prevailing wind descending over the cliffs. The right hand pattern was also less disorienting for us flatlanders. It came in over the shallower slopes on the west side.
Isaac enjoy taking the controls as we descended through Nikolai Pass to McCarthy. On the ramp, it took a little looking around to locate the correct fuel tank. After fueling up, a helicopter was next in line, so we pushed the Bearhawk out of the way and then chatted with the pilot of a Piper Aztec who was loading quite a bit of cargo. He was able to provide us with some weather forecasts. We were unable to find any internet connection with our phones and tablets. In McCarthy, it is Verizon or nothing. He confirmed that weather was coming in for the weekend, brought in by the same front that had been on the coast all week. It looked like it would be good weather the next morning, might rain Saturday afternoon and/or Sunday and could improve on Monday.
We debated flying north to Chisana. Being further inland it would probably have better weather. Unfortunately, that would put our stashed food box in Gulkana a bit out of the way. We could also try for a hotel in McCarthy. We finally decided to try for one of the cabins at the Peavine Airstrip and stick it out. Maybe the weather wouldn’t be so bad?
Arriving at Peavine, I didn’t see a windsock. The wind I had observed suggested a landing up river which is generally preferred because it is usually uphill. Additionally, winds will often come down the river off the cold peaks, making an up river landing preferred. As I was nearing the end of the runway on final approach it seemed that we were going rather fast. My quick glance as the true airspeed readout compared with the GPS ground speed suggested a 10-12 kt tailwind. Yeah… we were going a bit fast over the ground. The landing was long, but the runway was also plenty long.
There are two cabins at Peavine and both were empty when we arrived. The larger one sleeps 6. We chose the smaller one that sleeps 3. There was a small stream that crossed in front of our cabin that looked to be a good water source. As the evening progressed, we noted that the water was higher and crossing it by hopping stones was getting a bit more challenging. Behind the cabin we took sponge baths out of a bucket and washed and hung some laundry. A 2nd and then, later, a 3rd plane arrived. The 3rd, a C-185, departed to spend the night a May Creek in the cabin we had just vacated. The 2nd plane, a C-182, was staying for just one night and the C-185 would return the next day. The couple in the C-182 were from the Anchorage area had been vacationing in central Alaska. They had been chased out to the Wrangells by poor weather.
Click for video https://vimeo.com/756246352?h=12bc46a2dd&badge=0&autopause=0&player_id=0&app_id=58479
All Day 15 Photos
Continue reading: Alaska Day 16: Granite Range and Bagley Icefield