Practical Information

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 very primitive shower (with water coming from a bucket of water that has to be carried over from the wood-fired water burner) 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 lake is close to the camp site and has been used for swimming.
Instructors will 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).

All meals will be provided at the Wrangell Mountains Center (which is in the old Hardware Store) by their staff. Note that meals are 100% or almost 100% plant-based. If you need meat products you need to bring your own supplies or purchase them in the very small general store. 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 the Wrangell Mountain Center during the length of the program.

All lectures will be held in the Wrangell Mountain Center's recently acquired and 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 road), 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. Note that McCarthy is remote (2 hour drive on a dirt road from the main road between Fairbanks and Valdez). There is ATM access but it may not work, and not all businesses accept credit cards. 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. A public payphone requires prepaid calling cards to make calls. Cell phones and internet do not always work (especially AT&T plans do not work). To have internet access you can purchase a short term permit from Copper Valley Telephone to get your own password for the so-called Public WiFi service in McCarthy, which requires a pass code. Costs are around $40/month, $25/wk or $9/day.

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 gets turned off at nights.

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 possible, but unlikely), and September and August are the rainiest months. 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 (let us know if you don't have one). Most student projects do not have specific software requirements, but software allowing advanced calculations should be available (C, Fortran, Matlab, Python ...). 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 bring:

  • (water-proof) tent (If you don't have a tent try to borrow one. If you can't find one let us know. We have one (2-3 person) tent available for the summer school.)
  • warm sleeping bag (Note, temperatures may fall to around freezing during night)
  • sleeping pad
  • hiking boots
  • rain gear (jacket and pants)
  • fleece (or similar
  • hat and (thin) gloves (for glacier hike)
  • indoor slippers (no shoes allowed in the lecture room; Note, the room/floor can be somewhat cold at times); Note that you will be walking back and forth many times every day between the lecture house (no shoes allowed inside) and the Wrangell Mountain Center 20 m apart, where shoes are allowed;
  • towel
  • insect repellent (and possibly head net)
  • any medication you may need (there is no pharmacy in McCarthy)
  • sun glasses
  • water bottle (for excursion)
  • daypack for excursions
  • pocket calculator and alarm clock (if possible other than cell phone due to power restrictions)
  • laptop + plug adaptor (foreign students)
  • poster on your research (Note you need to print it yourself - we don't have the facilities to do that for you in McCarthy or at UAF)
  • notebook & pencils
  • International students: passport, visa.


  • Crampons or similar (may make it easier to walk on the glacier and may be necessary depending on weather. Yaktrax or shoe cleats are better than nothing but might not be good enough; microspikes are ideal, but if you don't have or don't want to bring any, we will borrow crampons for you from the WMC).
  • Trekking poles (not necessary but can be useful)
  • Bearspray: We will provide a few cans for use at the campsite, but you may want to have your own (Note, you can not take bearspray on the plane))
  • Volleyball, cards, frisby ... There is more than glaciology.

Note that it is light all night; no flashlight needed, but you may want to bring an eye-mask if you can't sleep when 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 (no cars from non-inhabitants are allowed in the village), and you will have to carry all your belongings from the parking lot to the campsite (roughly 1 km, partially a rocky narrow path), i.e. bulky rolling bags are a bad idea. A small cart is available to transport material across the footbridge over the river. The Wrangell Mountain Center (WMC) will help with transporting heavier equipment to the WMC by truck (passing close to the campsite).

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 by Condor ( These operate once a week to Fairbanks and 3 times a week to Anchorage. It is possible to go to Fairbanks and leave from Anchorage for the return flight or vice versa. Flights between Fairbanks and Anchorage are available by Alaska Airlines and ERA or can be booked directly on the Condor homepage. You can also book through their homepage your flight from other European cities than Frankfurt.

Airport transportation and public transportation in Fairbanks
Note that there is only very limited pubic 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. $15; 10 minutes).

Practical information while in Fairbanks:
1.) Info on public transportation in Fairbanks
2.) Campus map with relevant summer school locations
3.) Map of places to eat close to campus
4.) Practical information on UAF campus and Fairbanks

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 nothing more.
For additional nights on campus you need to book via UAF guest housing. Single rooms cost ca. $26 per night.