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Flying Lake Clark Pass

Last week I had the opportunity to fly Lake Clark Pass with my neighbor and good friend Deb in her Cessna 172, affectionately known as T-Rex.

Deb is a MedLife helicopter pilot who works week on, week off in Soldota. She is also a very patient teacher, and she let me fly almost this entire trip. Flying is such a rush! Even though I often get airsick, I might have to get my pilot license one of these days… I’d get over it, right?!

Selma, Deb, and I took off from the Soldotna airstrip after lunch. The skies were clear with unlimited visibility, the sun was reflecting off the snow and beating through the windows, and it was windy.

We flew across Cook Inlet, over Kalgin Island and Big River Lake, and into the Narrows.

The pass here is less than 100 yards on the valley floor and less than 1,000 yards at 1,000 feet of elevation.

Lake Clark Pass, the primary aviation route between southcentral and western Alaska, separates the Neacola and Chigmit Mountain Ranges. Both of these are park of the Aleutian Range, which contains dozens of glaciers, towering peaks, and active volcanoes, and extends over 1,000 miles from Chalachamna Lake to Unimak Island in the Aleutian Chain.

The pass is at an elevation of 1,050 feet and is over 9,000 feet below the peak of Mt. Redoubt, the tallest active volcano in the range at 10,197 feet. As we flew around the first corner of the Narrows, the windblown snow looked like Cool Whip artfully draped over the towering peaks. We zipped around the backside of Mt. Redoubt, which was puffing and steaming, and were in awe of the towering peaks surrounding us on both sides.

There were no other planes flying through at this time, so we had the pass to ourselves as we flew westward towards Little Lake Clark Pass and the end of the approximately 70 mile long pass. Here we began to climb. The winds were strong and the ride was bumpy at a little below 10,000 feet, but we made it around Mt. Redoubt and headed back across the inlet, our minds blown once again by the intense beauty of our great state.

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