"Paul combines the terrain-knowledge of the mountaineer with skills acquired growing up in the cockpit, and he is a genius now at glacier landings."
– National Geographic Traveler
"King of the bush pilots."
– Outside Magazine.
Paul Claus has been leading adventurers in these mountains all his life. Harpers & Queen named him the Best Adventure Guide in their 150 Best Places on Earth review. He served as the wilderness survival expert on the Discovery Channel’s “Alaska Experiment.”
“Wilderness,” says Paul, “is the unexpected. We follow nature, not the other way around, and every day here is different.”
He should know – he grew up here in the Alaskan wilderness, and lives each day in awe of its grace and power. Just as importantly, he knows how to survive. In this country you need a seasoned guide. Someone who knows the land and has established himself as a provider, and a protector.
Though he’s a seasoned world traveler and outdoorsman who has climbed Everest, the Wrangell-St. Elias mountain range is Paul's favorite place on earth.
“The Himalayas are beautiful,” says Paul. “But not more so than here. And the Himalayas are not wilderness. There are people everywhere. There are tea houses around every bend. You come ot the top of the pass, look down into the next valley, and there is a town. But here, we are the only people on this 150-mile river. This is the last true wilderness on earth.”
Naturally, in a country without roads, Paul grew up in the cockpit. As a pilot, he’s become a legend, and there are plenty of pilots in Alaska who can tell you a Paul Claus story.
“In these Piper Super Cubs we can land anywhere,” he says. “Anywhere.” He should know – Paul was a pioneer in landing bush planes on ice glaciers, and won the heavy touring competition for the shortest landing and the shortest takeoff in the wilderness.
“We can fly you up into a mountain valley, put you down on a sandbar at the edge of the forest, and take you on a hike that literally no one has ever done before.”
Paul stares thoughtfully out the window. The sky turns silver as a mass of clouds churns down the valley. “Every day,” he says, “We deal with the Alaskan factor. Everything here is bigger, larger, harder and tougher than it looks. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, or how good shape you’re in, if you come here, you’ll contend with the Alaskan factor. That’s the reality of Alaska.”
He watches as the storm clouds dissolve on a warm updraft over the Chitina River. A ray of sunlight shines through, glittering on the mountainside. “That’s what makes it fun!”