July 26, 2008

Seward - Exit Glacier Hikes UPDATED!

Among several activities that Sean had scheduled for he & Leo was a hike on Exit Glacier. Exit lies just northwest of the town of Seward, and is the easiest "exit point" if one were hiking across the Harding Icefield from west to east, hence the name. It is a National Park, and like many others caters to solo or group adventures, as well as guided hikes.

Kim & I took the opportunity to scout the lower part of the glacier, from several of the numerous foottrails. This is an easy days hike and if you're in the area you simply must do it as a minimum. On the drive out we were captivated by the row after row of bright-blooming Fireweed, the Alaska state flower.

Our first view of the moraine area re-enforced just how mighty & powerful the forces of the glaciers are. This particular area was covered in ice only tens years ago. Whether global warming, or just a series of warmer than normal summers, Exit is receding at a very rapid rate.
As we hike along up toward the face of the glacier, we pause to enjoy more of Nature's pathside surprises....

The face is an awesome spectacle that no photo can truly convey, but here's my best shot from still quite a distance away.

A little closer and Kim notices clear evidence of the cuts that the ice has left in the rocks.

We finally get to within almost touching distance (the Park forbids closer encroachment due to the instability of the ice...it is moving under tremendous pressure all the time...), so we take the last few minutes to listen, look and marvel at the forces at work.

We met Sean & Leo early one morning to do some guided "ice hiking" on the Glacier surface. Leo was anxious to get started, trying on the helmet & backapck as soon as we got there.

A short shuttle and we were at Exit G Park, on the 2+ mile climbing hike up to a safe entry point that our guides use for getting onto the ice.

It wasn't long before we get a differnet and much more dramatic view of the emense size of Exit than can be had from down below...ice stretching both directions as far as we can see!

As we hike down towards the huge expanse, large cracks & crevices appear, staring in wonder at the beautiful deep blue colors revealed within this massive ice cube...

Dawning the helmets & crampons was a bit confusing & frustrating...they fold together in a way that tends to tangle, but before long we get them all on and checked and we're off to explore the monolith first hand.

We recieve countless warnings about being careful around the crevices, most of them a bottomless pit flowing into a freezing river far below the surface!
Looking across the expanse at our group heading "home", one realizes the insignificance of man when compared to the immense forces of Nature.... What a wondrous day we have all had!