’07 Glacier hiking, no Kayaking!


As KAYAKERS’ we should have known to plan for the Weather! But then again, I don’t pack enough wine!

Carnarvon, WA, Aust:

Mar ’05 JP & D got excited as 2 girls do with a bottle &
half of Chardi on a Summers night. They had decided to kayak the Glaciers off the Antarctic.
“Too cold for me” said I.
“Then we’ll go by ourselves”

Ergo: D & I are in Seward, Alaska to Glacier kayak all because of a bottle
and a half of Chardonnay imbibed on a Summers night!

1. Seward, Alaska:

Great spot with about 3,000 pop at the head of Resurrection Bay. We’ve done the run from Homer via Homer Stage Line via a small village called Moose Pass which is one of the few places where you can’t buy fuel.

Because no fuel supplier wants their outlet known as Moose Pass Gas; had to include the bit of humour our driver delivered as we drove through.

Finally managed to stay in the Fonz’s place (well almost) it’s a flat above a garage called “suite of view”. Its perfect! The simplicity of design and decor makes this our sort of place. Now that the obligatory tour of the main street is done, we notice that there’s a missed call on the phone. Its our kayak trip organisers, the trip is cancelled due to a 30 knt storm front in the Gulf of Alaska. This was the grand finale of the trip; its not to be. I even tried the ‘hutchmeisters’ line “toughen up” to no avail! We had no plan B for Seward. After a good wallow in gloom, misery and other things we opt for hiking a glacier. Its initially a poor second choice after nearly 8 months of anticipation to kayak at
a Glacier face but will make up for the turn-back at Grewingk Glacier. So back to the main drag to look around, we’ve already put the Sea Life Centre as a must see. If you ever end up in Seward and don’t allow a few hours for this place, you should never
have gone to Seward. We did it twice as the 1st time we arrived too late in the day to leisurely absorb everything. The Stellar Sea lion would be at least 4 m in length as he sits easy 2.5m tall – elegance and beauty. The Puffins in the water bird enclosure are so busy that the best photo I got was tail feathers as he swam away… Pup seals, large octopus, Murres and starfish all up close. There’s even a Jelly Fish display – I’ll try but don’t
know if the video will run via this page. D’s highlight was the Sea Anemones – and even I am persuaded by their singularity.

2. Exit Glacier:

Quite an apt name for the last adventure before we exit Alaska! Its only a mere 2.5km hike up a mountain side to an elevation of 2100′ (700m), more like 2500′ up as we needed to scramble down about 300′ to get on the Glacier. But I’m ahead of myself. Just before we hit the apex of the upward hike, D spotted a Black Bear about 300m above us. (OK didn’t actually see one on the Grewingk hike but sensed them and here we are ‘casually’ sighting a Bear) We’ve fitted our crampons and with 2 hiking sticks apiece its down and onto the Glacial scree. It isn’t scree as I assumed it is a stony cover over clear ice.** As we step onto the Glacier proper the colours and texture change to a crusty opaque blue surface covered with a fine silt layer. The aretes have ‘dark silted’ edges in contrast the steep sides. We’ve barely started to ICE~WALK and D spots #2 Bear keeping pace with our party above the glacier line – D is now the official Bear Spotter as she finds another two while we’re out there. A pause while we learn to ‘crampon walk’ backwards up a slope and then down. Awkward but safe if you stamp the points into the ice. Now its forward up a slope using the toe spikes – kick toe in, keep ankle rigid and step up using thighs and knees – heck this is starting to hurt!

As we clamber/stumble across the glacier we ‘re trying to absorb the depth of the whites
and blues – cold blue waterfalls that have cut deep blue ice holes down, down into the
Glacial bed. Rich blue walls of long narrow crevasses the flex and flow across our path.
Jagged lines of silt tipped aretes block our way to the snow fields above.

Let your dreams unfold the memories of youth, photo’s and movies of Antarctic adventures… it was more than that… hard to describe… ” a six year child steeped out onto Exit Glacier and squealed” That was me, though I did hold the squeal in, my grin just radiated across the ICE!
As we hiked back down the track, passing those upward bound and stumbling over rocks
with weary thighs, easing around switchbacks – the person behind me looked up, there’s a
Black Bear foraging under the bushes barely 3m away. Agog, I’ve called to those in front
and am edging closer and closer to the Bear when a rather firm grip and firmer voice pull
me back down the track. Excitably foolish that’s me, I even FORGOT to get a photo! At the end of the physically tiring but worthwhile day after a hot shower D’s comment was
“This lie-down just about best hiking on a Glacier” I just want to retract my earlier “we’re kayakers not hikers” because I could do it again!

** Clear ice has oxygen trapped whereas Glacial Ice is compressed Snow-Ice with a lower content of oxygen accounting for the spectral blue of the hydrogen atoms.

 3. The final trip and farewell to where we’ve been is the Alaskan Railroad four hour scenic ride to Anchorage. The perpetual light of the Alaskan summer night  allows us to see bear, moose, waterfalls, Spruce stands, gorges Glaciers and the post 1964 earthquake sunken town of Portage. The ground level dropped 2-3m during the ‘quake and the town of Portage is now part of coastal swampland. It was odd to see swamp grasses, waterway and a roof-line of the last few houses as we passed through.
As we had promised ourselves 28 days ago – Eggs Benedict for breakfast at the Snow City Café was the perfect exit!


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