IceLegacy Chugach 2017, Day 1

Published 21.07 in category Ice Legacy Chugach Alaska

 

Message from Vincent,

“This is our first report live from the ice of the Chugach mountains!

We woke this morning in the town of Valdez, a beautiful town sitting at the base of the Chugach mountains.

8am, we just had breakfast and gave a call to Leigh Coates our logistic pilot . She will first come to our hotel, take us and the gear to her so called “bird” helicopter waiting at the airport.

There she comes! We are happy to meet her and quickly feel her positive energy. We are both really excited to fly over the Alaskan wilderness towards the ice edge of the Columbia arm glacier, our starting point. For us, it is very important to start each trip from the very start, sea level in this case.

After some security rules explained by Leigh and some advice basically on how to behave around her bird and how to close the 10000$ passenger door :-), I was embarking first in order to find the best place to start. I flew above the Columbia glacier one week ago to become familiar with this intimidating place. Leigh, myself, the sleds and some bags are on the first trip while Børge is waiting for the second flight.

What a privilege to do this, be there flying above the mountains and the ocean. On the way, Leigh spotted a black bear. We approached him but the noise of the “bird” made him hide in the bush. We could then only see the bush moving and guessing his thoughts: “why do these guys bother me?”

On the way, Leigh tells me that sometimes when she is flying around, she stops on a nice patch of grass somewhere and do a yoga session… Really cool! I can understand her great energy as she seems to have found a great balance in connection with Nature.

She landed perfectly, right next to the ice. Time to unpack the gear and say goodbye. Suddenly, the “bird” disappeared over the cap of a glacier. IAM by myself and feel the weigh of the wilderness on my shoulder. I took the time to get imprinted by this raw nature. Eventually I started carrying some of the gear up on the ice.

Txou, txou, txou, txou.. Leigh and Børge are approaching. After another reconnaissance swing, she landed again. A little further away from the ice this time.

We have to hurry. Leigh explained us the danger of the area. There is a lake further up that drains into the fjord and could potentially flush the area where we stand. Actually the ground where we stand on was formed in just one day. That gave me a thrill. That big area of mixed rocks and sand was formed in one day? I felt so small.

That’s it! The both of us reunited again. Last time we skied together was about a year ago when we successfully crossed the 270 miles Wrangell-St Elias icecap. Ahead of us now lies the Chugach mountain range ice field. It’s our 8th together!! I feel very lucky about that. Specially because we get along well and also because we are on the same page when it comes to security.

Sleds are now on the ice. They just need a dog to pull them. Well, let’s be the dogs ourselves as we are use to do so ;-). The terrain is raw ice going up and having our body temperature rising. We are now on the East side of the Columbia. The middle part is totally broken! Good to see that we can stay on a smoother side. “Beautiful” declared Børge. We are both mesmerized by the terrain. However after few hours of dragging our sleds on ice mixed with rocks, 3 out of 4 sleds are damaged and cracked in the bottom and on the side. That’s really bad news! We suddenly feel quite frustrated. It’s 6pm, let’s pitch camp and think about it.

When Børge was crossing the Arctic ocean in solo from Siberia to Canada, his sleds broke after 1 week. He got an air support which brought him a new sled. He wasn’t sure about continuing the journey as he planned to go unsupported. He still did continue and crossed the Arctic Ocean in 82 days. It’s not just about the broken sled but the fact that Børge managed to find the ressource and the motivation to continue. To me, it made the trip even harder!

So we are here on the Columbia glacier with 3 damaged sleds but our positive spirit is now back and we are enjoying the first meal in the tent. We can’t go to the store so we have to find a repair solution. Program for tomorrow is to carry our equipment back and forth all the way to the snow so we preserve the sleds. We are about 20km from it. 2 days carrying we hope. No more because carrying is not fun!!”

 

Columbia Glacier:
The glacier’s speed of retreat at the terminus reached a maximum of nearly 30 metres (98 ft) per day in 2001. And Since 2002, the terminus has retreated a total of 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) at an average rate of approximately 0.6 kilometres (0.37 mi) per year.
The retreat has been accompanied by nearly 500 metres (1,600 ft) of thinning at the present position of the terminus.



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