Friday, 19 June 2015

Portage Valley, Alaska

Moose Flats is the start of the Portage Valley and was our first stop, it’s also the start of the Trail of Blue Ice, a hike that takes you through the valley.  
Our next stop was the Express Glacier, to start with we couldn’t find it, I know, I know, how could you possibly miss a glacier.   It’s actually a ‘hanging’ glacier, hanging half way up the mountain so once we looked up there it was.

From there we drove on to Portage lake and glacier, we’d read that the Visitor Centre was worth a looking at, but it was closed when we visited. 

When gold was discovered in Turnagain Arm, the easy way to get there was from the Cook Inlet, but in the winter the inlet was clogged with ice.   So, gold seekers made their way from ships in Prince William Sound.   Between 1893 and 1903 hundreds made their way up Portage Pass a route used for centuries by the Dena’ina Athabascans, the Alutiiq and later Russian fur traders. 

Portage glacier is on the far right of the photograph.

Ropes and pulleys were used to haul their packs and sleds up the east side of the pass before they crossed the glacier.   In 1896 over 400 hundred people safely made the crossing, but in 1897 3 men lost their way in a storm.   Strong winds blew their dogs and most of their gear over a cliff and one man fell into a crevasse and disappeared into the glacier.   What a horrible way to die. 

Portage lake and glacier from a different angle.

The route across Portage glacier was used to haul mail and freight from Prince William Sound until 1903 when improvements to the trail to Seward provided an easier route. 

Chunks of ice regularly fall from the glacier and this one was floating around on our first visit.   It was actually quite blue, but that doesn’t show very well in the photograph.

Ice anyone?

We also took the short two mile round trip hike, out to Byron glacier.   Just before you get to the actual glacier there is a small wall with a sign that basically says unless you know what you’re doing on a glacier then you should stay behind the wall. 

Water running from an opening in the glacier forms a small stream littered with rocks, I dabbled my fingers in the water and it was sooooo cold it took my breath away.
As you can see there is absolutely nothing but your own common sense to stop you walking out onto the glacier as far as you like.

Beyond the wall it just looked like rocks, so we carried on.   But, just a few feet beyond the wall, we realised that while what we were standing on was rock a little further along it looked decidedly iffy.   As we know zilch about glaciers and really not fancying the idea of disappearing into the depths of the glacier never to be seen again, or maybe discovered in a few thousand years, we didn’t go any further.

It is really rather beautiful though.

Have fun, we are!

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