Day 38–What A Hike!

June 18, 2010 10:21am

Live explodes at this elevation, a long way down from the ice sheet

Majestic landscape hardly seen by humans

N77°44.458 W69°21.449 Elevation 2176 Feet

I need to make one important correction: yesterday I mentioned that the hike down to ocean level was about a kilometer and a half for a 2200 foot drop. In fact, that distance is approximately seven kilometers. This may seem like a footnote, but given the terrain, it is anything but. This is a serious hike; over some mean, jangled, “break an ankle or crack your skull”, boulder ridden sharply angled rocky slope that will put you through your paces as it challenges your balance and goes down with no end!
We left gingerly around seven PM–still on a night schedule–with essentially half of our loads, figuring that we would cover the trip in two runs: carry one load down; hike back to camp and spend the night; and finish the following day by pulling the sledges over the rocks. Easy peasy. We each strapped on about seventy pounds on our backs and set off. The incline was soon to increase, while the slope consists entirely of sharp edged rocks cracked by the harsh glacial winter conditions. The temperature was pleasant, especially as we motored down, but the winds progressively increased. An hour in, and there were howling, pushing over fifty miles per hour! The heavy cargo hardly mattered in gusts that were so powerful as to challenge our footing and push us down. The severe incline would make this hike precarious in the best of days, with no cargo. But today, it 3ad downright atletic! It took us three hours to make it down, over–it must be said–some arresting views dominating the landscape below. No sooner had we reached leveled grounds that the winds died down; the setting was serene; and the vista spectacular. Framed by mountains on either side, featuring glaciers pouring in from the top, the bay was frozen up to its mouth about three miles out. Beyond that, sprinkled like floating marshmallows on the open sea were a multitude of large, majestic icebergs. With the drop in elevation came the explosion of vegetation, and all the life that comes with it: moss, birds, bees, flies and wild flowers all thrived in the thawing tundra. We walked inadvertently very near a bird nesting in the soft moss. She clearly had not seen human beings before, and was not fazed, approaching within six feet of us. She feigned being wounded as she distracted us away from her nest, which we eventually found with four near term eggs in it.
This terrain is very uneven, and it took us a while to find ground suitable for a helicopter to land. To that point, word came back that the chopper is coming from a base quite remote from here; the cost, unfactored, is quite prohibitive–close to a second mortgage on the house! Given our options, our hands are tied, however, and this will be the unfortunate unforseable of this type of trip…
It was one AM when we begun the hike back up. As soon as we gained elevation that the winds picked up again, increasing again to a violent gale. Nervous about the the tent that we had anchored in the wet, granular snow, we raced back up the mountain–luckily, empty handed this time–which took us well over two hours. We found the tent floating in mid air, anchored by three haphazard rocks, getting man handled by the sixty miles an hour winds! This tent has seen some action on this trip! It took us thirty minutes to anchor it properly. Exhausted, we made a meal and burried ourselves in our sleeping bags to the howling conditions outside! It was four AM. This morning, we woke to the pleasant tickering sound of a stream below the snow; the winds has died and the sun was out. And today, we repeat the exercise, but pulling sledges over the rocks this time… Oh boy, this will be a rodeo!

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