Last week I had the privilege of guiding an amazing overnight trip up to the Unlikely Valley. We had perfect weather, got to see a bear within five minutes of landing the helicopter and climbed a previously unclimbed sub-peak at the top of the valley. Quite a successful overnight trip in my opinion. My two clients, an adventurous father and son duo from Florida, even liked my cooking!
While up the in Unlikely Valley though, I couldn't help but think of all the opportunities to explore the almost endless number of glaciers and unclimbed peaks. So the Marmot and I headed up for two nights to explore the area and scout out opportunities for future trips. We camped out at the toe of 'Saddle' glacier. This yet unnamed glacier is where our guided overnight trips gain their first experience traveling across the blue expanse of an alpine glacier. The Marmot and I were lucky to find a deep blue and only slightly wet moulin (deep hole in the ice formed by a meltwater waterfall) to ice climb in. Being only minutes from our campsite, this climb was a perfect warmup for the day ahead.
After tiring out our arms on the hard blue ice, we started up the glacier to give our legs a workout too. Our goal was to reach the very top of this glacier, which ended in a cirque of unclimbed peaks offering unobstructed views of the Gulf of Alaska.
Soon we reached the firn line (where the glacier ice becomes buried by the last winter's snows) and had to rope up. Several hours later, and past some of the deepest, widest, and most forbidding crevasses I've ever seen, we reached the top of the glacial cirque. The cirque is surrounded by small rock peaks jutting out of the snow and into the sky. Looking up at the various peaks, it was almost impossible to decipher which was the highest. After choosing one and climbing it, we realized we had picked the second highest! The actual summit was more challenging, with exposed fifth class terrain, but was well worth the extra work.
From the summit, the Marmot and I were able to look over the Resurrection Bay, Day Harbor, and both the Harding and Sargent Icefields. Lots of photo taking ensued and then it was the long walk back through the crevasses to camp.
After climbing and descending almost 3,000 feet of glaciated terrain plus ice climbing in a moulin, the Marmot and I were quite tired. A delicious dinner of cous-cous and veggies combined with a dessert of s'mores replenished some of the spent calories. A beautiful sunset in the alpine and then it was off to bed. We flew back home the next morning, but I was already looking forward to returning to the Unlikely Valley to share its beauty with others!