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Thread: Glacial Travel Advice Please

  1. #1
    Member Bighorse's Avatar
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    Default Glacial Travel Advice Please

    I'm heading into the Chugach Mountains Sheep hunting and may be dropped off near a large glacier. I've traversed and traveled alpine glacial formations but the big valley type glacier are new to me. I've got an ice axe, six point instep crampons, and a 30m rope, caribiners, and harness. I'll be traveling with a partner. I won't be bringing ice anchors so any belay would just be using the axe and a partner really.

    Please advise on what kind of situations I should avoid completly. What are the biggest dangers? Are the daily glacial movements a consideration? Are the moraine lines to be avoided or used for travel? Should I stay off the ice as much as possible?

    Thanks

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    I assume this is valley bottom travel on a glacier that has no snow on it. I'm too chicken to fool around near potential snow bridges.

    The answer to all of your questions: it depends.

    You may see big ice features move or collapse at times. I've only seen minor rockslides and a big house-size ice arch that collapsed sometime in between walk-in and walk-out.

    The white ice could be snot slick or like hard rotten snow. There's a pretty good chance you won't need crampons unless you need to get on something that's too steep. I've not had to use crampons on white ice this time of year.

    The moraine may be thin (look for dampness) and muddy and wanting to take you for a trip into Archaeology. Thin and muddy is your worst enemy for safety, followed by big loose bouldery.

    You'll spend plenty of time on rock.

    WATCH YOUR FALL LINE AT ALL TIMES. Do not let yourself walk on any moraine slope where a slip of the rock you're on shoots you into a big crevasse, moulin, dropoff, pool, etc.

    If you have to walk above or around a big hazard, make double doggone sure that what you're putting your feet on will stay put.

    Make sure you're not walking above a big undercut caused by flowing water on the glacier. You don't want to be the straw that breaks off a big chunk with you on it.

    Insteps might not cut the cheese for what you have to do. I crossed a good-size flowing stream once with a bottom as slick as glass, and liked the spikes sticking out all sides of my CAMP aluminum crampons. That said, I've only needed crampons twice in four hunts, and one of the hunts I could have gotten by with a 200-yard backtrack effort. But, when you need them, you NEED them.

    I've not bothered with climbing rope; I've managed to keep my fall line away from bad things to fall into. I'm not sure it's much use if you don't have harnesses. I bring 200' of spectra loggers' throw rope from Bailey's for raising and lowering a pack down a steep spot.

    It should scare you a bit; I'm uneasy the entire time until there's no ice between me and bedrock...

    You will probably be told by other folks to stay off the glacier, and that what I write above is indicative of my own carelessness.

  3. #3
    Member mod elan's Avatar
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    My 3 experiences on ice is the white ice is kinda rough on the surface and good traction. I'll second the fact the thin moraine on ice is slick as snot. The toe area I felt was the worst. The second worst area is between the clean ice and the mountain getting on or off the glacier on the sides. Rock on ice with holes and steeps. Very unnerving. The glacier I think you are referring to is pretty tore up with crevasses. We don't have any to worry about where we've been but there was one time we were coming off the mountain crossing the bad moraine to hit the clean ice and swear to this day we heard a chunk of ice break off and fall into the water. UNDER US! It was like slow motion. We looked at each other and both said "RUN"! We never carried any traction devices but wished I had some one time crossing a creek on the ice. I've got some hillsound trail crampons now that I'm waiting to try and will take from now on.

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    Member Bighorse's Avatar
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    Thanks for that info! I didn't think about needing/wanting crampons for crossing flowing water over ice. That's good info. I will have a harness. I don't like small cliffs to stop me. My climbing bundle is about six pounds. It's a weight I'll bear as I'm not the hunter and won't have a rifle.

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