July 17, 2015

K2 Glacier Flight #3 from Talkeetna

By: Rob Lowe

Featured Picture

By now you are probably wondering why I am writing this travelogue today. The answer is pretty simple: It started to rain last evening about 6:00pm and it has rained overnight and as I write at noon AK time it is still pouring rain. We plan to travel to Anchorage tomorrow and today we have decent internet service so to put this together passes the time. We toured the town yesterday afternoon, bought some gifts and things and enjoyed a "Mountain High Pizza Pie” for dinner. There is no TV service (or cable TV in this park), no satellite TV or radio, no weather radio stations and one local FM radio station that is a "CBC-like” public broadcaster we can listen to. We have not felt the need to watch any of the video’s we brought along, probably because we find we are eating about one hour later than at home and dinner is usually around 7:00pm. With it being light later we’re not feeling much like watching TV. We are noticing that it is darker for longer overnight, partly due to the month or so since the summer solstice and partly due to the cloudy rainy weather.   Days are down to 18 hours of daylight now.

As our flight descended we crossed back into the Denali National Park and Preserve and started to see the snow, rock and green areas all in the same perspective. The pictures taken in this section are more affected by the cockpit window which I think may have been somewhat thicker. The second photo shows mountains with a mountain stream flowing in the valley between the ranges. The third photo shows gold bearing mountains where prospectors continue to explore in the summer months. They obtain their permits from the National Park Service and have to ensure they do not damage the environment. They do discover gold each year.

We thought we might see some wildlife on our return as the berries ripen on the lower slopes and the bears come to enjoy them. Moose also frequent the tundra fields. We came upon 3 moose sitting in a tundra field that reminded me of resting cattle that we often see laying on the ground with their head up chewing their cud. As the plane turned to try to give us a better view, the moose arose and were standing as we passed over. Trying to take photos out of a banking plane when the moose are behind you is a challenge. I apologize for the blurry photo but you get the idea. I was the only one to get a photo of them. We also saw a cow with two young ones in another field farther away.   

The fifth photo shows green grass growing on the frozen tundra over the permafrost. If the ground gets too cold the lawn dies and turns brown. Of course water fills in the depressions and creates a really interesting topography especially when seen from the air. People still like to build homes in far-away places (outside of the park) however access to their home is a challenge. If they use ATV’s in the summer they quickly damage the tundra and melt the surface so that travelling the trails results in the machines sinking into the trail often to the point that they cannot be removed. Others fly in, landing on the over 3,000,000 lakes over 20 acres in size found in Alaska. There is real challenges to living in these remote homes, one of which is shown in photo 6. Some ambitious owners have built a wooden boardwalk from their access point to their home. We saw one however I was on the wrong side of the plane to capture a photo of it. We also learned that what we refer to as "Skidoo’s” are known as "snow-machines” in Alaska.

We landed on wheels on the runway in a very smooth landing and were back a few minutes early since the flight was shortened due to weather conditions. We learned that there were only two climbers left on Denali and that 1,059 people attempted to reach the summit this summer with an overall rate of reaching the top of 60% this year. The remaining climbers are expected to be off the mountain within a day or two. Staying longer will subject them to danger from crevasses that form together with snow slides. The climbing season is over for another year.

So I saw the peak of Denali on July 15th and experienced a snow storm on July 16th, 2015. I am sure that will bring smiles to those of you enjoying 30+C (86F) temperatures at home with humidex readings in the high 30’s. It is 54F (12C) here today. It’s getting colder here and we’ve had a mouse take up residence in our warm RV. That’s a story for another day however suffice it is safe to say it is now in "mouse heaven”. We’ll see if he or she had company on its exploits.  

While I have seen a helicopter or two leave the airport today (which is .65km (0.4 mile) away) I would imagine that the aircraft are staying on the ground. I would expect the snowfall up in the mountains today would be measured in metres (or feet) given the over 18 hours of precipitation we’ve had.

Hopefully you have enjoyed our reports of our trip and we’ll keep them coming as we continue our trip.           



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