Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Hiking Harding Icefield
Hiking the Harding Icefield Trail is one of my most memorable hikes ever. A hike and a place I will never forget. Harding Icefield connects a network of 38 glaciers. One of these glaciers is the Exit Glacier which you can see below me in the first picture. I will show some of the other glaciers in a later post that flow out of Harding Icefield. Harding Icefield is about 4000 ft thick of ice, but it does not bury completely the underlying mountains as you can see in the picture.
Me, Jumping for Fun at Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward, Alaska
(did not know I jumped with my camera dangling on my neck)
High On Ice, Hikers on Exit Glacier
A Closer Look of Exit Glacier
The trail however is not all about ice. The trailhead at the valley floor where the Exit Glacier terminates is a forest of cottonwood and alder. In about 1000 ft elevation the forest disappears to allow a hike that overlooks the Harding Icefield.
Harding Icefield Trail at about 1 mile of the hike and 1000 ft elevation gain
Above the treeline, thick wildflowers start to appear, and the combination of alpine glaciated peaks, the forest below, glaciers, river flowing across the valley floor and wildlflowers made it feel like almost hiking in heaven. Despite the trail seems like a continuous steep staircase of rock strewn slopes, gaining 1000 ft elevation for every mile, yet the challenge is worth it all.
Wildflowers Lining the Trail Above Treeline
At about halfway of the hike, the rocky staircase gave way to snow covered slopes.
Us @ The Harding Icefield Trail
The above picture was taken by my husband, capturing the moment where we would pose for photo opportunities, each of us taking turns to pose. In the above picture, I was photographing my cousin ( picture below).
Though raising of the trekking poles mean we have conquered the trail, but in this spot actually, we only have walked 3.5 miles and climbed 2800 ft. We still had to walk 0.7 miles and climb 700 ft higher.
Almost There, Reaching the Sea of Ice
After climbing 3500 ft and walking 4.2 miles, we reached the end of trail, where after that to continue means to cross the Icefield.
Me @ the End of Trail
It is extremely windy and cold at the top, I feared the wind will blow me down to the Icefield. There was no way for us to repeat our jumping pictures at the end of trail since we even have to sit sometimes to avoid being blown by the wind. To learn more about the nature, science and hiking Harding Icefield, please visit Kenai Fjords National Park site here.
Meanwhile, you can also check my other blog, for some of my firsts in Alaska.
Of course, after reaching the top, means to go back down.
When we reached the valley floor, we added more distance to our hike by continuing to the edge of Exit Glacier. You can find my post about Exit Glacier here.