Here’s an image from last September – I was basecamped in Skolai Pass, and one morning had some nice light to shoot a variety of images. Skolai is an amazing place with a variety of photographic subjects that is seemingly without end. Wildflowers can be amazing there, landscapes as grand as the immense Russell Glacier and Mt Bona and Mt Churchill, 16 550′ high Mt Bona, and 15 638′ high Mt Churchill towering in the background, ice patterns and crevasses in the glacier, lakes, waterfalls, streams and cascades, shorebirds, raptors, songbirds, and mammals ranging in size from tiny voles and arctic ground squirrels to foxes, marmots, Dall sheep, caribou and grizzlies. I’ve even see wolf tracks along the air strip up there. Hole in the Wall is a massive escarpment of peaks similar to Moraine Lake, only bigger and Hole in the Wall feels more primordial, with no trees, the moraine and glacier are still intact, rather than the revegetated montane alpine country and the deep blue lake of Wenkchemna. Hole in the Wall has 7 peaks, rather than 10, and they stand almost sentinel like over Skolai Pass. From Skolai Pass great views extend northward as well, including Mt Regal and Mt Frederick, the Nizina and Rohn Glaciers drawing attention. To the east the Russell Glacier runs into the White River, which runs into Canada and Kluane Provincial Park. For a great hike westward, cross over the Chittistone Pass and lay witness to Chittistone Valley – a simply magnificent canyon second to none.
This summer I’ll be in Skolai Pass late July, and I can hardly wait. The wildflowers will be at their peak, the songbirds will be doing their thing (the American Tree Sparrow is a visitor to this pass every year, and his summer call literally defines the sound of alpine Alaska to me – it’s a treat to hear. I’ve got a great group of folks coming on the trip, photographers, hikers, one lady is even bringing her watercolors! All we need is some decent weather. It should be a great trip. We’ll spend our time hiking, photographing, exploring the area further – we’ll probably even bring the crampons and get out on the glaciers. Sunrise and sunset will be late, late, late – as late as midnight and early as 4am for alpenglow – so sleep will be hard to come by. I might be doing some serious afternoon power napping on this trip!
After shooting a few wider images of Hole in the Wall, I switched lenses and zoomed in tighter for this composition, to give a sense of the all that ice just hanging up there on the peaks. One of my all-time favorite afternoons was spent laying flat on my back on a big boulder up in Hole in the Wall under the sun, listening to the impressive sounds of ice and stone crashing down the mountainsides throughout the afternoon. The noise was incredible, the dynamic drama of crashing glaciers bringing the landscape alive – followed by stillness and silence as the mountains sat back and rested. This went on all afternoon, and it still brings a smile to my face to remember it several years later.
I can’t wait for July.