Here’s another photo from my recent trip to the Wrangells. This is a photo of a couple of chunks of ice. I spent quite a bit of time right around this little area, watching the light – it’s amazing how much it changes in a very short time in the winter here. I found some great pieces of ice and chunks and walls and all kinds of cool stuff. If it had been summer, I wouldn’t have been able to cross the river and lake to get to this part of the glacier. Most folks ascend up the Kennicott Glacier from the east side, crossing over another glacier called the Root Glacier first. This time I hiked up the west side of the glacier, from below the terminal moraine. It was fantastic. As soon as I saw this area I knew I’d spend a good bit of time there, and ended up waiting out the afternoon (of course, I then messed up my leg, leaving me with a long hard, cold, sore clamber back to my camp in the dark).
The Kennicott Glacier is near the small town of Kennecott. Notice the 2 different spellings! The area was named after a naturalist, Robert Kennicott, who explored around Alaska sometime in the 19th century. The reason the town has a different spelling to the glacier is simple: a clerical error. The town was originally established for the Kennecott Mining Corporation, and they built a bunch of big mines in the area. They mainly mined for Copper, though there were gold mines in the vicinity. Everyone abandoned the town after the Company closed the mines down in the late 1930s. Nowadays I think there are 2 year round residents, and one of them, a fella named Chris, is house-sitting! Pretty quiet place.
The Kennicott Glacier is WAY cooler than the town. It’s pretty easy to get to and not very technical to travel on, but crampons are a good idea. I’ve hiked on both the Root and the Kennicott glaciers without crampons, but it can be a hassle sometimes, particularly the first 100 yards or so, if you access the glaciers via the usual trail out of town. Once you’re up on the ice though, the going is pretty easy, and it’s possible to cover a lot of ground pretty easily. I even took my mountain bike up there one year and spent a few hours riding around. There’s a section over on the Kennicott Glacier they call the Kennicott highway, a smooth flat section of ice that goes for 10-15 miles up towards Mount Blackburn. This section of the glacier is lower down toward the toe, near the terminal moraine.
I loved the way the light shone through the ice here. It’s kind of fascinating to me. The background is merely another chunk of ice, not 15′ away, so the foreground and the background are exactly the same subject, the same ice, yet so vastly different in this photo, merely because of the angle of light. Pretty cool, eh?