This is Part 2, See here for Part 1
Moments earlier I went ahead, up from the valley’s floor to scout the route. We knew there was an obstacle ahead as a new 1-tonne Dodge Ram passed us earlier in the day and warned us of the impassible. I stepped out of the truck to have a look at what we were dealing with – a large loose rockslide had come down across the road. The resulting test of nerves would put us off camber at ~30 degrees towards the expanse below. The loose earth did nothing to increase my level of confidence.
Another thing I’ve picked up over the years, is to keep a level head in situations that can dictate the contrary. To look at an obstacle objectively and negate the emotional aspect that might have you push through something that should not even be attempted, just for a chance at the scenic or unknown prize. Always evaluate the risk.
I picked up my radio to alert the others to come on up. Our group was very skilled and I figured I’d give it a go first and test the waters. I creeped forward and began to climb the mound with my front tires while still remaining relatively level. My front end reached the apex of the rockslide before starting to tilt the vehicle towards the mountain’s edge. I wanted to keep a smooth and steady forward pace over the obstacle so as not to overuse the brakes and disrupt the trucks momentum in a direction I did not want to travel; down the hillside. A little wheelspin as the rears bit into the rise. As they climbed, the front was moving down the backside of the rockslide getting only more unsettled and off-camber. Rocks began tumbling down the mountain as the weight of my truck displaced them. Despite my gut reaction to stop the vehicle in it’s tracks, I just kept moving forward at a controlled pace to keep the momentum going. In retrospect a wise choice, as my front tires reached the opposing side of the mound and started to finally combat the tippyness. In moments I was free and clear. The rest of the group followed with confidence. A couple slight hangups where consistent use began to dig trenches where the tires had been biting for traction caused a few easy recoveries.
My father, still being relatively “green” was next. He remained quite calm and watched my hand signals as I spotted him over. It’s hard sometimes to not get frustrated when someone (especially your old man) doesn’t follow your orders, but at the end of the day I look back at the challenges we have both faced on our limited number of trail days together, and I am always impressed and proud of his stubbornness to get better. A testament to his grit as I can see his skills and confidence rapidly improve each time I wheel with him. We were over and rolling as a group in no time.
A couple switchbacks higher and the vegetation began to dissipate and be replaced with rock and a small volume of Tamarack trees (A deciduous tree that turns yellow in the fall; also known as a Larch tree).
We continued forward, now with the scarred glacial rock consuming the landscape at a dramatic pace as our elevation continued to increase. We crested the next apex in the road and saw the prize in the distance; the glacier and ski hut lay ahead. The cabin seemed so out of place, a tiny square retreat standing atop a vast expanse of destruction from the glacier’s receding path. The backdrop was simply stunning. To the west of the cabin lay a 180-degree view of the glacier and jagged rock while the east viewpoint overlooked the valley and expansive peaks below. I have never been to or experienced a place that so easily dwarfs you into perspective, this place was absolutely astounding and honestly felt surreal. It was like we were aliens on a foreign planet, the only sounds to be heard were the breeze blowing through the canyons and the water flowing through the caverned rock faces as the glacier melted away. It was almost as if nature itself had graciously opened its forbidden doors for the day and granted us a day pass.
Going back to the “right people” being on a trip, our entire group was so cohesive during this excursion. Not a single person took this place for granted. It was as if there was an unspoken truth and realization that this pristine place is the very reason why we pursue this hobby. It is the reason we strive to be ethical users of the backcountry.
We slowly approached the cabin. Craig, my co-pilot and I were giddy with laughter, like little boys climbing up into their tree fort for the first time. The wooden fireplace and expansive windows overlooking the valley below added to the novelty. We poked around the cabin and scoped the terrain for where we would setup camp for the night. The next step was to cook up our dinner for the evening but our spirits of adventure seemed too great, and we decided to postpone the grub and continue up the trail towards the glacier.
We continued to climb and the strata continued to impress with the enduring lateral layers of the earth exposed everywhere. The texture of these surfaces was phenomenal, some of which made the rock look like rotten wood from a glance.
The pathway wound us through boulder fields as it kept climbing, until eventually, we reached the front lines of ice and a small turnaround at the top. We parked the vehicles and immediately evacuated our trusty steeds in favor of some wandering by foot.
After walking atop the glacier, we began to explore the leading edge of the ice shelf. Craig waved me over and pointed out an opening under the glacier – which you can actually see in the photo above… We ducked under the water dripping infront of the opening and snuck inside. Immediately we were astounded. The vivid blue colors were something out of a National Geographic photo. Shiny and slippery ice boulders surrounded us on one side with the rock on our right acting as the backbone, holding the immense shelf from collapsing and crushing us instantly. To our left a small channel screamed for further exploration.
Slowly and carefully, we wiggled through the opening to find ourselves inside of an ice cave, about the size of a large van. The ground covered with jagged ice blocks, which made foot placement very tricky, but the sheer excitement of the moment could not be trumped, despite present dangers. We passed the camera back and forth sure to get the most epic profile pic of all time. We may have succeeded….