Friday, August 22, 2008

Hubbard Glacier

Eric and Dylan made their first satellite phone call at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday from the south end of the Hubbard Glacier. Here's Eric's report:

We're camped 100 yards in front of the violent calving face of the Hubbard Glacier. We were going to try to get across today, but it was too gnarly so we made a camp and we're going to bushwhack over the Hubbard Gap tomorrow. We built a nice campfire that took us two and a half hours to build. The first two days were really nice out of Yakutat. We rode a bunch - basically packrafted and walked a lot. Today it was raining most of the day. We'll try to call on the other side of Disenchantment Bay.

I'm a little foggy on when exactly Eric and Dylan started riding, but I think Thursday was the end of day three, which means they began their journey on Tuesday, Aug. 19. They embarked from Yakutat, a small town marked by the gray square in the bottom left of this Google Earth image. They made their way up the coast all the way to that gray square in the upper right. It appears they're making great time for Southeast Alaska's brand of rocky, rain-slicked, cliff-studded coastline. From weather reports it seems they had some exceptionally nice days Tuesday and Wednesday, but the weather forecast for the next several days at least is more typical - rain and wind, with temperatures in the 50s.

Disenchantment Bay is their first major obstacle - a huge, iceberg-filled water crossing near the calving face of a glacier. The Hubbard Glacier is Alaska's largest tidewater glacier, with an open calving face more than six miles wide. Suffice to say - pretty daunting in a small packraft next to a crumbling wall of ice threatening raft-tipping tsunamis and no options for a swift exit. Before their trip, Eric told me they were thinking about trying to ride their bikes across the top of the glacier rather than cross by sea. From their call-in, it sounds like that may still be their plan. Looking at the map and trying to imagine what the conditions are like out there, it seems their trip is front-loaded with huge challenges. Hubbard is one of the big ones. But Eric sounded upbeat about the crossing, so here's hoping we hear from them again soon.

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