Chugach: Crossing steep mountain passes and crevassed glaciers

Despite the “scary” mountain passes, “death traps”, and hard work to get man and gear across the mountain passes and glaciers, Vincent Colliard described the scenery he and Borge Ousland covered as spectacular, magical, and breathtaking. They are nearing the end of these less travelled mountains.

Here goes a wrap of their daily activities:

After a bumpy start, damaging the sleds, Ousland and Colliard eventually reached the snow on Day 5 (July 25). They climbed 800 meters and route-finding was challenging in white-out conditions, difficult terrain, carrying, going back and forth, adjusting the gear in the sleds and organizing the backpacks. In the process Vincent lost his crampons.

On Day 7 the men had to get down the challenging Nalchina Glacier. On the way, they met a group of 13 young people and their guide from the American Outdoor Leadership School, going up the Glacier. Carrying on, Borge and Vince roped up, but then decided to ski down as fast as they could. They zig-zagged through huge cracks and massive crevasses and passed giants ice cubes and a steep mountain face. The snow was soft and they could control their speed. At the end of the day, pilot Matt Keller dropped them two pairs of crampons, and a surprise of smoked wild salmon and chocolate.

On Day 8 the men had to find a safe route to connect with another glacier arm called Tar. They came at the end of a mysterious valley. “It’s narrow and the steep mountains around were looking down at us. Rock falls, avalanches… we felt vulnerable.” They took a route up a 30-40 degree rock slope, carrying half of their gear. “A gully with ice on the side and ice on the other has taken us to the top of the col, if we can call that steep place a col!! Hurrah!!”wrote Vince. “We are now standing on the top. We are mesmerized by the place. This project is definitely taking us to unique places!” On the way down, Borge and Vince built an anchor in the ice. “The idea is to fix 100 meters of rope so we can jumar (auto-locker tool) up, which will help us with our heavy backpacks.”

The next day, Day 9, the men had to continue their carry up the steep rocky slope, but it started raining. “We finally arrived at the fixed rope and will continue hiking up with the help of a jumar. It’s now raining quite a lot, the terrain gets even steeper, the rocks are loose and we sweat!” 600 meters up they found good snow. The rain stopped and they started skiing towards Tar Glacier, which they covered. Ahead of them was another mountain pass, connecting to Silvester Glacier. The men were able to pull one sled up the pass. A ‘tough day”, they agreed at the end of the day on Tar.

Day 10: 4 km in 7 hours. Crampons on, trekking the tracks of their previous day and finished the last of Tar Glacier. The rope was still in place and with their load on their backs, the men abseiled 100 meters. Their descent to, and hauling on, Silvester Glacier went pretty smooth, reported Vince, until they came to their third mountain pass that separates Silvester from Powell Glacier. A mix of raw ice, small stones and crevasses took them to the mountain pass.

Day 11: Ascending 962 meter in 12 hours. More than 110 kg had to be moved forward. Crevasses were everywhere. Small stones made them slide backward with the heavy backpacks. Borge and Vincent opted for a longer route. “We go on one side of the mountain and then to the other. We zig-zag around massive rocks standing on the ridge. Here comes a little gully.” They had to go back to the gear that was left half way on the mountain. Fortunately, they found a path down, made by mountain goats. Borge installed a fixed rope. After resting and eating they carried again. All gear together, descend started. The four sled sleds were attached to an anchor and the men roped up. Vincent was lowered down the steep area, with one sled at a time. When the mist made space for the sun to shine on the mountains, the scenery was magical, wrote Vince at the end of the day.

Day 12: The men continued through crevasses and over snow bridges on Powell Glacier. Mixed weather, wet and grey, and dry and clear. Going up again, after backtracking, Borge found a route nicely balanced between the avalanches of the mountain and the steepness of the hill, reported Vince. They reached a Plateau at 3000 m. Descending it, they decided to camp to solar charge their batteries before clouds came in.

Day 16: They guys had comms problems but reported to have managed to connect the higher part of Matanuska Glacier through another mountain pass connecting with Manekin Baker Glacier. Distance covered: 15 km. 25-30 km remaining.

Day 17: Report via Lars Ebbesen: “They found a good way over the pass by following goat trails and are now proceeding well up the 4.012m Mt Marcus Baker. They hope to top out Monday [August 7] morning. Weather is great right now, but a big low pressure out in the Bay of Alaska is harassing the peninsula further west. It will hit the coast south of them – probably Monday to Tuesday – and will push clouds into the area. So the plan is to beat that ;-)”

Norwegian Børge Ousland and Frenchman Vincent Colliard together attempt to cross 20 of the largest glaciers in the world on skis, in a nearly 10-year epic journey that will take them from Russia to Alaska, and from Patagonia to Pakistan.

Follow Borge and Vincent’s daily updates in the Dispatch Stream on pythom.com

IceLegacy Expedition website

Ousland Polar Exploration Website

Previous on Explorersweb/Pythom

St Elias – Wrangell Mountain Range Icefield: Interview with Vincent Colliard (2016)

Exweb interviews Vincent Colliard; Borge Ousland duo’s Alaska Icefield crossing (2015)

Borge Ousland debrief: across North East Land, Svalbard (2012)

Vincent Colliard’s Profile on Pythom

#polar #columbiaglacier #chugachmountains #borgeousland #vincentcolliard #icelegacy

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