Tag Archives: Denali

Glacier on the move

Muldrow Glacier in Denali National Park is surging:

Muldrow Glacier, with Traleika Glacier coming in from the top left

In early March, pilot Chris Palm, who took the photo above, noticed something very different about Denali Park’s famed Muldrow Glacier. The normally smooth surface of the glacier was broken up by crevasses stretching across the width of Muldrow.

The long awaited surge had begun.

The 39 mile long, Muldrow Glacier last surged in 1957, so scientists were thrilled to study a natural phenomenon that has not occurred here in 64 years.

Surge-type glaciers are relatively rare, with approximately 1% of the glaciers world-wide being surge glaciers. Denali National Park has several, most of which get their start from the face of North America’s tallest peak.

Newly formed transverse crevasses on Muldrow

As snow and ice builds up at the higher elevations of a glacier, meltwater is also building up underneath the glacier. This meltwater acts as a lubricant when the weight from above passes equilibrium. The glacier then surges downward at a rate of up to 100 times faster than normal. At some point, the meltwater trapped under the glacier will be released in an outburst flood. Once the water is reduced significantly, the glacier’s surge will slow and it will go back to a state of quiescent (non-surge) once again. Over time, the process repeats itself. Muldrow Glacier has a history of surging roughly every 50 years.

An animated time-lapse of Muldrow Glacier on the northeast flank of Denali. The starting time is August 2018.

There are two GPS stations on the glacier to monitor its movement. There are also four time-lapse cameras facing different areas of the glacier, including one at the terminus to monitor the glacier’s “bulldozing action”. Another is looking over the McKinley River in order to capture images of the outburst flood. The Alaska Earthquake Center also has a seismic monitoring station, and a sound station has also been installed in an attempt to capture the grinding sound of the surging glacier.

Mapping Muldrow’s movement

In 1957, most accounts have the surge starting in May, 1956 on Traleika Glacier, which is the main tributary of Muldrow. Muldrow Glacier would advance over 4 miles before the surge ended in September of 1957. Approximately 3.3 cubic kilometers of ice was redistributed from the upper reaches of the glacier to its toe. At the upper levels, the ice thickness had dropped as much as 170 meters, but the toe rose to a 200 foot tall ice wall.

Currently, the Muldrow Glacier is moving between 10 to 20 meters per day, and is only 800 meters short of the 1957 terminus. At the current rate of surge, Muldrow will reach the 1957 distance in June.

All images, photos and maps are courtesy of the NPS; Sources include: NPS – Denali NP&P, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, University of Alaska – Fairbanks


Denali by Alaska Air


Climbing The Great One

Denali; Photo credit: National Park Service

For the first time in 70 years, no one climbed Denali in 2020. In an average year, 1200 climbers attempt to summit the tallest peak in North America, with around 58% being successful.

The National Park Service has announced that climbing permits have resumed for 2021. So far, most applications have been for domestic climbers, with the number of requests from foreign climbers being down from normal years.

This was certainly good news for businesses in the Northern Susitna Valley, which provides everything from transportation to The Mountain, as well as supplies and accommodations for the climbers.


Moose Crossing

Guest Photographer:

Photo credit: NMT

Driving into Denali National Park one day this August, we were forced to stop for one of the locals. I love how small that car looks.

P.S. Roof top tent


Alaskan Standoff: Grizzly vs Caribou

Film Friday:

A lone grizzly toys with a massive bull caribou

I had picked up one of this summer’s Pandemic Road Lottery ticket into Denali National Park. In normal years, the road lottery would be taking place this weekend in Denali. This year, due to Corvid-19 and the lack of visitors, The Park had five additional lottery weekends.

I had two teenagers in Alaska for the first time, and we ventured deep into the park one Sunday. We covered the gamut in wildlife viewing, but the most memorable took place on our way out.

It was late in the day, and few others were still out on the Park Road. And no rangers nearby either! The grizzly meandered around the field in the photo, slowly getting closer and closer to the bull caribou. After a while, the bear would back off, and increase the distance between the two rivals, only to shorten the distance a few moments later.

We watched the dance between bear & caribou for about 45 minutes. The boys were looking for a fight, but I knew that the caribou did not get those large antlers by not being able to judge distance.

The grizzly broke the caribou’s comfort zone, and the bull was immediately on its feet. The game was up, but the bear refused to acknowledge that fact. After another ten minutes, the bear tried once again to close the gap, but the caribou had tired of the game, and he trotted off with his head held high.

Camera: Minolta SRT201; Film: Kodak 35mm, Ektar100


Denali in the clouds

Film Friday:

Denali

Camera: Minolta SRT-201; Film: Kodak 35mm, Ektar100

Today is your day
Your mountain is waiting
Go, get on your way!

— Dr Suess


Denali peeks through

Just the peak of Denali showing itself on the left

Denali was out on Sunday, making for the first time I’ve seen the mountain this summer. The picture was taken from the Northern viewpoint along the Parks Highway.


Walter Harper Day

Walter Harper

Today, 7 June, is the first Walter Harper Day. Harper, whom I have written about on here before, is one of my favorite historical Alaskans.

It was on this day in 1913, when Harper became the first known person to stand on the summit of Denali.

Harper tragically died at the age of 25, along with his young bride, Frances Wells Harper, with the sinking of the Princess Sophia in 1918.


Alaska Roundup

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Naknek River; Camera: Leica M3, Film: Fujichrome Velvia 100

The North Slope village of Utqiagvik woke up to -20F degree temperatures on Wednesday morning.  That was a record low for the day for the village.  It was Utqiagvik’s first recording of a record low since 21 December 2007.  During that same time span, the village had set or tied 112 record high temperatures.

 

Alaska has started to “reopen” businesses throughout the state, with everyone seemingly holding their breath as it happens.  Travel restrictions into the state remain in place.  Restaurants are now able to seat to within 25% of capacity, and members at a table are supposed to be from the same household.

The Fairbanks Borough had seen two weeks go by without a new case of Covid-19, but that ended on Sunday with a case in North Pole.  Since then, North Pole has seen another diagnosed case.  The State had six new cases on Tuesday, for a total of 351.  228 individuals have recovered from Covid-19, and nine Alaskans have died from the virus.  Concerning, to me at least, is the first recorded cases in small, isolated, communities like Kodiak, Petersburg and Sitka after a long period of social distancing.

Fishing communities are still struggling with what to do for the summer season.  Valdez has decided to allow fishermen into town without any quarantine, where several smaller communities are demanding a quarantine.  The State of Alaska has agreed to allow fishermen to quarantine on their boats, although a realistic plan for that option remains elusive, considering most fly into these small communities, and air travel between towns not on the road system is off limits.  Travel between communities on the road system is now being allowed.

 

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Denali, and the Alaska Range

Tourism is all but scrapped for the 2020 season.  The two main cruise ship companies have written off Alaska for the year, and have even decided to keep their lodges and hotels closed until late spring 2021.

Denali National Park has now opened the Park Road to Mile 12.  As spring takes a stronger grip on the land, the Park will continue to open up more of the road as conditions allow.  Denali Park is also considering having additional road lotteries in 2020.  The lottery, which allows permit holders to drive well into the Park, where usually only busses are allowed, takes place in September.  Additional opportunities would be extremely welcome.  I’m thrilled with the idea, since the State is all but closed to Outside tourists this year.

No offense.

 

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Moose Crossing: Denali Highway at Tangle River

The Denali Highway, not to be confused with the Denali Park Road, is NOT open.  Yet, people keep getting stuck on the road between Cantwell and Paxson.  The Denali Highway, possibly the best drive in Alaska, is not maintained during the winter.  It is also not paved, which keeps the riffraff numbers down.  Or at least, the tour busses.

 


Denali on canvas

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This painting is on display at the Fairbanks Community Museum.  Photo by Circle to Circle