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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Summer began in Anchorage...

Glaciers, Ravens & the 
Pacific Northwest – Part 1
Matt Seats

Summer began in Anchorage, a city rich with Native American culture. As one of a team of would-be student mountaineers in Prescott College’s Wilderness Leadership summer semester course, I chose to arrive a week early and acclimate to the around-the-clock sunlight. After a 12-hour flight delay and two cancelled flights my plane and I arrived in Alaska. The airline felt that my luggage would be more comfortable in Seattle for a few days.
But I am not the sort of person who finds such things to be a cause for anxiety and I went on about the business of enjoying some of                   the most beautiful country and diverse culture our nation has to               offer.
There are 8 remaining indigenous tribal cultures in Alaska, and hundreds of tribal villages and communities. For the uninitiated like me, a visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center was an outstanding introduction to a world completely foreign to my knowledge base. Although a few hours of studying the history, architecture, art and languages of eight nations barely begins to scratch the surface, I gained a sense of respect for the unique cultures these tribes embody.

At the end of the week, my fellow students and I met at the Anchorage airport to begin an epic adventure. We were to spend the next two months learning the finer points of glacier travel, mountaineering, expedition planning, guiding and instructing. Ultimately, our goal was to instruct and guide a group of Prescott College students for two weeks in North Cascades National Park. First we’d hike the thirteen-miles along the beautiful blue-green Eklutna Lake to Eklutna Glacier. From there we would live and travel on the glacier, a 38-mile traverse on skis, crampons and on foot, lasting for weeks.

Aside from the limited food and water we carried in our backpacks, we would have a helicopter drop food for our expedition at two separate points along our route. One food drop location was a few miles in from where we entered the glacier; the next was near the far end of the traverse. Little did we know at the time that our second food drop would soon be ravaged by wild beasts. OK, it was probably just ravens – but the effect was the same; most of our food ration for the final eight days of our trip vanished before we ever saw it!

Watch for part 2 – coming soon!

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