Green Point (Unit 18) Over Muldrow Glacier to Unit 19
Mileage- 3.9 miles
Elevation Gain- ~500 feet
Elevation Loss- ~500 feet
Crossing the non-technical Muldrow Glacier on our fifth day in Denali National Park was one of the toughest days of our seven. We had been told at the Backcountry Office that the hike was a relatively easy hike that would take about three hours to cross. There was a somewhat visible land bridge that connects Unit 18 to Unit 19 via the Muldrow Glacier. When looking down on the Glacier it looks like a river of pulverized black volcanic rock. In many respects, it does not look like your textbook glacier. But it is glorious nonetheless. But before crossing the glacier we needed to locate fresh water to pump. Everything we had seen in our camping area was silty glacial melt and un-pumpable. Fortunately we located a stream from snow melt that ran within a couple hundred yards of our camp.
We really didn’t follow good logic on our first pass of the Muldrow Glacier. Of course we would get another chance the next days as we passed back over, but for this day we made some errors crossing. Not that any of the errors were really bad, because they weren’t, it is just that we took a longer route than what was necessary. I guess the upside is that we got a more scenic route, but even with as much experience as we have in the backcountry I am still surprised that we make silly mistakes. The issue was that, despite having a pretty good game plan for crossing, once we got down in the glacier it was difficult to see our end destination. Being that there is no such thing as a straight line in the glacier and being that there were more obstacles than you could shake a stick at… we inevitably got off track and took a less direct route to the other side.
The difficult terrain was degraded because of the predictable Alaskan rain showers. I hate to admit it… but out of the seven days in the Denali backcountry… this day pushed me very close to my limit. I think I missed lunch on this day and the hike was longer and harder than I expected it to be. Add the rain and a cold day on top of it… and I was a bit cranky. I really regret letting it get to me. On the bright side… I ate TWO suppers once we made it to the other side! I was one happy camper for sure.
Ok… well… we all ate TWO DINNERS that day!
The beauty of Unit 19 was that once the clouds passed we could tell that it was going to be a really special place to camp (you will see this in the Day 6 post). This is the kind of place that really makes you feel like you are out of civilization… just you and nature. This is the place that makes you feel wild and free among the elements. You feel so alive. If you are reading this post and sitting on the fence about whether you should go outside and explore… make up your mind with a “yes” and do it. You have one life. Live it.
On Day 6 we will be crossing the Muldrow Glacier (more directly this time) and into a canyon area just south of Mt. Eielson in Unit 13.
An edited, day-by-day version of my adventure in Denali National Park appeared in the fourth issue of Sidewalk – a hiking and backpacking magazine.