Muldrow Glacier (Unit 19) to Wolverine Creek (Unit 13)
Mileage- 5.1 miles
Elevation Gain- ~500 feet
Elevation Loss- ~500 feet
On our sixth day in Denali National Park we left Unit 19, crossed the Muldrow Glacier to Green Point (for the second day in a row), and then hiked into Unit 13 to Wolverine Creek just south of Mt. Eielson.
I have to be honest and say that my two favorite days in Denali were days six and seven. Of course I will write about day seven in the next post, but day six was something else. We woke up to a few clouds, blue skies, and a warm, radiant sun. We welcomed it, for sure. The previous day we were completely soaked and spent much of the evening in our tents. On this morning we were able to set out all of our wet gear to dry. We knew that we only had about a five-mile hike so we were cool with getting a later start. And, despite getting off track the previous day crossing the Muldrow Glacier… we were much more confident crossing the glacier with a direct route to Green Point this day.
This biggest issue with crossing the glacier is when you drop down and lose your line of sight to the end destination. As we planned our crossing, we made mental notes of identifiable landmarks within the glacier that would keep us lined up. I suppose a simple compass would do the same thing, but we are guys right? And who wants to ask for directions when we can find it on our own! 🙂 This approach worked just fine. We stayed lined up as we kept our eyes fixed on our intermediary landmarks. Of course the biggest problem with crossing glaciers is the unpredictability of obstacles. Heading toward Green Point we hardly had any real obstacles except for walking around pools of water and going down steep embankments. All of the elevation we encountered on this day was due to the glacier. My guess is that we were under 500 total feet elevation but it may have been just above that. Either way it was easy elevation.
Once we got to Green Point we followed Glacier Creek north until we saw the base of Eielson to the north. We travelled eastward and just south of Eielson, which we would be summiting the next morning. McKinley had been elusive for our first six days either because we were out of range or because the clouds covered her. The park claims that only 30% of all visitors to the park get a chance to see McKinley. Our best chance would be on top of Eielson.
We followed fresh water of Wolverine Creek through a rock-bed carve out between mountains where we would be camping for the night. Despite the fact that we wanted to be done for the day so we could pump and eat, we pressed on so that our hike to the saddle on the southeast side of Eielson would be shorter the next morning. We would be dropping our gear on the other side of the saddle the next morning so that we could ascend Eielson without much weight on our backs. Finding a spot to camp along Wolverine Creek was not easy because of the rocks and uneven terrain. We pressed on until we found a spot that could handle our two tents.
We pumped, ate, and settled down for a much needed night’s rest to prepare for the 11-mile marathon hike up Mt. Eielson and then out to the Eielson Visitors Center. Our most epic day awaited us.
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.