« AnkstesnisTęsti »
to wade, or the sand in their bottoms so soft that it approached the condition of quicksand. Once while returning from a camp at the Chaix Hills to Icy Bay, not being able to find logs with which to make a raft, we had to swim one swift icy stream, and wade another that was considerably more than waist deep. A plunge into ice-water on a chilly, rainy day is far from pleasant, but can be endured if one takes it boldly. To wade slowly out from shore until deep water is reached is a torture that few can withstand. The best way is to take a heroic plunge where the bank is steep, and make the change from air to water as nearly instantaneous as possible.
From a camp at the foot of the Malaspina glacier we cut a trail, about four miles long, through the exceedingly dense vegetation growing on the moraines which cover the outer margin of the ice-sheet. This vegetation is a continuation of the forest covering the flat lands to the south, and extends without a break up over the steep face of the glacier, and thence inland in many places to a distance of from four to five miles. North of the belt of vegetation covering the border of the glacier, we crossed twelve or fifteen miles of exceedingly rough moraine-covered ice and reached the Chaix Hills, which we climbed. Their southern slope is bare of vegetation except at the base, and is buttressed by many sharp ridges, too steep to climb, which unite to form pinnacles above. Joining the pinnacles are graceful curves formed by the exceedingly sharp crest. Their topographic forms alone are sufficient to show the geologist that they have resulted from a very recent uplift. We are told that the architects of India placed outstanding pavilions from which to view the beauties of their " dreams in marble"; so in Alaska, on an infinitely grander scale, the Chaix Hills, situated ten miles in front of the vast southward-facing precipice of the St. Elias range, afford a point of observation that can not be surpassed.
The Chaix Hills rise through a sea of ice, the limits of which can not be determined from their summits. Looking east, and south, there is nothing in sight but an apparently limitless plateau of ice, forming the Malaspina glacier. To the north there is a belt of irregular hilly ground covered by snow-fields and glaciers, and bristling with peaks, which are barren and naked during the summer season. Looking over these, the entire southern slope of Mount St. Elias is in full view. A seemingly level field of ice, forming the Libbey glacier, stretches up to the immediate base of the vast precipice leading to the top of the range. The elevation of the actual base of the mountain is about 2000 feet. The precipitous slope rising above it is 16,000 feet high. The snow breaking away
near the top of the mountain rushes down in great avalanches to its very base, and is precipitated upon the surface of the glacier below. Mount St. Elias terminates at the top in a massive pyramid, from the base of which, as seen from the south, a prominent shoulder rises on each side. The eastern shoulder has an elevation of 14,600 feet at its extremity; it then falls off abruptly, and the range terminates about six miles to the east of the main summit. The west shoulder is 16,400 feet high, and beyond it to the west there is a steep descent in the crest line, but the range is continued indefinitely toward the northwest, and bristles with magnificent peaks and sharp crests as far as the eye can reach. Northeast from the Chaix Hills, across a portion of the Malaspina glacier, are the Samovar Hills, which are also, at least in part, formed of stratified morainal deposits, and, like the Chaix Hills, have been sculptured into a multitude of picturesque tent-like forms. Beyond the Samovar Hills rise the sharp peaks of the Hitchcock range, and the white pinnacles and domes of Mount Cook and Mount Irving. They are among the most attractive mountains in the entire Mount St. Elias region. Between Mounts Irving and St. Elias is the Augusta range, on which rise Mounts Augusta, Malaspina, Jeannette, Newton, and several other prominent snow-clad peaks. Far away to the southeast, beyond the Malaspina glacier, is a host of marvelous mountains, lessening in perspective, until the commanding summit of Mount Fairweather terminates the magnificent panorama. On perfectly clear days, when there is not a vapor wreath anywhere about the mountains, it is difficult to realize their full magnificence, owing to the absence of shadows and an apparent flattening of the rugged slopes. On such rare, perfect days there frequently comes a change. The cold winds from the vast ice-fields north of the mountains are beaten back by warm, moist winds from the south, and cloudwreaths appear in horizontal bands far below the gleaming summits. Under such conditions the mountains lose their flatness, and buttresses and amphitheaters appear where before were expressionless walls. The mountains seem to awaken, and to become aware of their own dignity and sublimity. Usually the first sign of a coming change, when the weather is clear, is a small cloud-banner on the extreme summit of St. Elias. This signal is a warning that can be seen for a hundred and fifty miles in every direction and should not be ignored. Soon other peaks repeat the alarm, like bale-fires in time of invasion, and Mounts Augusta, Cook, and far-away Fairweather fling out their beacons to show that a storm is nigh.
Repairing to a cache that had been left on the border of the clearing southeast of the
Chaix Hills, we made a camp on the glacier, having the luxury, however, of a thin layer of broken slate beneath our blankets; and on the next day, July 8, advanced about five miles northward, when we again encamped on a thin moraine composed of black slate, and the day following brought up the remainder of our supplies. On July 10 we had breakfast at midnight, and began a weary tramp through soft snow to the Samovar Hills. Strange mirage effects appeared on the vast ice-fields when the sun arose. A white mist gathered about us when the warm sunlight touched the glacier, but we traveled on, guiding our course by compass. The light shining through the mist made white halos of remarkable beauty, which lessened the monotony of traveling through the fog. The snow became very soft and every step was wearisome, but still we pressed on, hour after hour, as there was no halting-place. We finally reached the extreme west end of the Samovar Hills, and pitched our tents on a little hillock of mosses and flowers, from, which the snow had recently retreated. At our camping-place the Agassiz glacier emerges from a deep cañon about three miles broad, and descending a steep slope, which is a continuation of the precipitous southern face of the Samovar Hills, forms a splendid ice-fall that bristles with pinnacles and ice-blades separated by deep blue crevasses. Late in the afternoon of July 12 we worked our way, with the sled lightly loaded, up the border of the ice-fall near camp, and, after reaching its summit and threading the maze of crevasses just above, gained the center of the glacier. The snow ahead seeming smooth and unobstructed, we left the sled and returned to camp, where each man shouldered a heavy pack and started up the ice-fall once more, while I remained in camp, having enough to occupy my attention during the next day in the neighboring hills. The plan was for the men to advance with the sled as far up the Agassiz glacier as they could during the cold hours of the night when the snow was hard; then to make a cache and return the next day.
The men regained the sled in safety, and, after packing their loads upon it, began the weary tramp; but they had scarcely gone a hundred yards when Stamy and White, who were in the lead, felt the snow give way, and fell about twenty feet into a crevasse. The snow covering the crevasse had previously fallen in, leaving a thin, unbroken dome, but had caught in the fissure and formed a kind of bridge on which the men alighted; except for this they would have gone down to unknown depths. The snow that fell in with them fortunately prevented their moving until McCarty, with great promptness and presence of mind, lowered a rope, and they were assisted to the
surface. This accident came nearer being serious than any other we had while on the ice, and served as a warning. After its occurrence we did not begin our night marches until an hour or two past midnight, when the twilight had increased in brightness sufficiently to make traveling safe. On our return, in passing the same ice-fall, we had another accident similar to the one just described. We were marching in single file, and, feeling perhaps over-confident after living for weeks on the glaciers, did not attach ourselves to a life-line, as was our custom in marching over snow which might conceal dangerous crevasses. I was in the lead, and just after passing safely over a snow-covered crevasse heard an exclamation from White, who followed a few steps in my rear, and on looking back saw that he had disappeared, leaving only a hole in the snow to indicate the direction of his departure. Returning quickly, I looked down the hole but saw only the walls of a blue crevasse; a curve in the opening had carried my companion out of sight. He replied to my shout, however, and with the aid of a line was soon on the surface again, uninjured. On the night when Stamy and White came so near losing their lives, several efforts were made by the men to continue their march, but crevasses thinly covered with snow were found to bar their way in every direction but the one by which they arrived. At last they abandoned the attempt to advance, and returned to camp. Early the following day we all returned to the sled, and by skirting along the side of the glacier, and in places climbing along the steep, snow-covered hillside, managed to get around the difficult tract and make a long march ahead.
The Agassiz glacier above the fall at the Samovar Hills is remarkably smooth, and but little crevassed, except along its immediate borders. Its principal tributary is the Newton glacier, which occupies an exceedingly wild valley between the east end of the St. Elias range and the west end of the Augusta range. These two ranges overlap en échelon, and each is exceedingly steep and rugged. The walls overlooking the glacier on either side are seldom less than 10,000 feet high, while the peaks that bristle along their crests rise to elevations of from 12,o00 to 14,000 feet. At the foot of the ice-fall over which the Newton glacier descends and becomes a part of the Agassiz glacier, the ele ̧vation is 3000 feet above the sea. The amphitheater where the glacier has its principal source, between Mount St. Elias and Mount Newton, has an elevation of a little over 8000 feet. The glacier makes this descent of about 5000 feet principally at four localities where ice-falls occur. Between the falls the slope is quite gentle, and in some places the grade is reversed; that is, the ice rises bodily to some extent when pass
SKETCH MAP OF THE MOUNT SAINT ELIAS REGION, PREPARED BY THE U. S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.
ing over obstructions. We made two camps on the broad, undulating surface of the Agassiz glacier, each of them at the margin of a lake of the most wonderful blue. At the higher of these camps we abandoned our sled, which had done good service, and resumed "packing" our outfit. The first ice-fall above was passed by scaling the steep rock-cliff where it emerges from beneath the ice on the west. The actual vertical descent is about five hundred feet. The ice in plunging over the precipice is broken into tables and columns of great beauty. This fall differs in character from the fall in the Agassiz glacier at the end of the Samovar Hills, owing to the fact that it is well above the snow-line and in the névé region. The columns on the steepest part of the fall are not thin spires and blades of ice, as in similar situations lower down, but prisms and pilasters of homogeneous snow, which breaks like granular marble and is without structure, excepting lines of horizontal stratification. Above the fall the glacier is broken from side to side into rudely rectangular tables, and as these are carried over the steep descent they become separated, and frequently stand as isolated columns a hundred feet high, supporting massive capitals. The architectural resemblances of these columns, all of the purest white with deep blue chasms between, are often very striking, especially in the twilight of the short summer nights, when they appear like the ruins of marble temples. Above the first fall we traversed a great area where the crevasses were VOL. XLIV.-26.
long and wide, and separated level-topped tables of snow as large as blocks of city houses, many of which were tilted in various directions. We then came to a second fall, less grand than the first, but more difficult to scale, owing to the fact that we could not climb the cliff at the side, but had to work our way up through partially filled crevasses in the fall itself, and to cut steps in the sides of vertical snow-cliffs. Once, after an hour of hard work in cutting steps up an overhanging snow-cliff and gaining the top, we found ourselves on a broad table separated from its neighbors on all sides by profound crevasses, and had to retreat and try another way. At length we gained the snow-slope on the mountain-side overlooking the broken region below, and found an open way, although exposed to avalanches, up to Rope Cliff, which had given. us some trouble the year before. Knowing the conditions at Rope Cliff, however, it did not cause delay. One of us climbed the rock-face and fastened a rope around a large stone at the top, which made future ascents and descents easy. Fragments of the rope left at this place the year before were found. This was the only trace of our former trail that we saw; all else had been obliterated by the deep snows of winter.
About two miles above Rope Cliff we entered a region of huge crevasses, near the place where we had to cut steps up a precipice of snow the year previous. The breaks in the snow were not only numerous, but broad and
deep, extending clear across the glacier. On the south there was a big wall of snow parallel with the course of the glacier, and connecting with the cliffs above in such a manner that we could not pass around it. We encamped on a table of snow surrounded on all sides by cre
DRAWN BY JOHN A. FRASER.
A CAÑON IN THE CHAIX HILLS.
vasses, but inclined so that we could cross to a neighboring table, and there spent the night. An examination of the broken snow ahead from the upturned edge of a fallen snow-block of great dimensions failed to show any practicable way to advance. From our elevated station we could see entirely across the glacier, but, in attempting to pick out a way through the maze of crevasses, always came to a yawning blue gulf or to an impassable wall of snow. At last, almost in desperation, we decided to cut steps up the great wall that ran parallel with the glacier, trusting that the surface above would be connected with the less broken region above the fall. This cliff of snow, which we called White Cliff, was the upper side of a great crevasse, the lower lip of which had fallen and partially filled the gulf at its base. To reach its foot we had to cut steps down a cliff of snow about fifty feet high, and work our way across a partially filled crevasse of profound depth to a table of snow forming a terrace on the opposite side. From this terrace we could cross another small crevasse on broken, angular snow-blocks which partially filled it, and gain the base of the cliff. Above us rose a wall of snow 200 feet high, with an overhanging cornice-like ridge midway up, which projected five or six feet from the face of the cliff and was eight feet thick. McCarty and Stamy were with me, and we began to cut steps, taking advantage of a diagonal crack in the cliff which assisted considerably in the task. All the way up to the cornice we had to hold on by alpenstocks while we used our ice-axes. Reaching the cornice, an opening was cut through it, McCarty and Stamy doing the
greater part of the work. Once above the cornice, the slope was less steep, and McCarty, by using two alpenstocks, was able to ascend the rest of the way without using an ice-ax. Placing an alpenstock firmly in the snow at the top, and making a rope fast to it, our packs were hauled up and we were all soon at the top.
Other great crevasses occurred above White Cliff, but they were in the bordering snow-field and not in the glacier proper, and ran in the direction we wished to travel. By following the broad surface between two of the great gorges we advanced to the point where we had our highest camp the year previous, and then. began the ascent of the last ice-fall in the Newton glacier. This fall was higher than any previously encountered, but not so steep, and the blocks of snow were larger. The ascent to the amphitheater above is over 1000 feet. The day we made the climb we reached the foot of the fall about six in the morning, and found the snow soft and traveling difficult. The day was hot, and the elevation being considerable our task proved a fatiguing one. At length we reached the vast amphitheater in which the Newton glacier has its source, and pitched our tent as far within the entrance as safety from avalanches would permit. This proved to be our highest camp, its elevation being a little over 8000 feet.
During the ascent of the Newton glacier the weather had become more unsettled than in the earlier part of the season, which was due in great measure to our increased elevation. While enjoying fair weather near the coast, we did not appreciate the fact that every cloud which wrapped its soft sunlit folds about the higher mountains was accompanied by a local snow-storm. We soon learned, however, that not every cloud has a silver lining. Mist and rain delayed our progress and made our camps on the snow wretchedly uncomfortable, yet they added variety and beauty to the wonderful scenery of the snow-covered mountains, and brought out a world of beauty that would never be suspected if the air always retained its transparency and the sun always shone with blinding intensity. As we ascended the Newton glacier, and gained the summit of one ice-fall after another, the panorama of mighty snow-covered peaks and broad, crevassed glaciers became more and more unfolded, and more and more magnificent. The view eastward down the glacier is one of the most impressive pictures that even Alaskan mountains can furnish. The cliffs of the St. Elias range on the south, and of the Augusta range on the north, rise near at hand to great heights, and are as rugged and angular as it is possible for mountains to be. The snow-covered slopes are utterly bare of vegetation; not even a
away is a heavily snow-covered group of hills, a spur of the Augusta range, which deflects the glacier to the south and causes it to disappear beyond a rugged headland of rocks and snow. Rising above the foot-hills that turn the frozen current are magnificent peaks, the like of which are seldom seen, and are utterly unknown to all who have not ventured into the frozen solitudes of lofty mountains. Mount Malaspina and Mount Augusta, cathedrals more sublime than ever human architect dreamed of, limit the view on the northeast. To the right of these, and forming the background of the picture, rise
shadows or clouds screen the sunlight. The snow-fields and the snow-curtained precipices, when in shadow, have a delicate blue tint that seems almost a phosphorescence. Except on rare occasions, the only colors are white and many shades of blue, with dark relief here and there where the cliffs are too precipitous to retain a covering. Sometimes the sunlight, shining through delicate clouds of ice-spicules, spreads a halo of brilliant colors around some shining summit, or, striking the surface of a snow-field at the proper angle, spreads over it a web of rainbow tints as delicate and change