MT. McKINLEY (20,320 ft.)
Or, call it by its more popular name of Denali, if you
like, although I think the official name is still McKinley.
I had to stalk it for three days to get this view from
the edge of the town of Talkeetna early one morning. It
is ususally hidden by clouds of its own making. The hard
part is finding the mountain itself. If you can do that,
it is fairly easy to find an airplane in front of it,
because the skies around there are just buzzing with
them. I rode one of them and got the pictures below.
MT. FORAKER (LEFT - 17,400 ft.), MT. HUNTER
(CENTER - 14,573 ft.), AND McKINLEY AGAIN
All three like to hide in the clouds, but they let me
have a look on that same morning. That low range of
mountains in front of McKinley is the Tokosha range,
home of Tokositna and Ruth Glaciers.
The Kahiltna Glacier starts at around 13,000 ft near
McKinley and winds its way down through a valley,
roughly to the south, passing between Foraker and
Hunter, through the lower mountains, until it finally
gives up about 45 miles from its source at around 1000
ft. It is not visible in this picture, though, or at least
Here comes Kahiltna, winding its way down the valley that
cuts through those lower mountains with plenty of fog and
clouds in the distance to cut off the view of Mt. McKinley
itself. The glacier looks just like a river, except for its
color. In fact it is a river, but it is ice that is doing the
flowing -- very slowly. The snow at the higher altitudes
piles up deeply enough and stays long enough that the
lower levels of snow get thenselves crushed into glacier
ice. That ice can then slide and deform its way down the
slope until something -- such as the warm summer
temperatures of the lower altitudes -- can halt it.
And there it goes, on down the valley. There is a set of
pictures by the National Park service showing that
Kahiltna is only moderately shorter than it was in 1916,
but that it is much thinner from top to bottom. That is
the way it (and many other glaciers) have been losing
mass. Click here for those pictures. They are on page 3
of the site.
In the two pictures below, it melts its way to an end at
an elevation of about 1000 ft in a valley that looks as if
it used to hold a much larger glacier. In the 1916
picture, it still does not fill that bare area, but it does
reach its fingers out maybe to the end of it.
Also in 1916, those smaller glaciers to
the side of the main one seemed thicker
and longer. Here is one of them
although I don't know its name (or even
if it has a name). From the looks of
that big hole ahead of it, I would say
that it used to be larger, anyway.
Glaciers, like rivers, can have
tributaries. In this picture the main
glacier, Kahiltna, goes off to the left,
and the others are much shorter
glaciers. This picture shows the glacier
at an elevation of about 4000 ft. On a
contour map that I have, the highest
level of the glacier seems to be at
around 13,000 or 14,000 ft.
Here is our plane full of crazy glacier
watchers banking over a spot on Kahiltna
that is at about 3000 ft. It looks like
some of the glacier surface is made of
clearer ice than most of it for some
reason. Contrast this with the very
snowy view very high in the glacier at
the source regions. Click here for such
a picture, and also hit "next" a couple of
times when you get to the site. (Don't
forget to come back here, though.)
Here is a section very close to the one
above, where you can see evidence of
melting in those very blue lakes of melted
glacier ice. Actually, it is the glacier ice
itself that is blue, although the surface of
the glacier tends to lose the blue color by, I
suppose, reverting to ordinary ice. The
ordinary ice consists of much smaller
crystals and contains a larger volume of air.
The blue color you see is the glacier ice
seen through the water. I wasn't sure
about this when I flew over Kahiltna, but it
became clear later when I visited (and
landed on) Meade Glacier near Haines, AK.
See my section on Meade Glacier.
|You can click in each picture to get a larger version. Use the "back" button to return from
the larger version. If the picture snaps down to fit your screen, put the mouse pointer in it,
wait for an icon to appear in the lower right, and click the icon to see the large version.