09-Jul-2016 -- This is the third out of 11 reports on confluence visits in Canada’s Yukon Territory and Alaska. The story starts from 61°N 137°W and continues from 63°N 144°W.
I was wondering why this confluence point hasn’t been visited despite of the vicinity of Valdez, a major touristic centre of Alaska. Actually, I hadn’t planned to visit this confluence, because it would take all day and I didn’t want to let Elionora wait for so long. But she found it OK if I attempt the point, because she would have enough to do in Valdez.
The Trans Alaska oil pipeline follows the Lowe River and comes as close as 5 km to the confluence point. We decided that Elionora would drop me off by our rental car at the track that follows the pipeline. Such track is necessary to support and maintain the pipeline. But at the remaining distance of 11 km to the confluence, a stream appeared in front of us that we didn’t dare to cross. From there I started my hike along the pipeline. After an hour of running and walking, I reached a wooden bridge (5 km to go) where I left the track in order to find my way through the wilderness. First I followed the river, then a power line and finally I walked through mossy forest. With the gain of elevation, the tall trees disappeared giving enough light for dense shrubs and thorny plants. My progress was incredibly slow, this zone was exhausting, and my sweat attracted hundreds of biting flies. A couple times I was close to give up, but each time I thought that I should at least go some steps further. And quite suddenly at a height of 800 m, I had left the zone of dense vegetation. Ahead of me was tundra grassland with smooth going.
But soon I entered a zone of rocks that required climbing and the use of hands. The remaining patches of grassland were so steep, that the danger of sliding down became a real threat. In addition I had to circumvent some patches of snow that I could not cross with my equipment because of the steep grade.
At the distance of 793 m, another ice field and rocky mountain ahead stopped me. I would have had to either climb over it or circumvent it over snow and ice. I think it was wise to turn around at this point. I had already 7 hours of hiking behind me.
The way back turned out more complicated than expected. Climbing down steep rocks is more difficult than climbing up. In the evening, the mosquitoes appeared - giving me an additional hassle while crossing the zone of shrubs.
But the best part came after I had reached the pipeline again. I tried to be smart by taking the pipeline track further eastwards instead of heading back towards Valdez, because I would reach the main Highway 4 a bit quicker. Once having reached Highway 4, I would have hitchhiked back to Valdez. But after running 7 km and almost having reached the highway, a river without bridge appeared. My attempt to cross the ice-cold stream failed after I had already crossed two thirds of it. But the last third had a too strong current to cross it without the danger of slipping and be taken away with the water. Besides, I didn’t have any water protection for my devices. So, I had to walk the 7 km back plus another 7 km to a place where I could be picked up. By the way: this track is steep with several ups and downs. At one peak I was able to get mobile reception and asking Elionora to pick me up at the drop off point from the morning. When I finally reached the spot, Elionora wasn’t there: a barrier had gone down for the night such that she could not enter. So I had to walk another 7 km to the barrier. At 1:45 AM I finally reached the barrier where Elionora could pick me up and drive me the last 2 km to our campground. With this unexpected half-marathon at the end this day meant a new record of exhaustion for me. Although I had not reached the confluence and despite of my tiredness, I felt happy having done this exceptional and unforgettable hike!
CP Visit Details:
- Distance to a road: 15 km
- Distance to a track: 5 km
- Distance of car parking: 11 km
- Time to reach the turnaround from car parking: 7 hours
- Time at the turnaround: 5:45 PM
- Measured height: 1016 m
- Minimal distance according to GPS: 793 m
- Position accuracy: 6 m
- Topography: steep icy slopes, rocks, mountainous
- Vegetation: nothing
- Weather: partly cloudy, 17° C (felt temperature)
- Given Name: The Additional Half-Marathon Confluence
The story continues at 62°N 147°W.