Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Glacial Landing On Mount McKinley Alaska

TODAY IS MY TRAVEL TUESDAY POST
Taking You on My Glacial Landing Tour of Mount McKinley Alaska

This glacial landing tour trip will probably be in my top 10 most amazing things I have ever done in my entire life. The thing is, it almost didn't happen.  It was a last minute idea on one of my last days in Alaska.

This was the best view of our trip of the mountain before we took the Glacial Landing Trip

They say only 30% of the people who go to Alaska have the opportunity to see Mt. McKinley.  Even if you are standing right in front of in inside Denali National Park.  The reason for this is, the mountain has it's own weather system and is very unpredictable.
When I was touring Denali NP, I was not able to see the beautiful mountain.  But on one of my last day's I was traveling the area of Talkeenta, Alaska.  We had no plans that day, so when we saw the signs to book the Airplane tour of Mt. McKinley we decided, what the heck.  Just in case we never made it back there again.

Right from the start as the small plane takes its time touring the mountain range as
it works its way up in elevation.
We assumed it would be a fun thing to do, but had no idea we were about to be amazed and experience some of the most amazing breathtaking beauty and have the experience of a lifetime.

Our tour was departing late afternoon, early evening (But June in Alaska it doesn't matter, since the sun doesn't really go down there in the summer).


They fitted us with some good boots that fit right over our other shoes, so we could get out and walk around on the glacier.  A glacier landing was part of the tour deal we purchased.


Then we were off, right from the start you flew over beautiful Alaskan Wilderness, massive forests, mountain and glacial lakes, and beautiful rivers.

In this picture you can see a moving melting glacier, it is several miles long and over a thousand feet deep.
Our tour guide a.k.a pilot was amazing, he told us lots of history and fun facts about the mountains and all the different names of all the peaks we were passing.  We were in a small plane, and I took the back seat since it was a single ride seat, and this gave me plenty of room to take pictures out both sides of the windows.  Which is why you see the plane wing in some of these pictures.  It is also why the pictures are not exactly the highest quality.


Not only do you see Mt. McKinley, but you also will get up close and personal views with many glaciers and peaks (pilot chooses your exact flight) We lucked out and were able to get up and close to them all.  Including Mount Foraker 17,400 peak.


The pilot explained that several of these glaciers move quite a bit each day some 1-3 feet a day.  When you think about how big some of them are, like Ruth Glacier which is more than 10 miles long, and several thousand feet deep of ice with amazing cliffs shooting over 5,000 feet on the sides of this massive moving glacier it's really quite awe aspiring when you think about how massive and huge these glaciers are.

Just imagine there is around 2,000 feet of ice under this massive glacier
I show you this next picture just to give you an idea of the magnitude and size of things.  Yes you'll see several big glacial lakes and cracks.  But what you don't realize is how big these lakes and cracks on this mountain are.  Some of these cracks can open up one day and close the next, although this picture was taken from high up in the air.  I can tell you as we were coming in for a landing, those cracks could fit the entire plane into them.  That is how big some of those open up.



Could you imagine being out hiking on this terrain?  Out exploring and experiencing these glaciers from the ground.  Seeing the hanging glaciers above you from the mountains above?


Well that is exactly what people do every year.  They take up to a month out of their lives to go up here and climb to the top of Mount McKinley and some of the other peaks.
I have to be honest, if ever given the opportunity I would SO BE THERE!!

Hard to see in this picture unless you know what you're looking for, but you can actually see the trails these
adventurist take to scale these mountains.
People climb to the top of this peak (below picture), Mount McKinley 20,237 feet, the Highest Peak in North America.
An interesting fact, because the base of this mountain is only a few thousand feet above sea level.  When you look up at this mountain from base to top you are looking at an 18,000 foot rise.  This is actually the largest mountain in the world situated above sea level.  Yes, you read that right.  Mount Everest is the highest in elevation, but this mountain is taller from top to bottom than even it is from land and the eyes view looking up!

This is a close up view of Mount McKinley - They climb to the top of that tip top peak you see in the picture.
This is a view from further back.  Compare this to the first picture I put up in this post - amazing isn't it!
The views from the plane alone are spectacular!  On my particular tour our pilot was in a great mood and he decided to take us around and show us the entire loop of the range instead of just one side of it.  At the Mount McKinley base camp when we looked down and saw all the tents and people, the pilot said it looked too crowded, and he wanted us to experience the true beauty of these mountains.  - Thank you Pilot!!

I loved the views of these amazing hanging glaciers affixed to the sides of the beautiful granite mountains

Well if you pay a little extra, okay so quite a bit extra.  I think it cost us $80 more per person to do the Glacial Landing part.  But we figured, why not!  We may never get to do this again, so why leave with any regrets.
SOOOO WORTH IT!!!!!  The HIGHLIGHT of our Alaska Trip

yeah, ignore the fact that I decided not to wear make-up this day!

Now to be honest, you may not have this exact experience.  Our pilot picked a glacial landing at a little over 12,500 feet for us to get out.  He picked this area because the weather was great on this side, and the ice was good to land on.  He also picked it because he loves to show people what it means to experience the saying "It was so quiet it was loud".

The plane leaving just as we got there, so we were able to be the only ones up on the glacier at the time!
We landed up against these massive granite mountains, it was like being in a glacial bowl, mountains all around us except for the snow in the picture that you came in on.  After we got out of the plane and walked away from the place a bit (now we know why they gave us the snow boots - so we could keep our feet/shoes dry).  The pilot said, okay now just stand still and don't speak just listen.


It was an amazing experience.  It seriously was so absolutely quiet, that the quiet was loud.  I can't really describe it, its nothing I have ever experienced before.  The quiet alone was amazing!
Not a bird, or bug or sound of wind or water in the air.  You just looked around and it was absolutely beautifully peaceful!  Occasionally you'd hear in the distance a loud long crack as the ground opened up somewhere.  A few times I head in the distance the loud rumbling cracking sound of a large hanging glacier breaking off and falling to the ground.  But for the most part, absolutely nothing!


Seriously an amazing experience!  I may have been wearing my jacket when I landed, but I quickly threw it into the plane.  The jacket was really only needed for the cool plane ride.  The temperatures up on the glacier that day were t-shirt weather. 
Honestly, if I had the money I would have paid to have the pilot drop me off with a tent and come and pick me up the next day.  I would love to spend the night in such a magnificent peacefully awe inspiring place!  Of course, there is a chance where I am standing could be a giant crack the next day:)  But still...

Me and the parents - I took them to Alaska for their Christmas and Birthday Presents that year
Yeah, I'm an awesome daughter:)
Words can't describe how magnificent this all is, and the scale of it all.  This is one thing IF you can in your lifetime, you'll want to add to your bucket list!!!  
It was worth it more than I can say, and once I stepped foot on that glacier, the cost to do it pretty much left my mind.  It was worth it!


I hated having to leave the fun of walking around in parts of Alaska that most people don't even realize exists, but we couldn't stay there forever.
The plus side, when you leave you still have a beautiful flight ahead of you as you make your way back to Talkeenta.  I loved our pilot, we took a different way back so we were able to see entirely new views than before, nothing was the same!




Slowly as you fly back down and around, the color of the ice starts changing again.  The picture below, is a moving glacier, but this is part of the first few miles of it, at a lower elevation.  So the dirt covers it, which is why it doesn't look like a white ice flowing river:)



Eventually, you begin to leave the massive mountain range in Denali Alaska


And the ice begins to melt back down to those massive glacial rivers and streams that flow through the beautiful state.


After our tour, we headed back to this beautiful cabin we rented.  I have to say this was one of the nicest places we stayed during the entire trip.  This cabin had a wrap around porch so you could sit out and enjoy the evening and midnight sun:)  Also right in front of us was a massive river so you could just relax and enjoy the river flow, watch for bears and other wildlife!  The perfect way, to end the perfect day!  


I highly recommend this trip to anyone who loves Adventure and the chance to see what most people can't even imagine!!!!

IF YOU GO:
*  I took my tour out of Talkeenta Alaska, we took the Talkeenta Air Taxi Tours
*  Tip - We were able to secure a bit of a discount on our flight thanks to using my parents Military Discount
*  Tip - If you aren't military, you can still find a discount by booking a last minute tour.  However if you do this your risking availability.  However, if you are flexible with your dates you might be able to save a few $$.
*  We flew into Anchorage and rented a car.  But you could also take a scenic train ride to the area.  Or fly into Fairbanks.

*  There is lots of hiking, fishing and animal sight seeing opportunities in the area.
*  Denali National Park is just down the road from Talkeenta, I believe it was a 2 hour drive for us.
*  Bring a camera!!!!  I took hundreds of pictures on this trip, I only selected a few above to show:)  
*  It is a hefty price tag, but honestly it was worth it, I promise!!!

6 comments :

  1. WOW! STUNNING!!!! Each photo was better than the next, what an amazing experience!

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    1. Thanks! Ya the trip was like that too, just one amazing sight after another!!

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  2. That looks absolutely amazing. Alaska is already on my bucket list, but this definitely ups that ante. I know that it will be worth the many many penny's we will have to save so that isn't even a second thought :)

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    1. Yes, it was one of those things that was worth the cost! You'll not be disapointed in this one even a bit if you add it to your vacation!

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  3. Wow! That's soo beautiful! What an amazing trip!

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