Chapter 2
GLACIERS


The two engines generated a vibration that started at the front of the plane and work its way back past the eight passengers to the tail and then returned to the front.  Roy Graham, Marcy Wallingford, Tom Gilmore, Raymond Wallace, Grant Barnsworth, Brad Longstreth and Michael Kirby watched the coastline pass under them. To the left were the blue waters of the Pacific spotted with the white capped waves.  Small fishing boats could be seen hanging onto the mile long fishing nets which acted like sea anchors. The boats and nets looked like streaks of grey paint on the blue and white canvas.   To the right was an endless row of mountains and high ridges separated by white and brown ribbons of glaciers covered with rocks.  Large glaciers, a half a mile or more wide, flowed from the mountains down to the ocean and pushed their snouts into the currents.  Grey silted glacier water flowed into the Pacific and turned south as it mixed with the currents running past the glaciers.   When the plane passed over a glacier it would drop several feet.  George Baker, the pilot, explained that the glacier cooled the air so they lost the lift associated with the warmer air over the land.  When they finished crossing the glacier the plane rose rapidly. He said there were times in the fog that he knew were he was by how far the plane dropped and how long it took to fly over the glacier.

Grant asked Roy, "Are glaciers just rivers of ice?"

Roy responded, "They are similar to the extent they are frozen water and flow down hill under the influence of gravity."

George Baker, watching the horizon shouted over the engine noise, “Most of the bays, inlets and lakes in Southeastern Alaska are the result of glacial action.  Glaciers got started, during the ice-ages, when there was so much snow in the winter that it could not melt during the summer and the amount was sufficient for a large build up of accumulated snow. During the cold periods of the "ice age" the snow accumulations were thousands of feet deep.   When the build up gets high enough the pressure of the weight of snow and ice causes the ice at the bottom to become plastic and flow.   It flows into cracks and weak rock and digs down to the hard bedrock.  Glaciers are nature’s version of a giant bulldozer which scrapes away the rock underneath to great depths."

Grant says, "It looks like some of the glaciers are going north and south instead of down the mountain."

"Most of the glaciers running north and south are following old earthquake fault lines.  The east and west running glacier are due to the land rising and the ice keeping pace.  There are lots of earth quakes and fault lines up here."

"Why do they follow fault lines?"

"The bedrock along the faults lines has been cracked and weakened. The glacier can dig in along the weak rock.  Path of least resistance."

Grant asks, "Why is that river white? He pointed to a stream they were passing over. "

Roy answered, "As a glacier flows down hill it drags along the rocks it has surrounded and pushes them along the top of the bedrock.  The pressure of rocks grinding over bedrock century after century turns them into a fine flour like powder and polishes the bedrock.  Glacier water runoff carries the rock flour into the rivers below."

The pilot rolled the plane so the passengers on the left could look down at the coastline.  Water from a river carrying rock flour was milky white and sent a cloudy streamer into the ocean.  The streamer flowed out several hundred yards before turning south as it mixed with the offshore current.  He rolled the plane to the right so the other passengers could watch the remains of former mountains washing into the ocean.

Roy continued the explanation. "When the ice age ended and the glaciers started melting, the bedrock, that was not worn away, rose as peaks above the receding glacial surface.  All the valleys and lakes in southeastern Alaska are the result of glacial fingers digging into and gouging out the bedrock.  The large glaciers like the Malspena and the Brady are the accumulation of ice from hundreds of smaller glaciers now fed by winter snows and the slow rising of the mountains along the Pacific under the thrust of tectonic plate movement. When the spring and summer melt is greater than the autumn and winter snowfall the glacier stagnates.  The pressure to move the ice downhill lessens and the glacier recedes.  In some places there isn't enough new ice to push the glacial flow over a rock barrier and the melting ice forms a lake."

"The larger glaciers flow to the ocean and some places are so covered with dirt that forests grow on top of them.  The trees eventually fall into the ocean when the glacier is eroded by wave action."

The pilot announced that they were passing over Lake Crillon and could see Lituya Bay a few miles ahead.

Lituya bay is a six-mile body of water shaped like a fat  "T".  The top of the "T" run north and south and was formed by the south flowing Lituya glacier turning westward where it merged with the north flowing Crillon glacier and then flowed west to the ocean.   The ocean flooded the valley left by the receding of the single glacier and the two that fed it.  The bay is pear shaped with the narrow stem reaching into the Pacific Ocean.  The opening to the bay from the ocean is wide enough for fishing boats to pass.  A forest of one-hundred foot Sitka spruce grows along the ocean shore on both sides of the opening to the bay.  Near the middle of the bay are the remains of the top of a small mountain called Cenotaph Island.  The head end of the bay is a mountain that rises steeply to five thousand feet.  The two glaciers that formed the bay still flow along the base of the mountain and push large blocks of ice into the bay.

The pilot continued his descriptions. "A number of fishermen are superstitious about Lituya Bay.  Some would go into the bay to get ice from the small icebergs for their holds, to keep their catch of fish cold.  Others would not take their boats into the bay either fearful of the icebergs or the stories they had heard about mystery waves that would swamp boats.  The tree line on Cenotaph Island indicates at least two instances where waves have washed the trees away.  One to an altitude of thirty feet and another over fifty feet.

He flew inland.  "Below us is Lake Crillon." He said and made a sharp banking turn that caused a few groans, to circle over the lake. "Lake Crillon, like many of the mountain lakes, has been formed by the receding of a deep glacier.  As the forward motion of the glacier stops because of general warming in the climate, the front end melts. The water is trapped behind the rock barrier that the glacier had not yet scoured away.  If the water could escape the remains of the glacier would be a boulder filled valley. 

Over several centuries the Crillon glacier receded leaving a deep lake several miles long and half a mile wide. It will grow longer as the Crillon glacier recedes.  The glacier still dominates the eastern end of the lake.  Blocks of glacier ice the size of large houses would calve off the front and drift in the quiet lake.  The tip of an iceberg in the lake might be no bigger than a large car or truck but ninety percent of it was under water.   Rain and sun erode the top and waves lapping at the floating mass of ice wash away the edge of the top forming a large flat shelf a foot below the surface. The submerged shelf can reached out fifteen to twenty-five feet from the ice exposed above the surface.  The icebergs develop a delicate floating balance.  If the balance was upset due to erosion or piece breaking off, the iceberg goes into a slow motion roll.  It could turnover if even a few large chunks were removed from the tip."

"A number of fishermen, out to get ice cubes for their evening drink, have found their boats lifted by the submarine shelf that rose when the iceberg balance was upset after they knocked off a piece of ice with an axe or shot off a piece with a pistol or rifle, and the iceberg turned over. At times the weight of the long shelf rising in the air as the iceberg rotated would split the iceberg and the two parts sink and rise in a slow dance. Rings of small waves would radiate out from the two.  As they oscillated up and down they bumped breaking small chunks of ice filling the area with white debris."  

Roy added to George's discussion. "The ice in Lake Crillon has had an alluring property for hunters and fisherman that camped there.  The ice sings."

Marcy asked, "Like mermaids calling to lonely sailors?"

"Why not?" Roy answered. "The ice that has been formed under tremendous pressure for centuries is crystal clear.  When the ice is placed in a drink it melts and the pressure inside is released like a coiled spring.  The outer shell of the ice cracks slightly before it melts and the cracking causes the ice to "ring" like a brandy snifter being struck with a fingernail. 

George dropped the plane below the tree line and flew above the lake to give everyone a close view.  George said, “One small advertising firm in New York imports the lake ice for a novelty at extravagant parties. The problem was, most of the time at the parties, there was so much noise that the guests could not hear the sound in their drinks.  Those who carried their drinks with them when they slipped away for a quiet romantic moment were often surprised to hear the singing ice."

Raymond said. "We'll get some when we go back."

George gained altitude and climbed over the trees at the western end of the lake and over a ridge that separated Lake Crillon from the South Crillon glacier and flew over Lituya bay.

A few minutes later he pointed down and indicated they would be landing.  He took the plane down to two hundred feet and circled over the bay to find a clear landing path through the maze of icebergs.

"My god,” Brad exclaimed, “if we get any closer to those trees we'll crash.”

Finishing the circle, George took the plane out over the ocean turned and came in low over the forest of hundred foot spruce trees guarding both sides of the entrance to the bay and dropped abruptly to a few feet above the water leveled out and then let the plane glide down slowly.  As the pontoons skimmed the surface he revved the engine to a roar to compensate for the drag of the water.  Under control he settled the plane on the surface and idled the engines.  He taxied around a number of icebergs and drifted up to a log-strewn beach at the mouth of Coal creek.

The passengers got out and walked a pontoon to where they could jump onto the beach.  The pilot handed Roy, standing on a pontoon, packs and bags and a few boxes.  Roy in turn passed them to those on the beach.   When the plane was cleared of gear the pilot indicated he would be back in a couple of hours with the others and that the choppers would follow. Before he started the engines the only sound was a few sea gulls and the hushed roar of several waterfalls at the head end of the bay. 

"It is so quiet I can hear my heart beating." Marcy said in whisper just as the engines roared into action. George revved the engines sending water and wind on those standing on the edge of the beach.  The plane taxied into the bay, around some large chunks of ice and turned west.  The pitch of the engine increased and the plane moved forward, picked up speed. The pontoons lifted out of the water, leveled out and skimmed along the surface.  Sea gulls scattered. The sound echoed back and forth across the bay and amplified in intensity. The plane continued down the bay a distance before lifting off the water.  It banked left and disappeared from sight behind the forest lining the bay and with it the sound of the engine.  The only thing to be heard was the cry of the gulls as they settled back to the water. 

"I've never been anyplace so quiet," Marcy said.

"Kind of chilly out here," Brad said, and flapped his arms across his chest.

Roy said, "Pick up some sticks and we'll start a fire."   Brad, Marcy and Raymond started to gather twigs, branches and dry moss and lichen from the edge of the forest twenty feet from the water.

"What a waste of time." Michael Kirby said. "We could be testing..."

Raymond returning with an armload of fire material cut him off. "Stow it Kirby. There is a reason we are out here. If you want to test something, test your Boy Scout skills and start a fire."

 Tom and Grant found a log to sit on and Tom set up a chess set he had pulled from his pack.

Raymond explained to Roy that Tom's passion was chess and that he carried his board with him everywhere.

Michael started some moss and small twigs burning and piled large pieces of pitch-laden branches on top.  The smoke from the fire rose straight up. 

"I knew you could do it if you set your mind to it." Raymond said to Michael.

Marcy started to walk down the rocky beach towards the ocean and returned.  "The mosquitoes are eating me alive." She said.

Roy opened a pack and pulled out three bottles of insect repellant and passed them around.  The pungent aroma filled the air as everyone rubbed the liquid onto their face, neck and hands. 

In air was cool and crisp.  Roy suggested they put on their down parkas to stay warm because they are going to be sitting while they wait for the others. 

Marcy put on her red parka and gloves for protection from the mosquitoes and returned to her walk down the beach.  Brad and Michael stood by the fire and took turns putting dried branches on it.  From time to time they moved away from the smoke as a gentle breeze shifted its direction.

Raymond and Roy walked up the beach to a moss-covered log where they sat.  They could see the campsite and Marcy farther down the beach but were far enough away that nobody could hear them talking.

"How did Wallace Images get started?" Roy asked.

"I was in the Air Force for twenty-years as a contracting officer."  Raymond Wallace answered.  "Originally I had a degree in electrical engineering degree.  I tried to keep abreast of the developing computer and graphics display technologies. I knew that when I retired I wanted to start a small company.  The technology fascinated me then and still does.  I was also fascinated with the organizational aspect of making technology work.  For a couple of years before I retired I tried to identify some bright engineers and programmers that had an inclination for innovation that I might recruit.  When I did retire I stayed in touch with some friends at the Department of Defense and some of the contractors I met over the years.   I was able to get some contracts with companies to do design work and to develop prototypes in such a way as to avoid conflicts of interest and provisions that I not work on projects that I was involved in at DOD for at least two years."

"One of the people I had met earlier was Tom Gilmore.  He was, and still is, a brilliant techi.  Kind of loner.  I could suggest a few things to him and he would come back with a few questions disappear into his lab and come out in a couple of days with a working prototype.  I would go out and peddle it.  We worked like that for years. We were close.  It was kind like our minds met on the techi fringe."

"We didn't have to deal with production because somebody else always built the final products from prototypes that Tom developed.  Tom didn't want to deal with the problems of production.  The only thing he has liked about production once we started, was what he called the endless supply of parts.  He really screwed up production a couple of times by pilfering production inventory for use in the R&D labs.  Kirby in production even had to go down to Radio Shack to get parts to keep the assembly line going.  We nearly had a blood bath on that one."  Raymond chuckled. "There have been some moments. Anyway, Tom was happy creating."

"The only other thing that he seems to do is play chess. Always has.   Every year he would go to a chess tournament or two. He is good. He even had a draw against Gasperoff."

"How about Grant Barnsworth? Didn't he start with you and Tom?" Roy asked.

"Pretty much from day one." Raymond answered.  "When I was starting I knew we needed some computer support for design work and simulation of prototypes in a working environment.  A friend at Wright-Patterson Air Force base suggested I contact Grant.  He was working in a small company that had a contract with Wright-Patt and didn't seem happy with the company he was with.  They were milking his ideas and not giving him any credit.  He jumped their ship and has never looked back.  In the last few years though he seems to have lost some of his original zeal.  His computers have gotten bigger and faster and more expensive.  His commitment to security seems to bog him down.  I am not sure he is able to stay flexible and stay on top of the broader range of computer technology that has been occurring."

"Early on, maybe twelve years ago, Grant added a simple accounting program to the system which was abandoned because of a conflict that occurred that interrupted design work.  Tom Gilmore had lost some critical design work.  The furor that occurred resulted in a general dictum that no business oriented work was to be placed on the design machine platforms.  Administrative work would be done by hand and project tracking would be done by hand."

"I suggested once that a PC could be used for project management.  Grant was generally unresponsive to this suggestions and even stonewalled the incursion of PC's.  While I have dropped all conversations with Grant about PCs, one of the things I hope to work out over the next two weeks is his relationship with Ian."

Roy interrupted, "What do you mean?"

Raymond answered. "I sort of suggested to little brother James that we needed some PC support and left Ian's resume lying on my desk.  He hired Ian and lets everyone know it was his idea.  That is exactly what I wanted.  I don't want Grant thinking I am the one stabbing him in the back as he calls it. You might have gathered already he doesn't like Ian's approach to computer usage and gets paranoid about operational data.  Last year Grant even removed a number of accounting functions from his department that were on a non-design support partition of his AS-400 and farmed them out to an accounting service so that Ian couldn't integrate those accounting functions into some of his efforts. Kind of cutting off his nose to spite his face.   I really think it is better if he thinks James is responsible."

"Speaking of James."  Roy asked, "When did he join Wallace Images?"

"In our third year.  That was, twelve years ago." Raymond answered. “James graduated from the University of Washington with a double major in electrical engineering and business administration.  I had promised our mother that I would look out for him.  So, when he graduated we hired him. "

Roy and Raymond talked for nearly two hours before the plane returned with rest of the team. Roy felt he had a better sense of the history of Wallace Images but still did not have grasp of the problems. He knew that he had to listen to the others.  Even Raymond's perceptions were clouded.

Gulls screamed and circled high above the bay as the plane taxied into the shore.  When the propeller stopped spinning, the rest of the team scrabbled to the beach.

"Wow," Tod Malcom exclaimed, "did you ever see so much ice."

There was a short flurry of comparisons of what each had seen on the flight. 

George Baker unloaded their equipment handing it to Roy who stood on a pontoon.  Roy passed each item to Michael standing at the edge of the water.  Michael, in turn, passed the items on to whoever came over to receive it.  Marcy held the line tied to the pontoon to keep the plane from drifting.   Before George Baker took off the second time he handed Roy a salmon and suggested there would be enough time to cook it before the helicopters arrived. 

When the sound of the planes engine was a fleeting memory and the screamed of the agitated gulls returned, Marcy handed Harry Kuznets some insect repellant.  "Here boss, you might need this."

Juan went into woods and returned with a thick huckleberry branch that had three forks on it.  He split each branch and fanned them out so there were six radiating spokes.  Roy had sliced the length of the inside of the salmon along both sides of the backbone and laid the two halves of it flat.  Juan supported the salmon by alternating the spokes of the branch between the back and skin side of the salmon so it looked like it was part of a fan.  One spoke on the backside, the second, fourth and sixth spokes on the inside, the third and fifth spokes on backside.   He stuck the base of the branch into the beach next to the hot coals of the fire.  The skin side of the flattened salmon beaded with oil as it cooked from the radiating heat of the coals. The oil dropped into the sand and smoldered filling the air with the smell of cooking fish.   Half an hour later the salmon had been cooked and devoured.  The sea gulls fought over the scrapes of skin and bone that were thrown into the bay.

"Those gulls sound like a board meeting," Ian said, and shrugged his shoulders when nobody responded.   

 

Tod asked, "What's that sound?"

A distant thumping sound mixed in with the cries of the circling gulls. The sound of three helicopters became distinct.  Every body was looking down the bay toward the ocean.

Ian pointed up and said, "There they are, up there."

 Three helicopters circled high above the spire of smoke from the fire, went north out over the bay and descended.  They landed a small distance up the bay from the group on the water riding on pontoons and drifted into the beach.  The equipment was loaded inside and onto racks on the outside.  The fire was doused with water.  Everybody climbed into the helicopters to ride up to their first base camp area.  Lituya bay grew smaller and disappeared from view as they went around the southern shoulder of the mountain at the head-end of the bay.  As they moved east, the only thing visible as far as anyone could see was brown and rust colored rock peaks and ridges, snow slopes and glaciers.  They passed the mountains that ran along the ocean and flew across what seemed an endless expanse of white snow and deep shadowed crevasses.

"How big is this glacier? Tom Gilmore asked.  The pilot indicated it thirty-miles across in the direction they were moving.

The helicopters descended into the glacial valley from the north heading toward an 8,000-foot cliff.  The west and east sides of the valley were bounded by ridges three to six thousand feet above the valley floor.  The north side opened onto a glacier that flowed to the west.  From their position high above the glacier, it had the appearance of a woven Indian rug with symmetric black and brown patterns running its length and width.  As they descended, the fabric of the glacial tapestry turned into piles of rock.   Dirt and boulders that had rolled and crashed down the sides of the ridges moved on the top of the rivers of ice.  As the ice from the glacier they landed on merged with another westward moving glacier the rocks from the two glaciers flowed together and formed a band of rock a hundred yards wide. Where two glaciers merged another ribbon of rock was added. It was hard to imagine that these patterns were only a slow moving rock conveyor belt carrying mountains to the ocean.  Maybe in a million years these rocks would be sand on the western rim of the Pacific Ocean.

The pilots turned the engines off and let the long blades slow down while the passengers departed.  Packs, tents and climbing gear were unloaded and placed in piles thirty feet away.   Everybody made three to four trips between the helicopters and the pile of equipment.  After ten minutes the pilots turned on the engines and the large blades quickly turned into a circular blur. One helicopter lifted up slowly then moved toward the glacier to the north, nose tilted down like it was sniffing out the trail away from the valley.  It cruised fifteen to twenty feet off the glacial floor for several hundred yards before climbing and disappearing to the west around the shoulder of the snow and rock ridge.  The second helicopter rose, sniffed its way down the glacier, climbed and disappeared.  The third followed the pattern

No one spoke for several minutes. The sound of the helicopters echoed in their memories briefly and all was quiet.   Everybody was looking to where the helicopters had disappeared.  On the bay there were the cries of the gulls and breeze blowing through the trees. Here, there was no sound.

Slowly all eyes started scanning the ridges, the avalanche paths of rock and ice that descended to the glacial floor and to the immense wall of rock to the south.  A sudden explosion followed by the clattering sounds of tons ice and rock cascading down from eight thousand feet above them filled the valley with deafening sound.  Everybody moved closer together involuntarily.  Which way to run? 

Roy said, "Look up there." He pointed at a forty-five to fifty degree angle toward the cliff to the south.  Ice blocks the size of houses were pouring down like a waterfall, cascading off ledges, and breaking into smaller blocks.    

Marcy asked. "Shouldn't we run?"

Roy chuckled. "Don't worry, it's over a mile away."

The waterfall slowly quieted down to a grey trickle of ice and rock.  A cool movement of air swept by. 

Another two minutes went by in quiet.

Brad Longstreth whispered. "God it's quiet out here."

"And cold." Ralph added.

The sun was still high but the ridge to the west cast a shadow that filled the valley.  The temperature was a little above freezing.  The sun shining on the eastern ridge above the valley warmed the boulders that were held by the ice.  A heated rock would slip from its icy grip and accelerate down the steep slope. A depression in the surface pitched the rock into space.  When it struck the slope below it would knock blocks of ice and other rocks loose.  Within seconds a thundering avalanche would be cascading into the valley.

Roy called to get the attention of the group. "Okay everybody. Juan, here, who you met the other night, is the mastermind behind the equipment.    Not all of you have met Kurt Rail; he is one of the top mountaineers in the world and an expert on glacier travel. He has teamed up with us for this little adventure."

One by one everyone walked over and shook hands with Kurt. Their next action was to stamp their feet on the snow covering the ice to warm their feet.

Roy said, "For all practical purposes the sun has set but it won't get dark for several more hours.  Last week was the first day of summer.  While we are not as far north as the Arctic Circle it will stay light until 11:30 PM or so.   Let's set up tents, heat up some water for coffee and make dinner.   There will be two to a tent.  Your first decisions of the trip will be to decide on your tent mate!  Other decisions will be who cooks, who washes dishes, and were do we go to the bathroom."

Marcy, looking around at the open terrain and then Roy asked, "What about me?

"Did you want to choose first?"

"No, were do I go? You know. To the bathroom."

Juan interjected, "Same place as everyone else."

"Juan thinks of everything." Roy said holding up a toilet seat attached to two poles.  "Porta Potty.  Everybody will get a turn at latrine duty.  Juan will set it up the first night; everyone pay attention.  While there won't be a quiz, your understanding of the process will be evident to all.  Also, we don't have an outhouse wall or modesty skirt so please, no snowballs while someone is using the facility.  Juan, can you show us all how it works." 

Juan said, "Follow me." He walked up a slight slope and over the crown to a place just out of view of the campsite.  First he stomped his boots down compacting the snow over an area three feet by two feet.  He set the toilet seat and the poles on the compacted area. The poles went out to the edges of the prepared surface. He marked the location of the seat on the surface and removed the seat and poles.  "When you dig the hole that will be under the seat keep if as small and deep as possible."  He then put the poles and seat on the surface over the hole. 

"How do we sit on that", Marcy asked. It's flat on the snow?"

"No problem." Juan said and dug a small trench up to a foot in front of the toilet seat and then tapered the trench to within six inches of the seat.  "Notice, I've left about a foot of snow in front of the seat. Guys, you had better pee standing with the toilet seat up. Aim for the back of the wall.   If you don't, the warm water will melt the front of the toilet system and you will have a big mess.  Actually, you can stand over there, about ten feet, for peeing. Just sit when you have to.  When you are finished put the seat down.  If it snows and freezes, I don't want to sit on an icy toilet seat." 

As they returned to the campsite Marcy said to the sky. "I wonder if I can hold it for two weeks."

Grant offered, "It might help you disposition."

James Wallace asked, "Roy, could you make the tent assignments."

Raymond Wallace stared at his younger brother and shook his head and muttered. "You can't even make that simple a decision."

Brad Longstreth piped in; “I second that."

Roy asked, “Any objections to deferring your first decision?"

There was a short chorus of "No", "That's okay".

Roy said, "Over the course of the trip we will change the arrangements. The primary consideration will be non-snorers will not be forced into a snorer’s tent."

"Boss", Juan commented, "they are not laughing. They must be hungry."

Roy: "Okay. We anticipated this."  Roy pulls a slip of paper from his pocket.  "For tonight:

"Mike   - James"

"Ian    - Ralph"

"Brad   - Grant"

"Marcy - Kurt"

"Raymond- Eugene"

"Tod    - Harry"  

"Tom-    Juan"

     "Me" 

"Since there are fifteen of us there will usually be one odd person in a tent by themselves.  Tonight it will be me."

"If the weather is really nice you might want to sleep outside the tent.  The stars are spectacular when they finally come out.  Some nights the Aurora Borealis is unbelievable."

Brad interrupted, "The what?"

"Northern lights." Roy answered and continued is instructions for the evening.  "Set your tents fifteen feet or so apart. Face the openings of the tents toward the glacier to the north, over there." Roy directs their attention to what appeared to be a landscape of boulders and ice. "Otherwise the draft coming down the big face will blow in the front door.  Place the ground clothes inside the tents and your foam rubber pads on the ground cloth. The ground cloth will keep you dry as the ice under the tent melts.  Also, in the unlikely event it rains, the ground cloth inside the tent won't collect water as it runs down the side of the tent."

Each tent pair carried their packs a few feet away from the central pile of equipment.  There was a flurry of activity as tents were pulled from their bags and poles and stakes were sorted out.  A couple of people read instructions and a few others figured out what had to be done.  The four tent poles consisted of seven sections each held together with elastic cord.  By holding one of the end sections and letting go of the others they would all spring into place and form one long pole.  The poles slide through loops along the seams up one side of the tent over the top and down the other side. The ends of the poles fitted into hooks and the bottom of the corners of the hexagonal shaped tent floor. From time to time someone would say, "Not that loop, the one next to it." 

Raymond and Eugene shouted in unison,"TA-DA", when they finished the first standing tent. 

"Time to start dinner.  Ralph, Tod, Mike, will you help Juan with the stoves."  "Kurt and I are going to scout the area to set up tomorrow's training sessions."  "The rest of you set up the tents."

"Kurt, let's go find a snow slope steep enough to practice the self arrest and a small crevasse that we can use for crevasse rescue."  They threw ropes over their shoulder, picked up their ice axes and trudged off toward the west ridge. 

Kurt indicated he had spotted some candidate sites about a quarter to a half a mile to the west. They did not bother to rope up.  The crevasses were small and the glacier flow too rapid for the formation of hidden crevasses.  The snow on the surface had already cooled down from the afternoon sun and was firm under foot and made a crunching sound when they kicked their boots into the slope.    

"Roy, why did you pick this part of the world?”

"Wanted to isolate the group as far from civilization as possible where everything they have to do is different from regular day to day living.  I was familiar with this area since I had spent a total of ten months wandering around up here when I was in college.  I worked for an exploration mining company.  For two summers we had a base camp about twenty miles from here, across the glacier." 

"Okay, here is what we want. That slope will be good for self-arrest and belay practice.  That steep section to the right will work for simulated glacier rescue practice.   They stood in front of sloped terrace that looked like the up ramp in a multi-story parking lot. The bottom portion had a gentle slope off the front side.  The higher up the ramp went the steeper the drop from the edge became.  When the ramp was twenty feet above the bottom section where they stood the drop was vertical.  "We can have them climb that vertical face as if it were one side of a crevasse they had fallen into.”

Kurt nodded. "Looks like it should work.  What's our plan for the next couple of days?"

"We will spend three day here getting used to sleeping on the ice, learning self-arrest and crevasse extraction techniques and learning how to travel on a glacier. It will give them time to get used to walking with crampons on their feet and carrying forty and fifty pound packs. Try to get them in a little better physical shape.  Not all of them went to camp as kids a few of them are not in very good shape. Raymond and Eugene are excellent condition.  James, Tom and Tod are in pretty poor condition.  The rest are so-so to good.  We have time to set a pace that everyone can handle and we will just take our time on the steep stuff on the other side of the glacier."

"It didn't look like we had enough supplies in camp for the trip." Kurt commented.

Roy explained. "There have been two supply drops between here and Mt. La Perouse over there, to the west.  We will go over the pass on the north side of La Perouse and drop down to the Lituya glacier system.  We should find another supply drop on the South Lituya glacier.   We'll follow the South Lituya glacier down to Lituya bay and signal Alaska Coastal Airlines for a pickup. There is a supply drop and a radio at the head end of the bay. "

Kurt sniffed the air.  "I think I can smell dinner cooking and its half a mile away."

"Race you to camp." Roy said.

Juan and the others looked up as Roy and Kurt charged down the hill.  The snow flew away from their feet as they made long, almost jumping, strides down the slope. Titanium carabineers and aluminum ice pitons attached to their packs banged against each other.

"Hey boss." Juan said. "I thought you said no man could beat you in a race on a glacier to food." 

"That is right my friend.  This entity standing next to me is a spirit.  He is not a man but the spirit of the glacier, born of the union of the god of the north and a beautiful Indian princess who wandered this glacier.  Besides, he is hungrier than I am and hungry spirits travel faster than mortals. What's for dinner?"

Juan said, "Tod is the chef for night, ask him."

"Beef Stroganoff and apple pie. Do you realize that this is the first time I've ever cooked over a camp stove?"

A general groan emerged from the group.

"Smells good." Kurt offered.

Juan had dug a small trench that Tod could stand in so the surface of the glacier was waist high. A foot below the top he dug a shelf.   Flat rocks were placed on the shelf and four single burner white gas stoves were place on the rocks and were purring.  The snow from the pit was piled on the glacier behind the stoves to form a windbreak that kept the wind from blowing out the flames.  Two large pots were bubbling with rehydrated beef stroganoff.  Water was simmering in the other two.  Several people were munching on Triskets and cheese.  Others were stirring powdered coffee or hot chocolate in their metal cups with metal spoons.

When they finished their drink they would fill their cup with beef stroganoff.  After a person finished their stroganoff they refilled their cups with choice of beverage. It was apparent to everyone that it was easier to reuse the same cup as many times as possible to cut down on the need to wash utensils.  There wasn't a lot of hot running water for cleaning dishes.

Tom looked around and asked if anyone wanted to play a game of chess. Harry suggested that nobody humor him but Kurt said he would give it try. Juan said he could switch tents with Kurt and moved his sleeping bag over to where Marcy was.  Kurt moved his bag to Toms’ tent Tom was heard asking Kurt if he had played before.  Kurt indicated he had, but had not played in a long time.

Brad said he had never slept in a sleeping bag before and wondered what he should wear. 

Tod said "Not your boots." 

Juan suggested to Brad loud enough for everyone to hear, "You will be warm enough. You can strip down to your underwear or sleep with your pants on.  Sleep on your damp socks and they will be dry in the morning. By the end of the trip you will smell so bad you won't have to use insect repellant when we get to the coast."

Marcy moaned. “I need a bath already.”

Roy stood at the entrance to his tent.  At ten o’clock the sky above was still light but the mountains to the west were dark silhouettes, the glacier flat grey and to the east glacier blended in with the blue black horizon.  Hushed conversations turned to whispers and the tents grew quiet.   Cold air descending the ice-falls and cliffs to the west pressed down the glacier like a silent river current freezing the water in pots and bottles and the surface of the glacier. The snow that softened and melted in the sun during the day turned to crystals. Each night the crystals from the previous night grew larger and smoothed over by the melt of the day. The water melting on the cliffs during the day and flowing under the glacier to lubricate their slow movement to the ocean froze and the glacier paused.