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Saturday, October 1, 2011

North Cascade Glacier Climate Project 2011 FINAL REPORT

Day after Autumnal Equinox, 2011.
I will keep this brief, as this was only a day trip.

The plan called for an overnighter along Lava Divide on the NE flank of Kulshan on behalf of NCGCP to obtain photos of the Rainbow Glacier. The idea was to see how much blue ice is exposed now that we've had a month of real summer (more than a week of 80F set a Seattle record for Sept), and this has been one of the driest summers ever (even if cool and cloudy).

Rainbow Glacier--note extent of blue ice visible.

As with all mountain trips, weather is the final arbiter, and the forecast went from "rain Sunday afternoon" to "Tstorms Sunday morning" to "Tstorms Saturday night" to "Tstorms Saturday afternoon", As such, we went with a daytrip--it was fun to watch the clouds roll in so rapidly--it went from bright blue skies to brooding storm clouds in a matter of 90 minutes right around noon!
As it is unusual for the NCGCP to use "remote sensing" methods such as photography, it is also unusual to go to such a spectacular place and not spend at least one night. Still, the goal was specific photos, and the photos/data were successfully collected! Indeed, Mauri had teams across the range: we were one of three teams, the others on Columbia Glacier and Easton Glacier.
Notable: there was a young man (mid 20s?) from Everett with a high powered rifle, a hunter seeking bear on Lava Divide (I broke with tradition and wore red specifically because I knew hunters would be there). As it turned out, there were half-dozen hunters, a team of two with a special goat permit, and a group of three seeking bear; plus 10 hikers--very crowded, all things considered.
Cody comported himself with intelligence and engagement, and I complimented him and his parents for teaching enjoyment and respect for the land, and to live life in something other than a video game. It was nice, even re-assuring to find people on different areas of the political spectrum engaged in good, friendly interaction--with many more things in common than in opposition.

As indicated, the weather rapidly changed, but not before we enjoyed views of glorious Kulshan--a 3,300 meter high stratovolcano draped with glaciers, and Shuksan. The interface between one million year old rock and 90 million year old rock literally at our feet, a rocking and rolling landscape worthy of every accolade you can come up with, and then a few more.

Final notes: the bugs were more plentiful than all the other September hikes I've done combined. Especially on the hike out--they clouded around us, taking advantage of creaking knees and sore feet--all four major varieties represented, black flies the most numerous, and deer flies in full attack: eyes, nose, mouth and ears all subject to high speed impact. There were a few "ripe" huckleberries close to the trailhead, but otherwise, what few berries we saw were tiny green balls. Heck, there were decent patches of snow along lower lava divide (4,400-4,800 feet) this September--something rare even for this snowy place.
Another great day in our spectacular North Cascades.

Final mass-balance numbers for the year are some of the largest positives in all 28 years of the study (about 20 years negative mass balance on the order of minus one meter, four years of “break even", and four years of positive mass balance, usually on the order of one-quarter to one-half meter). Indeed, this year saw the smallest amount of ablation recorded in the 28 years of the study!

Columbia Glacier: plus 1.4 meters
Lower Curtis Glacier: plus 1.5 meters
Sholes Glacier: plus 1.6 meters
Rainbow Glacier: plus 2.2 meters
Easton Glacier: plus 1.7 meters
Ice Worm (aka Hyak Creek) Glacier: plus 1.6 meters
Daniel Glacier: plus 1.6 meters
Lynch Glacier: plus 1.2 meters

[There were many other interesting encounters with climbers, wanna-be climbers, and others, and of course the meaningful conversations with the team members, but I won’t go in to that here—trying to get these short. I will say I am so thankful and grateful to Mauri for being included on the project, and his honest and frank friendship. I am also thankful for the ability and desire to visit these places.]


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