Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Valdez to Cordova IV

The Warlock relished in his domination over the travelers. He allowed himself 1 glass of Red Zinfandel, but that led to another, and then another. The Warlock ordered that "Slip, Stitch, and Pass" be played at maximum volume. He finished the bottle and WAC fetched a second, and later a third....

The weary travelers finished digging in for the night when the storm suddenly lifted. Fading sunlight bathed the camp. Gear began to dry. A quick check of the map allowed Honey Badger to pinpoint their location. The mountain in front of them was a nunatak and from this aerie it would be possible to descend down the Cordova Glacier the next morning with no additional climbing. Hedgehog made a quick ski lap above camp. Honey Badger scouted the route for the next day. Haul Ox began to concoct a terrific dinner.

The Storm Breaks

The thermometer plunged that night, but the trio slept great. The clear and cold dawn arrived early and tempted our friends to linger in their warm, dry sleeping bags. Weather like this was a rare misstep by the Warlock, and such an opportunity can not be wasted. With bellies full and spirits lifted, camp was packed quickly and they were off!

Easy Travel

With the benefit of clear skies the team made excellent progress. Honey Badger led them down and around the nunatak and back on course. Navigation meetings were frequent but consensus was easy. They confidently descended off of the minor ice cap and onto the Cordova Glacier. Exhausted and jubilant, the trio stopped for the evening. They marveled at their luck and progress. The next day would be treacherous because a jumbled ice fall waited patiently just beyond the camp.

The Ice Falls Lie in Wait

The Warlock awoke late in the day with a throbbing skull cramp.

"Arggggh!!! WAC what time is it?"

"It is dinner time!"

"Is eating all you can think about? You're a fool! How have the travelers fared while I slumbered?"

"They are doing quite well, Master. They are happy and nearing the toe of the glacier!"

"Excellent, my plan is working. Their spirits will soon be crushed!"

Morning was grey but the visibility was decent. Early morning scouting missions gave Ox courage for the ice fall. With probe in hand he led Honey Badger and Hedgehog into a life-size version of Marble Madness. They negotiated fins, heaves, crevasses, and other surreal features. Sometimes down, sometimes across. Progress was slow but palpable. The glacier rolled over revealing a large smooth portion before them. The pace quickened and toe of the glacier came into view. The horrible vision stopped them in their tracks.

The glacier had receded back several miles. Where the map stubbornly displayed an exit ramp of ice was in reality a deep chasm with the sound of churning water rushing through it. Impassable on skis, impassable on foot, impassable anyway you looked at it. There was a route down to the river, but it was not pretty. It involved leaving the glacier early and voluntarily entering into a soul purifying bushwhack down to a river that had open water. The easier option would be to retrace the track back up the Cordova Glacier and descend back towards Valdez. Defeat or willingly take a 3 day beating? They stared in disbelief at the course forward.

The New & Improved Toe of the Cordova Glacier

The Chasm Begins in the Bottom Right

Will the Warlock win? Will WAC get his dinner? What path will our friends choose? Find out tomorrow unless Hedgehog is too drunk to write.

- Hedgehog

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