Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Harding Icefield Trail at Exit Glacier, Seward

Every so often I will write about a hike that there seems to be crowds of people on, but that crowded is relative. Sometimes five people on a trail makes it seem busy. But the Harding Icefield Trail at Exit Glacier a couple weekends ago, on a pleasant Saturday, took the award for crowded. On the way up in the morning, it wasn't so bad. We passed a handful a of people, and a few passed us heading back down. When we turned around from the top of Marmot Meadows at mile 1.4, it seemed like we didn't go more than 15 seconds the whole way down without meeting someone heading up. Many folks seemed ill prepared, wearing only t-shirt and shorts and perhaps carrying a waterbottle. That's fine until one gets up higher and the winds blow off the glacier, and then the air becomes chilly, especially on sweat-soaked cotton. This appears to be an international destination, as there were many folks from China, Japan and other Asian countries. 

The trail starts off with level gravel
But in places it gets narrow and rocky

The official trail map shows these features, which I got pictures of:

The bridge, at .8 mile, has a typical rushing Alaskan stream 

Marmot Meadows acutally does have marmots. I saw three, but was not quick enough or close enough to get pictures.
Looking at the bottom of the cliffs

We had planned to hike to the Top of the Cliffs. The map says it's at 2.4 miles, a couple thousand feet elevation from the Visitor's Center. Piece of cake. We'd be back to Seward to pick up Aurora in a few hours, after her climb up Mt. Marathon. Either we were really tired that day, or that hike was harder than we expected, but by time we reached the top of Marmot Meadows, we were ready to turn back. There was a nice overlook there !where I got a video of Exit Glacier, and by that point we'd gotten on jackets to ward off the chilly wind.

Exit Glacier from top of Marmot Meadows

We would do this hike again, but will be more prepared for a challenging hike (4000 foot climb over 4 miles, one way), for crossing snowfields, and for lots of people!

This video starts at the base of Exit Glacier and has a view of the Cliffs.

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