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Harding Icefield Trail

August 6, 2011

Seward has one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska called Exit Glacier. There is a visitor centre at the foot of the Glacier and a paved trail that leads to a view of the front. 95% of all the people who visit the glacier  just walk along the pavement see the glacier and are satisfied.

We know that great views mean that you have to work for them – and that means walking uphill.  About half way along the paved trail is an unpaved trail leading sharply uphill which takes you way above the Exit glacier itself and up to the Harding Icefield which is the source of the glacier. This trail is 4 miles long of constant uphill and over this distance you climb over 1200 metres. The payoff for this hard hike are stupendous views over Exit Glacier and a view into the world of perpetual ice. We knew that this was the trail for us.

Now this was one hard hike – we got to the top after 3 hours of slog and both of us were absolutely knackered. The views really made it worthwhile though. We usually sit for about 20 minutes at the end of hikes, eat our lunch and then carry on, this time we were 45 minutes before we could face the walk back down. It was so steep that coming down was pretty slow going and it took us another 2.5 hours back down.

The hike is really varied though, with the first third through forest, the next third alpine meadows and the final third a highland wasteland with nothing growing and plenty of snow still lying across the path.

When we reached the alpine meadow section we saw a bear wandering around, although not too close to the trail.

When we got back to the Beast we were both shattered and took some time to lie down !

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