Day 12 – Sept 11 – Merzbacher Lake

Today was a rest day for our porters and a dayhike for us to Merzbacher Lake, an interesting feature on the other side of the glacier where the North Inylchek Glacier used to join the main glacier out of a side valley. Due to glacial retreat that started long before global warming, the north glacier now ends a few kilometers uphill, and a large lake and a unique set of icebergs fill the gap.

It is a lake only one or two months of the year. As glacial and snow melt increase in the early summer, the lake fills with water. As it grows large enough to touch the north glacier, chunks of the toe calve off as icebergs into the lake just as in Alaska's Glacier Bay and other seaside glaciers. The icebergs float down and collect near the main glacier, plugging the lake's underwater outlet. Once the water level rises high enough to float the ice around the end of July; the plug opens and the lake drains in a huge flood under the main glacier and down the valley below. This time of the year the lake is empty, leaving its icebergs sitting on the bottom.

Walking across the glacier is challenging. Although the Inylchek Glacier is flat enough to avoid the deep crevasses that make mountain glaciers dangerous, it still has many ups and downs and cracks that we had to avoid. The surface is mostly rocky with boulders of many types, including white marble. It took us two and a half hours to cover four kilometers across the grain.

The weather, which we thought would be clearing, turned unpredictable. For a few hours it got cloudy and threatened to rain or snow, but then cleared up for some dazzling afternoon views. We saw several avalanches come down the mountains.

We had borscht for dinner to prepare for the long hike of the next day.

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