Day 9 – Sept 8 – The toe of the glacier

Today was a short day, because we just needed to cross the valley to meet our resupply team. That team consisted of two porters who left Karakol two days earlier with another ten days of food, fuel and toilet paper.

Crossing the valley was easier said than done, because the large Inylchek river issued straight from the toe of the glacier. Wading such a large river was not an option, so our only choice was to use the glacier as a huge snow bridge.

The Inylchek glacier is 60 kilometers long, the third longest temperate mountain glacier in the world. It is also one of the fastest moving at 5 meters per year. This means that the ice at the toe is 12,000 years old, from about the end of the last ice age. At that time, the glacier would have been much thicker, maybe reaching the striations we could see on the canyon walls 500 meters above.

It also means the glacier had had 12,000 years to collect rocks on its top from rockfalls and glacial grinding action. In fact, the surface was so dirty that it was hard to tell where the downstream rubble field ended and the glacier began. But we knew we were on top when we began climbing 100 meters to surmount a crevassed area above the emerging river.

We had the afternoon off once we reached the resupply point. That was unfortunate because the weather was still reasonable for hiking, but our team needed to sort the new food and the next campsite up the glacier was too far to reach before dark.

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