Continued from Part 3: A Meeting and A Princess
The morning of our tenth day dawned bright, sunny and beautiful. It was now time to leave the Monarch Icefield and enter "The Rabbit Range".
The Rabbit Range, as it is unofficially known, is a divide of mountains which connects the large Monarch Icefield to the even larger Kliniklini Glaciers. This narrow stretch of mountains is absolutely astounding. The movement through these mountains required more up and down as we connected a route following glaciers up high. The monotony of traversing on a flat icefield was nicely broken up with the dynamic route-finding as we connected pass to pass, rounding the mountains shoulders and shouldering our sleds.
The weather was fantastic. It jumped to the other extreme with very warm alpine temperatures. In the heat of the day the air was over 25 degrees celcius. The air temperature alone isn't much of a threat. It's the sun's beaming rays and radiation that are. The snow covered glaciers reflect most of the suns radiation back up from the surface and as you make your way over these glaciers, you're essentially being microwaved. Sweat streams down your face and no matter how much snow you put under your hat, or how much water you drink, the heat gets to you. In the constant effort to avoid turning red like a lobster, we would cover every inch of our skin and anything that was exposed would be lathered with sunscreen repetitively. Despite our efforts, sunburns came to us in some of the most unexpected of places; the tip of our tongues, as we breathed with our mouths open, and the inside of our nostrils from the reflected radiation.
In these warm temperatures, the snowpack was turning isothermal. Without the overnight freeze we would wake up in the morning with soft snow and loose wet avalanches coming down along our route. One particular choke point had us squeezed between these avalanches and crevasses but we passed incident free.
Regardless of the new challenge the weather offered us, it was much preferred to storms. It allowed us to witness the area and appreciate it. Deep valleys, calving glaciers, remote and unclimbed summits. The Rabbit Range is beautiful. There were dozens of spots where deep valleys plummeted down from where we stood draining out in long wild rivers.
Very few humans have travelled through this particular stretch of mountains. Only a handful at most. It felt special to be able to walk through such a wild and magnificent landscape. We even had a great view of Mount Waddington and the surrounding mountains from time to time.
The warmth and comfort brought on by the sun meant being able to wash ourselves in the snow, relaxing here and there in the heat of the day and in the evenings we enjoyed beautiful sunsets with a lasting warmth.
It was in the afternoon along our third day in The Rabbit Range when we ascended a final steep col. At the top, along some warm rocks we found a small pine. Withered and old, and wider than it was tall it was the first close-up tree since we'd flown in. Around the tree flew a small orange and black butterfly. Lifeforms. As we sat amongst the warm rocks, gulping water, the small butterfly fluttered in and out of sight as our eyes gazed on at the glaciers ahead. One of the sprawling arms of the Kliniklini Glacier span out for kilometres below us, surrounded by distant glaciated peaks and in the background, Mount Waddington. It was a sight to behold.
Here our landscapes would change drastically again as we 'hopped' off The Rabbit Range and would begin winding our way along the start of the Ha-Iltzuk Icefields.