KLUANE ICEFIELDS Yukon – September 2, 2013


Pictures and video by Lee and Sharon

We embarked on a 10,000 km roadtrip leaving from Vancouver and driving north eventually ending up biking north of the Artic Circle via Yukon’s Dempster Highway. Our return leg led us back through Alaska, Yukon and British Columbia via the Alaska Highway (more on this roadtrip starting here).

Midway through our trip we passed through Kluane National Park. The park is the location of the Kluane Icefields, a geographical feature straddling the US/Canada border encompassing the Kluane, Chugach, Wrangell, St Elias, Glacier Bay parks and ranges. This UNESCO scheduled site is glaciated permanently snow-covered terrain half the size of Switzerland (approx 21,000 sq kms in area) and is the largest non-polar ice-field in the world. Its population is zero.

The weather was good. One can’t pass up a chance like this. We took a 90 minute flight over the icefields courtesy of Kluane Glacier Air tours (there rather ghetto website is here). At $300 per person it isn’t cheap but it’s one of those things that we’d have regretted till the ends of our lives for not doing.

Kluane Icefields from Lee Lau on Vimeo.

This map is for the first leg of the flight


The little plane that could. It held 3 of us including the pilot. I took the camera window on starboard with handy barf exit just in case

Between 2009-10 the Lowell Glacier surged thus completely utterly rebutting global warming (sarcasm warning)

Mt Martha Black and Haines Junction from the air

Just this afternoon Shar and I rode the Alsek Valley trail and turned around here at Serpentine Creek in a vigorous headwind. We flew to the same spot it took 1.5 hours to bike and drive to in 3 minutes

Confluence of the Alsek and Kaskawulsh from the N. The Alsek keeps going S away from the picture towards BC and the coast. We flew up the Alsek on our leg back

Above the confluence of the Alsek and Disappointment River heading west Plane is rounding a corner to bank and circle to Observation Peak (picture right). Donjek Range is to the west 

Plane then banks N in the direction of Slim Creek (Kluane Lake is 20+ kms up this drainage) giving us a good look at broken glacier chunks in lakes forming in the moraine

Glaciers looks so dirty in summer

The classic Kaskawulsh Glacier from Observation Mountain shot 

Kaskawulsh Glacier as we loop around Observation Mtn from the N

Now we get into the big mountains part of the air tour. The scale of everything is hard to describe. Suffice it to say that localism and pettiness that sometimes occurs in crowded ranges and mountains seems rather ridiculous when you look at things on a more macro level. Perhaps that is easy to say when sitting in an aircraft as opposed to “fighting” it out with other users of the winter backcountry. But enough deep thoughts … on with the show

First the reference map for the second leg

From L to R – Easter Glacier, South Arm of the Kaskawulsh Glacier and some nameless insignificant massive icefield and Atrypal Glacier 

OK now the glaciers are getting a bit rowdy; the main Kaskawulsh Glacier is 5kms wide at this point 



The Stairway Glacier is just an arm of the main glaciers. By itself, if further south, its mountains would dominate a range. But up here, the hanging icefields & seracs calving off it plus its peaks don’t even merit names. At the head of the Stairway Glacier none of these peaks are significant enough to have names except for Pinnacle Peak on picture left 

We head west on the main Kaskawulsh Glacier. The glacier splits into two with both arms heading basically W then rejoining. We flew up the right arm meandering a bit more WNW towards the Donjeks 

Random massiveness of Kluane Icefields shot looking NW. Somewhere here are Mt Badham and Donjek Mtn but for the life of me I couldn’t point them out

We now hang a S turn heading to the confluence of the Kluane Icefield and the Hubbard Glacier. Mt Queen Mary and Mt King George are the backdrop

Here is the 3rd leg of our trip and the corresponding map

Mt Queen Mary and Mt King George are the backdrop. Big broken glaciation now as the Kluane Icefield spills over to the Hubbard

Now the views are getting even more mindblowing as we crest the Kluane Icefield and the smooth glacier breaks and ripples. Mt Vancouver is in the marine clouds to the S

Ponds on the glacier

A last look at Mt King George

Dunno why this is Mt Vancouver. No coffee shop. No overpriced designer furniture stores. No SUP yoga fixies

Fourth leg of our trip

Mounts Alverson and Hubbard. I bet they’ve not been skied by their east face

Rounding the southern flank of Mt Hubbard you can see the Cathedral Glacier and, in the clouds, Mt Kennedy, Mt McKim and the Weisshorn (is that one of the most popular mountain names or what?)


Mount McKim and Mount Kennedy come into view as we round east overflying the Lowell Glacier. I’d bet that West Face hasn’t been skied yet


Mt Ulu, the Weisshorn and Kennedy from the SW as we’re flying out over the Lowell Glacier

Fifth leg of our trip

Confluence of the Dusty and Lowell Glacier

Lowell Glacier remnant ice-dam from the 2009-10 surge


Lake with bergs from the North; the Alsek winds its way S in the background

Sixth leg of our trip takes us back to Haines Junction

This entry was posted in 2013, sharonandlee, yukon road trip and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.