Knik Glacier Shake Down Trip

Three weeks till our Kahitna Glacier trip so we decided to ski to the Knik Glacier and work out some kinks in our gear and system. It had been a while since I had slept out in the winter and I definitely needed this trip, I was rusty.

We arrive to clear skies and great views.

We arrive to clear skies and great views.

We broke trail for ten miles to the glacier, mostly in a whiteout. Lots of big open water on the river near the lake. But we arrived to clearing skies and fantastic views. We quickly unloaded our gear and began exploring. I wanted to squeeze through the gorge but to our surprise, the glacier had surged and was up against the cliff, blocking our passage.

The Knik is on the move! Its forward movement was breaking the lake ice, forcing one section up onto the other, like Earth’s colliding plates. We couldn’t cross this line because there was open water at the break. The entire face of the glacier was blocked by what we called the “surge line”.

The surging glacier was busting the lake ice, forcing it onto itself.

The surging glacier was busting the lake ice, forcing it onto itself.

We set up camp below some really cool seracs. It was going to be a clear night and I wanted to have an interesting foreground in case the aurora showed. The sunset light was flat and color-less. We spent the night stomping our feet and drinking hot chocolate (forgot to bring my small foam pad for standing on) waiting for a hint of the aurora, no show. I shot some night shots, testing the D800’s high ISO and long exposure noise abilities.

Star trails and serac.

Star trails and serac.

Woke up early and tramped around the ice looking for a nice composition for the morning light, but it was also a bust. We decided to explore a section of the lake that had some smaller bergs. The light was really flat and dull but we discovered all kinds of fantastic caves and tunnels. One of the main challenges of wilderness photography is making do with the light and conditions you have at the moment, often there is no coming back to a place, its often now or never.

Ice Tunnel

Ice Tunnel

I have been exploring glaciers for over ten years and I never get tired of the things I discover.

I have been exploring glaciers for over ten years and I never get tired of the things I discover.

With sore shoulders, our ski back was long and tedious. Some people had tried to ride their fat bike in our fresh ski tracks, completely destroying them so we had to break trail most of the way back. Without a snow machine trail, riding fat bikes out to the glacier can be really tough.

Generally everything worked out with a few exceptions, mainly rookie moves, caused by the fact we hadn’t been winter camping in a while. I feel I have enough experience to finally write a solid review of the Nikon D800e and its worthiness as a wilderness-mountain photography camera and that will be my next post so keep in touch!

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Shake Down Trip

I will be heading out this weekend with one of my upcoming expedition partners to get our ducks lined up (as my dad would say) and put any new gear through the ringer. This will be the first multi-day journey for my new camera gear, the gear I will be using for the next four years:

I believe in simplicity and keep my gear to a minimum, here is a list of what is going:

1. Nikon D800E. I have had this camera for a few months and it is by far the best digital camera I have ever owned, period. It has way too many buttons and menus, like most digital cameras, but its image quality is superb. I will be writing a full review of the camera after the trip.

2. Nikon 24-70 f2.8. The D800E needs the best glass possible and the 24-70 fits the bill. I rarely take more than one lens on any trip and this is usually the one. I will also be reviewing this lens and it’s performance with the D800E.

3. My 12-year-old Gitzo mountaineer tripod. I can’t even remember which one it is. It has a Linhof head on it.

4. Cable remote, 2 batteries, polarizer filter and a 10 stop ND filter. The filters are both B+W brand.

5. Two media cards,one 32gb Cf and 32gb Sd, installed in the camera. That’s more memory than I will ever need. I am pretty conservative when it comes to image making. Those two cards give me about 800 RAW images. That is enough to last weeks for me. On one trip to the Himalayas I took less than 200 photographs (4×5) in two months.

Lots of posts coming up so stay in touch!