The Fire and Ice Tour Part 2

#TeamFire is now over with (see last week’s post), and onto the second half of the adventures from Dr. Jeff Havig:

#TeamIce (Glacial systems on Pacific Northwest stratovolcanoes)

  • Dr. Jeff Havig (Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati)
  • Professor Trinity Hamilton (Department of Biological Sciences, UC)
  • Jordyn Miller (Graduate Student, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Purdue University)
  • Helen Rogers (lab worker, Department of Biological Sciences, UC)

#TeamIce was now assembled in White Salmon, WA, in the home of Bob and Sally Havig (my parents). Our goal was to hike into multiple glaciers and camp overnight, allowing us to collect samples and conduct carbon uptake incubation experiments to characterize primary productivity and nutrient cycling in these systems. Our targets were: Gotchen Glacier on the southwest flank of Mt. Adams, WA (north of White Salmon), Eliot Glacier on the northeast flank of Mt. Hood, OR (south of White Salmon), Diller Glacier on the east flank of Middle Sister, OR, and Collier Glacier on the west flank of North Sister, OR. For the glaciers on the sisters, we would move our forward base of operations to the Bend/Sisters area. Our meals would primarily consist of sandwiches we made supplemented with trail snacks, plus oatmeal and coffee in the morning.

Professor Trinity Hamilton looking over the climb

Professor Trinity Hamilton resting after climbing several thousand feet in a couple miles as we made our way to Gotchen Glacier on Mt. Adams, WA, looking towards the southwest.

Gotchen Glacier, Mt. Adams, WA. A fortuitous stop at the National Forest Ranger Station in Trout Lake, WA provided us with valuable intelligence:

processing water samples on the edge

Gotchen Glacier was kind enough to provide me this little table for processing water samples. Fortunately, the crampons, helmet, and ice ax were not needed here. Note the most excellent 140 mL syringe and caulking gun setup for filtering samples, and the little foam cutout I made for holding sample bottles while distributing filtered water.

there had been a fire the year before in the area we had planned to approach Gotchen from (giving us a relatively easy ~1.5 mile (~2.4 km) hike), and it had been closed. We had to amend our trajectory, now having a ~2.5 mile (~4 km) hike to tackle. The hike was through an area that had burned a few years previous, and was thus devoid of any shade, making the hike much hotter and dustier. Nevertheless, we persevered and made it to Gotchen Glacier.

Red snow

Red snow (center) and orange snow (center top) on Gotchen Glacier, Mt. Adams, WA. This was our target for sampling and carbon uptake incubations.

Finding no place on the moraine to camp, we elected to set up on the snow near the lake at the base of the glacier, making for a chilly night’s sleep. We found plenty of snow algae to sample, and the water in the lake was some of the best tasting water I have ever had! We packed up in the morning and made our way back to the car and on to White Salmon.

Eliot Glacier, Mt. Hood, OR. We wound our way south through the apple and pear orchards of the Hood River Valley, stopped at the NFS Ranger Station, and then headed to the Cloud Cap Inn (not functioning…don’t bother to try to make a reservation) where our trailhead awaited us. We loaded up and made our way up through an ancient grove of Mountain Hemlocks (many trees over 500 years old, some far older) and on up to the windswept moraines of Eliot Glacier. We were rewarded for our efforts with an amazing view north of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier (all in WA).

Eliot Glacier

Panoramic image of the summit of Mt. Hood, OR, Eliot Glacier, and Eliot’s moraines. Note the pink, yellow, and grey rocks in the moraine, sourced from different lava flows. To the upper right we could see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and even Mt. Rainier on the horizon. We camped and sampled on the part of the glacier just below the dark grey rock outcrop in the center of Eliot Glacier.

Jeff with the massive water syringe.

I snapped this selfie while the crew was busily working on a sample we had collected in the morning on Eliot Glacier (note all of the layers and the lack of sunshine). Pictured are (left to right) myself, Helen Rogers (UC Biology lab worker), Jordyn Miller (Purdue University graduate student), and Professor Trinity Hamilton. Finding enough level, non-rocky space to pitch tents on was no small feat, but we were lucky enough to find space to do so. The suspended solids in the water (see the syringe) are typical of water with a large subglacial melt component, but the large diameter filter made life a LOT easier in dealing with that.

We were able to find two spots of loose sediment large enough to pitch our tents, and proceeded with sampling. Above us loomed a plug of andesite that had resisted the glacier, leaving a cliff over which a large waterfall of glacial meltwater poured. We headed out with our collection of incubations and snow, glacial ice, supraglacial and subglacial water, rocks, sediments, and algae samples. The next day we packed everything into the minivan and took the scenic drive along highways 35 and 26 to Bend, OR.

 

The view that greeted us as we made it up the moraine at the base of Diller Glacier on Middle Sister, OR. We were excited to see the lake at the base of the glacier, and even more excited to not have any moraine rocks tumbling down on us.

The view that greeted us as we made it up the moraine at the base of Diller Glacier on Middle Sister, OR. We were excited to see the lake at the base of the glacier, and even more excited to not have any moraine rocks tumbling down on us.

Diller Glacier, Middle Sister, OR. This was to be a scouting missing to assess its utility as a field site for future expeditions, since we had never been to Diller before. As such, we decided to hike up and back in one day, alleviating the need for extra food and all of our camping paraphernalia. (This would also buy us an extra day to recuperate before our full pack ~5 mile (~8 km) trek into Collier.)

Purple penstemons and reddish-orange paintbrush

The wildflowers on the trip were amazing. Here there were purple penstemons and reddish-orange paintbrush on an end moraine below Diller Glacier on Middle Sister. Always a surprise to get buzzed by hummingbirds at 8000+ ft.

While the climb was rather gradual, it was also ~5.5 miles (~8.9 km) one way. We pushed through to Camp Lake to replenish our drinking water reserves and eat lunch, and then made our way to Diller. After the prerequisite scrambling up and over sketchy glacial moraines, we reached the base of Diller, where we were greeted by another beautiful glacial lake. We collected samples (no time for C-uptake experiments), and then hiked back down to our awaiting transport. We were able to make it down before it was pitch black, but there was minimal light for pitching our tents off the road in the National Forest land.

Jeff's massive bag overflowing with equipment.

A picture of my nemesis. I was carrying my sleeping bag, geochemical sampling equipment, food for three days, a stove, crampons, ice ax, helmet, 3 L of water, drinking water filtration kit, first aid kit, several layers of clothes, and let’s not forget the cooler with 20 lbs of dry ice for flash freezing DNA samples and carbon uptake experiments. And yes, that’s a full day pack strapped to the outside of my pack. My pack topped off around 55 to 60 lbs. Needless to say, I was moving pretty slow on the steep climbs, and we were all very excited to take our packs off upon arrival at the site!

Our crew at the trailhead about to head to Collier Glacier, North Sister, OR, including (left to right) myself, Professor Hamilton, Helen Rogers, and Jordyn Miller. Don’t let the smiling faces fool you…we were loaded with determination as well as heavy packs as we set off on the 5 mile trek with a ½ mile elevation gain. As they say, that which does not kill you leaves deep and permanent scarring…

Our crew at the trailhead about to head to Collier Glacier, North Sister, OR, including (left to right) myself, Professor Hamilton, Helen Rogers, and Jordyn Miller. Don’t let the smiling faces fool you…we were loaded with determination as well as heavy packs as we set off on the 5 mile trek with a ½ mile elevation gain. As they say, that which does not kill you leaves deep and permanent scarring…

Collier Glacier, North Sister, OR. After two days to refit and recuperate from the ‘Diller Death March’, we found ourselves at the trailhead that would take us to Collier Glacier. This hike was through the Obsidian Limited Access Area (requires a special access permit) on a trail that goes up and over the 400 year old Jerry Lava Flow (in which we found some small mantle xenoliths) and terminates at the Pacific Crest Trail. We followed the PCT for a short period before we had to break off to traverse Little Brother, climb ~1000 ft (~300 m) in elevation over about half a mile (~ 0.8 km), and then cross Collier Glacier with crampons and ice axes. We were rewarded for our long day with an amazing sunset and a view looking north up the line of stratovolcanoes.

red and orange sunset over Collier Glacier

Our reward after making it onto Collier Glacier, setting up camp, and having dinner. An amazing view looking north up the Cascade Range of (from left to right) Mt. Washington, Three-fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, and the very tip top of Mt. Adams. In the Foreground is Collier Glacier, to the right is the peak of North Sister, to the left is Little Brother, and in the center is a lake at the base of a small cinder cone (Collier Cone), which erupted a mere 400 years ago.

Dinner was a New York City Sub Shop sub (the Bronx is my favorite, check them out if you are in Bend or Hood River). The next day we sampled up and down Collier Glacier, from our camp on the upper portion of the glacier on down to the glacial meltwater fed lake below, collecting water, snow, ice, and sediments and setting up multiple incubation experiments. A Purdue University group (led by Dr. Briony Horgan and Dr. Allie Rutledge) had been planning to meet us on our second day, to overlap sampling and exchange data/information, but all day we did not see them. Late into the evening we had nearly given up hope (assuming they had a late start and wouldn’t make it in until the next day), when off in the distance near the lake we saw the glow of two lights appear. I immediately attempted to signal with my headlamp to disclose our camp position (as it was now dark), and thought I saw a return signal. Professor Hamilton and I stayed up to continue signaling, and two weary travelers arrived: Dr. Rutledge and a Purdue graduate student (Marie). They hurriedly pitched their tent and settled in for the night, exhausted from their long 6+ mile (~10 km) trek with 50+ pound (23+ kg) backpacks.

sampling in the early morning

I paused from filtering a water sample to snap this picture of the crew hard at work for an early morning sampling on Collier Glacier (the day star wouldn’t grace us with it’s warm embrace for several hours). Believe it or not, the tent behind Professor Hamilton is actually on a patch of soft sediments that I was able to clear of (many!) large rocks.

The morning was great, collecting a last water sample and sharing information with Allie and Marie.

 

The rest of the Purdue group came in and set up camp down by the lake as we packed up and left to make our way back down to camp.

UC written in stones

We were at Collier Glacier in advance of a Purdue University team that would overlap with us for our last day. I decided to leave them this little reminder of our presence… (Go Bearcats!)

 

I yodeled my goodbye to our friends and colleagues as we crested the saddle next to Little Brother before dropping down the other side.

Posing with the advanced party from the Purdue expedition as we were about to head out from Collier Glacier. From left to right: myself, Dr. Allie Rutledge (Purdue University Postdoc), Professor Hamilton, Marie (Purdue University graduate student), Jordyn, and Helen.

Posing with the advanced party from the Purdue expedition as we were about to head out from Collier Glacier. From left to right: myself, Dr. Allie Rutledge (Purdue University Postdoc), Professor Hamilton, Marie (Purdue University graduate student), Jordyn, and Helen.

A rainbow beside a geyser.

A parting shot of Old Faithful, Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park.

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2 thoughts on “The Fire and Ice Tour Part 2

  1. Pingback: What’s for lunch? #fieldeats | Dispatches from the Field

  2. Pingback: Dispatches from 2016 | Dispatches from the Field

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