The Bomber Traverse: Snowbird Hut to Hatcher Pass

Wild northern winds howled beyond the quivering walls of the Snowbird Hut as my alarm clock rang.  Squirming from my sleeping bag, I surveyed the scene beyond the hut’s wide windows.  The glacier sprawled below, impressive as ever, surrounded by its formidably jagged peaks, Tibetan prayer flags fluttering violently in the foreground.  High-overcast skies made for a bright morning with excellent visibility: a perfect day for travel.

It was that morning that I truly began to feel the effects of deep fatigue.  Movement seemed purely automatic, a product not so much of energy, but of necessity.  A protein-rich breakfast was in order, inspiring us to try out the freeze-dried “Egg Mix” from Backpacker’s Pantry, to somewhat perplexing results.  I can’t really describe what it tasted like, but it wasn’t quite scrambled eggs.  After adding some reliably tasty oatmeal to the mix, we cleaned cabin, packed up, and set off into the vast unknown.

Zach did the dishes.  I, ever so helpfully, photographed.

Packing up in the kitchen.

We donned our hats!

And set off into the wild. The UFO pictured here is the “old” Snowbird Hut, the most interesting feature of which is the mailbox affixed outside its door. House number and everything.

Our first obstacle, the Snowbird Glacier, passed as smoothly as one can imagine.  We walked on flat, gritty ice across the whole thing with no problems, reaching the pass in good time.  At that point, however, the route was completely open to interpretation.  We scaled an “extremely sketchy” talus slope, the danger of which lay not in the instability of the rocks themselves, but in the nature of the glacial ice that lay beneath them.  Ascending as carefully as we could, the journey to the top was a laborious process, and the summit, a glorious one.  From the top of that pile of unforgiving rock, a gigantic green valley spread below.  Within sight lay several cairns(!) and beyond, the road.  The end was, quite literally, in sight.

Maybe “green” was an overexaggeration, but it seemed pretty lush compared to the glacier.

  From there, the trek down was rather uneventful.  We soon found a series of fairly impeccable cairns that led us to a very obvious trail, and then, what can I say?  We hiked down the trail, something which seems pretty anticlimactic after navigating by compass for days.  The terrain was beautiful and rugged; field after field of talus and scree, giant valleys, pristine lakes, and an abandoned mine.  More than anything, though, we began to fantasize about the Swiss cheese fondue apparently available at the Hatcher Pass Lodge, tired as we were of freeze-dried food and Clif Bars.

Slacklining with a giant pack = yes

Packs off!

Descending from the high mountains was surreal. Simultaneously relieved and disappointed it was over, we wandered into the parking lot at the perfect moment to hitchhike back to our car. It was with the deepest of fatigue that we slid into the car’s comfortable seats, turned on Fleet Foxes, and drove immediately to Hatcher Pass Lodge. Sure enough, Swiss fondue was readily available, the perfect ending to one of the most epic things we had ever done.


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