Global Climate Disruption as exemplified in one solitary place in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of the Washington Cascades from a hiker’s perspective
In August 2006 and nine years later in July 2015 I climbed up Spider Gap and looked down the flanks of Chiwawa Mountain upon the dirty ice of Lyman Glacier. I was shocked to behold how much snow and ice had vanished across such a relatively short span of time. This short article is my attempt to record this one example of Global Climate Disruption in one solitary spot thru my words and pictures. Far fewer pictures exist for 2006 as most of my then-extensive fotograf collections were destroyed when my house burned down back in March of 2010. For the record, the science is clear human pollution is destructive to our planetary biosphere and affects our global climate.
Older controversies regarding global cooling have already been addressed, resolved, and discarded. Now, however, newer material emerges as we’ve become aware our solar system is undergoing numerous widespread changes as it speeds thru a section of the Milky Way Galaxy currently dense in cosmic radiation. It appears this galactic-solarial interaction may be having a much greater impact upon Earth’s climate than human pollution. This process is also not understood, and our pollution clearly makes our destabilized global climate worse. In addition, long-term planetary history demonstrates periods of global warming are followed by ice ages. Which means we really don’t know what the hell is gonna happen next. Right now, however, we in the American Pacific Northwest are entering into the third year of a drought. Although snow has recently fallen in our alpine elevations, an unusually powerful El Nino system in the wake of the Pacific Blob anomaly promises a wild, warm ride into the unknown.
As an aging mountaineer I hear climbers mention a number of ice climbs in the Washington Cascades have disappeared or are otherwise too unsafe to attempt. What they mean by “ice climbs” is most of the ice climbs in our region of North America are not frozen waterfalls such as in the Rockies but go up steep glaciers and couloirs of ice and hard snow. Either the ice and snow has melted away or too little remains, and thus the rock became free to crumble, break off from the mountainside, and fall into gravity. No one wants to face such a torrent or fall. Gravity’s a wicked git sometimes.
At this time in my life I don’t attempt technical climbs much anymore and prefer to hike, backpack, and scramble. One of my favorite places to explore is the backcountry of the Glacier Peak Wilderness in the North Cascades Complex. In fact, during my 65-mile 4.5 day backpacking trip in 2015 my pack weight was less than half of what I carried during my weekend excursion with Kristina back in 2006.
During an August 2006 backpacking trip into Spider Meadows with Kristina Katayama, my lover and life partner at the time, we did a day hike up to Spider Gap. After setting up camp in a more private meadow wood on the distant side of Phelps Creek the night before, we then crossed back over on Saturday morning to the main trail. Then we hiked up to the head of the meadows and climbed the rough, steep zigzags up to the Ledges. After relishing the views, we walked up the narrow Spider Glacier to reach the notch of Spider Gap. The glacier, however, was a shrunken remnant of its former glory, more of a snowfield than anything else. We didn’t even bother to wear gaiters.
Mounds of bare rock topped by a giant cairn greeted us at the top of the pass. It was sunny and chilly as clouds began to move in. Chiwawa is a massive hunk of a mountain and rises to 8,459 feet or 2,578 meters in height. We could see where the Lyman Glacier had retreated back towards Chiwawa Mountain, leaving a scraggly chain of lakes and patches of snow and ice in its wake. And bare rock slopes of scree and talus. It was clear global warming was affecting this spot dramatically.
Kristina and I were astounded. Fotografs and illustrations in climbing and hiking guidebooks had led us to believe we would be looking at a much larger glacier. Instead barren expanses of rock and dirt greeted us before obviously shrunken snowfields and glaciers. After some debate, we chose to turn around and return to camp. We would push on further to the tantalizing gem of Lower Lyman Lake another time.
We never did, however, as the Great Global Recession triggered a cascade of personal disasters and challenges. We ended up divorced, altho we remained good friends. Time passed, and in late July of 2015 I found myself once again in Spider Meadows and the Glacier Peak Wilderness. A swooping, rambling circuit of about 65 miles called my soul to push my mindbodyheart thru Spider Meadows, over Spider Gap and down alongside the Lyman Lakes, off to Miner’s Ridge and Image Lake, looping towards Buck Creek Pass but turning instead toward High Pass and on over and down into the Napeequa Valley. Down the river then up over Little Giant Pass and back down to eventually ford the Chiwawa River. Did all that in less than four and a half days at 56 years along in age.
On my second day, however, as I stood baking upon the rocks of a hot, hot, oh so hot day as wildfires burst forth in neighboring ranges and valleys, I felt even more astounded than I did standing in the same place nine years earlier. Feelings of alarm and consternation mixed with awe and delight. The beauty of Glacier Peak Wilderness is incredible to behold. It is a magnificent splendor for anyone to venture into. My soul felt the call of the wild, and in I went as I opened to it all.
Hiking alongside Upper Lyman Lake and shooting fotografs left me feeling humbled and somewhat in despair. Even anger at the damage our species has inflicted upon our environment, an environment we share with millions and millions of other species. Our stupidity and foolishness even while gifted with such deep intelligence boggles my mind. At the same time, tho, I felt grateful to even be here in the Great Outdoors. I gave thanks for living long enough to see and experience the wild backcountry out here and in there.
My fotos here tell the tale. Those from my trip with Kristina were composed and shot on Saturday 12 August 2006. Pictures from my solo adventure were taken on Tuesday 28 July 2015. They represent what was, was is, and thus what’s so. The research from the Nichols College North Cascade Climate Project is as impressive as it is extensive. One can find many fotografs, charts, historical data, and videos as well as hard, incontrovertible scientific data and evidence regarding localized global warming with accompanied glacial melt within the greater context of planetary climate disruption.
My stand is these images inspire many more of us Homo sapiens to envision what’s possible and take action to work together to resolve some of the most destructive converging wicked problems ever faced by our species. We also must break out of our mainstream mass media influenced reality bubble we otherwise all consent to. We must generate the courage to grapple with the greater changes occurring in our star system and in this particular part of our galaxy, get a better understanding of the role human mass consciousness plays in co-creation, and move even faster away from fossil fuels and nuclear fission to implement alternative energy technologies.
One can see more pictures from this part of my 2015 adventures in my foto essay, “Solo into the Glacier Peak Wilderness, July 2015,” at <http://williamdudleybass.com/solo-glacier-peak-wilderness-july-2015>. A similar essay on earlier explorations of the area from 2006 is in the works. Thank you.
NOAA, the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, predicts a severe and strong El Nino for the Winter of 2015 – 2016. NOAA, interestingly enough, is placed within the United States Department of Commerce, another demonstration of the domination of the Capitalist agenda.
See the below NOAA charts:
These are forecasts, of course, and weather is not the same as climate. Extreme oscillations in weather, however, are hallmarks of climate change and global climate disruption. We have the power to move beyond change to transform our circumstances. The only thing stopping us is ourselves. What will we choose next? We’re all in this together.
William Dudley Bass
7 – 8 November 2015
United States of America
Bioregion of Cascadia
Nichols College North Cascade Glacier Climate Project & the USFS:
Pelto, Mauri S. “Lyman Glacier Continues To Melt Away.” North Cascade Glacier Climate Project, Nichols College, Dudley, MA, 2014. <http://www.nichols.edu/departments/glacier/lyman.htm>.
Pelto, Mauri S. “North Cascade Glacier Climate Project, 1983 – 2013.” Nichols College, Dudley, MA, 2014. <http://www.nichols.edu/departments/Glacier/>.
Down the Rabbit Hole with Climate Change factors beyond Human Causality:
Gamble, Foster. “Let’s Talk For Real – About Humans And Climate Change,” THRIVE: What On Earth Will It Take? 2015. <http://www.thrivemovement.com/lets-talk-for-real-about-humans-and-climate-change.blog>.
An earlier essay on the relationship between Global Climate Disruption and Human economic systems and between natural catastrophic events such as massive volcanic eruptions and solar sunspot cycles on one hand and Anthropogenic causality:
Bass, William Dudley. “Global Climate Disruption, Capitalism, and the Opportunity for Democratic Socialism,” William Dudley Bass on Earth at the Brink: Analysis of Current Affairs. 2014. <http://williamdudleybass.com/global-climate-disruption-capitalism-democratic-socialism>.
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, United States Forest Service. <http://www.fs.usda.gov/okawen/>.
“Strong El Niño sets the stage for 2015-2016 winter weather,” NOAA: National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration. 2015. <http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2015/101515-noaa-strong-el-nino-sets-the-stage-for-2015-2016-winter-weather.html>.
Copyright © 2015, 2016 by William Dudley Bass.
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of our Earth and Solarian Commons is Established for All.