DOT Glacier/Loveland Ridge – New Earth Rises
Loveland Ridge on Thompson Pass offers unparalleled views of the Chugach Range for the adventurous hiker. While in winter it’s one of the best “earn your turns” runs in the world, in summer the area beckons exploration of the alpine and glacier regions. This past weekend we made an astonishing discovery on the DOT Glacier.
At the time I wrote my book, the DOT glacier had no name. 27-Mile Glacier was noted on topos but that was it for that part of the Sapphire Arena. Since Loveland Peak had been named in the late 90’s in honor of WESC volunteer Shannon Loveland, it only stood to reason to name the approach Loveland Ridge. The name DOT Glacier was selected to honor the road crews that have kept the Richardson Highway open through Thompson Pass each winter for the past 60 years or so. A glacier name seems more appropriate than a minor ridge. (The DOT RWIS camera has it backwards.)
The trailhead is just north of the DOT maintenance complex a few hundred yards. There is a small, gravel parking area just off the road at the base of a steep slope. Hike the slope to the highest power pylon, cross the pipeline ROW and head to the ridge. I like to stay under the ridge to the left for the lower part, then cross back over to the northside for a long traverse above Ptarmigan Creek. Either way, some route finding skills are helpful but it’s generally pretty simple with a variety of routes. Higher on the approach to DOT Glacier, an obvious spine marks the ridge walk and drops you at the toe of the glacier. With the aid of crampons, you can walk the glacier to the base of Loveland Peak. A bergshrund must be crossed to get higher on the mountain as described in my book.
Tabitha and I hiked the ridge last Sunday under partly cloudy skies and noted some amazing changes to the glaciers in the area. The 27-Mile glacier has a new and recent third waterfall to looker’s right of the icefall revealing itself as the global melt-down continues.
Once on the glacier I was mesmerized by a what looked like a typical glacial gravel patch. As got closer I could hear and then see water running over the feature. Upon closer inspection it is actually “new earth” protruding form the middle of the DOT Glacier with a few pioneer species of plants already taking hold. This is a stark reminder of how fast the glaciers are melting. I suspect this island in ice will quickly expand over the coming years as the glacier rots away. Maybe we could call it “Denier’s Rock”.
Higher on the glacier I’m reminded of the 100’s of ski ascent and descent I’ve made down this slope. This was Tabitha’s first time in Loveland Basin with crampons and we were was able to make to the middle of the cirque which is one of the amazing places in Thompson Pass.
High on Loveland Ridge, one is gifted with a commanding view of the Chugach to the south towards Chugach National Forest. It’s a stunning sight on a clear day and a reminder of my first ski days in Alaska and why the hook was set.
This fine hike has plenty of variations off the ridge to explore. One can cross Ptarmigan Creek and explore the 27-Mile Glacier which is rich in new canyons and slick rock near it’s base. Golden Eagles nest in the area and occasionally mountain goats transit the area. Flowers are abundant and by all indications, another blueberry season will soon be upon us. Thompson Pass offers some of the easiest access to alpine regions in the State where locals and visitors can relish in Chugach grandeur.