Sunday, October 18, 2015

Watering Holes of Katmai

John filling up on our descent from the Katmai Caldera
I went back through my Katmai photos recently and found more good ones that I never had the chance to share on the blog. The first few are of places we got water. By the end of June the central Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is parched. The search and planning for water was a central activity that took up both mental and physical space for us while we were there.

There are often still snow patches near the huts in June, but since it was such a low snow year, we did not expect much and we were correct. We were also not prepared to melt a lot of snow with our choice of stoves (Jet Boils). On our way into the valley, we filled up at the last clear stream coming from the Buttress Range before we crossed the River Lethe (the Lethe and Knife rivers are both very silty, and we wanted to avoid filtering that water if we could).

Clear stream flowing from the Buttress Range into the Lethe
On our second day, we planned to fill up on water on our way down from Katmai Crater. While we could have filled up at the bottom, we could not pass up the pristine mountain water cascading off the rocks above - no filtering needed! At that point we did not know if we would find water the next day when we planned to visit Novarupta, so we filled as many containers as we could, including a gallon-size ziplock bag! In total I think we were carrying around 17 liters between the four of us.

While we were at Novarupta we did look for water, hoping to fill up just enough that we could more liberally use our supply. After a little searching and John's astute hearing, we found a little trickle below snow and ice.

Filling up near Novarupta
Now I will tell you the painful part of our water-saga. As we returned to the huts from Novarupta, we stumbled upon a perfectly usable trickle of water coming from an insignificant snow patch, only 15 minutes from the huts. The snow patch was so small I would never have suspected it had enough melt to produce any sort of stream. The stream only ran for maybe 100 feet before it dried up, and we had simply crossed the valley too far below to know there was running water there earlier. It's a bit embarrassing to tell this story, but I hope someone else heading into the Valley can gain some insight from our mistakes and take the time to poke around looking for water before lugging 17 liters across the valley.

Once we left the huts and headed to Mageik Lakes, through the pass, and toward the coast, collecting clear water was a breeze.

Filtering water at the outlet of one of the Mageik Lakes

Filling up in the Katmai River Valley

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