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Alaska, on a scale of its own

Earlier this winter I was awestruck by the enormous avalanche near Valdez, Alaska, that covered the highway with 40 feet of debris and blocked up the Lowe River, creating a lake upstream.

I saw another similar story yesterday, courtesy of the Yale’s environment360 blog. Recent images from a NASA Landsat satellite showed a landslide in southeastern Alaska on Mt. Perouse (elev 10,728 feet) that may be the largest known landslide on Earth since 2010. It started on a near-vertical face at over 9,000 feet and the debris field finally ends 4.6 miles and 5,500 vertical feet below. Wow!

Landsat image of the landslide on Mt. Perouse, in the upper right part of the image

My route on the Alaska-Yukon Expedition took me near Mt. Perouse, specifically along the Gulf of Alaska coastline in the lower-left corner of the image. The travel was safer than an inland mountain route, but by no means danger-free: I had to get past La Perouse Glacier, which is known to jut into the ocean.

USGS 30 x 60 minute map of the area, courtesey of AllTrails.com. This is BIG country.

USGS 30 x 60 minute map of the area, courtesy of AllTrails.com. This is BIG country.

These two stories elicit my two strongest emotions about Alaska. On one hand, I’m continually amazed by its size and wildness. On the other, I’m more nervous about and stressed by trips in Alaska than any other location to which I’ve been. Alaska truly is the ultimate in wilderness travel: it’s as good as it gets, but it also demands nothing less than your absolute best.

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