The Alsek River is a landscape that captures the imagination. Ancient lava flows and surging glaciers wrap around North America’s tallest mountains and grizzly bears and mountain goats thrive in the lush, alpine meadows. While we have been exploring the Alsek river and learning its intricacies for decades, there is always something new to discover and 2020 was no different! There was rumour of a cave system in the lower river valley and that was enough to set us offon the search.
A layover day at Fisher Glacier gave the group ample time to explore and while working their way along a cliffside they found a series of caverns! Hearing about the discovery Joel Hibbard began planning to document them. Descending the Alsek in August he measured the cave system finding the deepest cave stretches 40 metres (130 feet) into the mountain before a steep stone wall stymied further exploration. A second cave system was discovered along the same cliff face. With its entrance totally obscured by alders it was nicknamed “the Elevator.” It has at least three entrances and towers to over 100 metres in height. Entering at ground level it was possible for the group to climb a slope inside and access the upper levels. The cave structure and stone type reminds us of karst features similar to the Nahanni River’s famed cave systems.
During the August expedition we witnessed a solitary bat in a high crevice and there was evidence of a guano deposit in a window of the elevator shaft. Grizzly tracks and scat were found around the cave entrance but there was no evidence of denning activity.
These caves certainly deserve more study and we have shared our findings with the team at Kluane National Park. Stay tuned for more information!