The majestic wilderness of Alaska...

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The majestic wilderness of Alaska was on view for Stonehaven and District Probus Club members at their last meeting.

Recently-retired deputy rector of Banchory Academy, Graham MacDonald, is currently arranging a fourth trip to the USA’s largest state for Academy pupils. Flying to the capital, Anchorage, in June the party of 16-20 pupils and staff will already have put in many hours of preparation and training on the Scottish hills. For this three-week adventure of a lifetime they will head straight for the Harding Ice Field.

Graham described how, on previous expeditions and after an assessment of weather and snow conditions, they start off with a couple of mini outings to build up experience, stamina and, most importantly, teamwork. Then will begin two weeks of trekking on some of the Field’s 17 glaciers.

Everything except drinking water has to be carried and because rucksacks just are not large enough they will each be pulling a mini sled. Safety has to be paramount so members will be roped together in teams of four using crampons and poles.

The scenery contains its own hazards in the shape of bears (grizzlies), wolves and moose. Firearms are not permitted so the travellers will have to rely on their cans of pepper spray. And at night food is kept in two tents which are pitched well away from the sleeping tents for safety. Finally, when the tired band of adventurers come off the glacier, they will hopefully still have a couple of days’ energy left to assist in a conservation project for the US Fish and Wildlife Authority.

On last year’s trip they helped restore some of the original shacks and cabins used by the miners and trappers of the gold rush era. As Graham (an experienced mountain rescue team leader) said, in today’s risk-averse culture this adventure could be life-changing. Crawford Anderson proposed thanks.