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Eklutna Glacier Military Training Site

1950's to Mid 1970's

Name of Skiing Area: Eklutna Glacier Military Training Site
Location: Eklutna  Glacier (and Whiteout Glacier) in the Western Chugach Mountains east of Anchorage
Type of Area: A large glaciated area accessed by roads from the Glenn Highway to Eklutna Lake and then 13 miles along and past the lake to the glacier terminus
Dates of Operation: 1950's to mid 1970's
Elevation:

Camping area at the end of the Eklutna Lake Road: ~900'; Whiteout Pass: ~5200'

Facilities: Military campground at the end of the Eklutna Lake Road.  Wooden and cable suspension bridge across the Eklutna River for access to the glacier
History: Military training for arctic warfare took place here in the 1950's and 1970's.  Little at present is know by ALSAP about the history of these military training operations.  A caption on a picture below indicates that in September 1963 Company A, 1st Batallion, 60th Infantry performed ski training here.  People still occasionally ski in this area, but military training no longer occurs here.

For history of the 23d Infantry in Alaska, Gary Carter maintains a blog on this military history at www.23d-infantry.blogspot.com/

If anyone has stories or pictures to share about military arctic warfare and ski training at the Eklutna Glacier, please contact us so the military skiing history of this area can be preserved and shared.  Thank you!

Sources of Information:

Tim Kelley / photo acquired from Dave Ludwig of San Antonio, TX (see below); Fred Trimble; Gary Carter; Edwin Cooper; Kermit Davis

~  PHOTOS  ~
1963 Photo of 60th Infantry Troops Skiing Across Whiteout Glacier towards Whiteout Pass and the Eklutna Glacier

[Photo Credit: SP-5 Henry J. Hamilton]

Tim Kelley note: I'm guessing this shot was taken near Whiteout Pass looking south across Whiteout Glacier.  Possibly the peak in the center is Hut Peak.  If anyone believes differently ... please let me know.  Thanks.
Zoomed in view of the 1963 Hamilton picture, click on this picture to expand it even more

24864       FORT RICHARDSON, ALASKA
Arctic Infantrymen master the rugged weather
and terrain in the "Land of the Midnight Sun",
adapting modern Army concepts of mobility to
the far north.  Overwhite clad combat troops
of Co A, 1st Bn, 60th Inf, 172 Info DO (Mech),
perfect tactical skiing techniques during a
training exercise on a snowfield more than a
mile high in the Chugach Mts.  Base at Fort
Richardson, near Anchorage, Alaska, these
tough Infantrymen undergo constant training
geared to their mission as the Key to
Landpower on America's Northern boundary.
                               12 September 1963

Photo by SP-5 Henry J Hamilton

Above: Text on backside of the Hamilton picture
1961 picture of a soldier, Thomas J. Brown, in "firing position" on the Eklutna Glacier.  Photo by Capt. Charles Beresford, Ft. Richardson.
Text on the backside of the Beresford picture. Seattle Times article pasted on the backside of the Beresford picture.
 
Military glacier training, Eklutna Glacier, July 19, 1961.

[Photo credit: US Army Signal Corps, Alaska State Library]
Rappelling from HU-1A helicopter, Eklutna Glacier, 1963.

[Photo credit: US Army Signal Corps, Alaska State Library]
Military ski patrol exercises on Eklutna Glacier, Sept. 4, 1962.

[Photo credit: US Army Signal Corps, Alaska State Library]
 
Army mountain training, Eklutna River, July 9, 1961.

[Photo credit: US Army Signal Corps, Alaska State Library]

  Army constructing bridge, Eklutna River, July 7, 1961.

[Photo credit: US Army Signal Corps, Alaska State Library]

 

1966 Photos  by Kermit Davis of Fort Richardson Soldiers Training on the Eklutna Glacier

   


 

This topo map shows the East Branch of the Eklutna Glacier where military training operations took place.  The arrow points to the campground which is now Eklutna (Native) Inc. land.  The X marks the estimated location of the Hamilton picture above.  Next to the X there still exists a military reservation area that allows military helicopter landings.  Land surrounding the military reservation is now Chugach State Park.  Here is the survey document for the military landing area.

This satellite map shows the location of the Eklutna Glacier in the Western Chugach Mountains.

Research Correspondence 
[Tim Kelley - notes]

In the past I, and others, have found remnants of military crampons on the medial moraine of the Eklutna Glacier near its terminus.  Fred Trimble mentioned that old iron pitons could be found in the early 1970's in cracks in the rocks near where the campground existed.  Troops would practice setting pitons in this area.
[Gary Carter - 03 March 2009 email]
 
I was stationed with the 23d Infantry at Ft Rich Jan 61 to April 63, and am creating a blog of the 23ds history at that time.  There are and will be several photos of the Eklutna Mountain/Glacier training there.
 
Look at www.23d-infantry.blogspot.com.  There are more to come as I've only gotten started.
 
[Edwin Cooper - 18 June 2011  email]

Greetings: Ed Cooper here. In June 1977 I was in the third squad, 1st Platoon of the 562nd Combat Engineer Company (Arctic Light)  assigned to Ft. Richardson, AK. Our tent camp was very near the face of the glacier at the end of a valley road. We did our week of  training on the Eklutna Glacier that included learning to walk on the ice, learning how to fall and then catch our selves with our ice axes, they had us roped us together in groups of about four, and rapelling into a crevasse and then walking out on the rope. We built a  steel cable bridge across the glacier stream and then threw our platoon leader into the 33 degree water, that's an engineer tradition.  
 

'Nother story from my week of glacier training. We were in a valley with large rock formations on both sides of our camp. A group of our soldiers decided to climb up one of the scree and talus slopes, to get up to the rock face. We had observed some Dall Sheep up above the scree slopes and had been watching them through binoculars. I chose to stay at camp and watch. Later that morning we could see our group ascending the scree slope and getting closer to the rock face. We could see the sheep above them, I was watching off and on through the ‘nocs. There came a rumble and a rock slide was observed coming down on the ascending soldiers. We saw guys dodging this way and that. Several stayed down and didn’t get up. Two guys were hit, one broke an arm and the other was a head injury. It was said that the sheep had caused the rock slide. A MEDIVAC chopper was called in from Ft. Richardson. Cloud cover was below the surrounding peaks so the pilot had to use instruments to find the valley and then let down into it to evacuate the injured. And that was pretty much the end of our glacier training.   

 

Ed Cooper

in Shelbyville, Kentucky

[Tim Kelley - 29 June 2013  note]

Recently I mountain biked to the end of the Eklutna Lake Road.  I remembered what Fred Trimble had said (see above) about practice pitons being placed in cracks in the rocks in this area.  I looked around a bit and found one of the old iron pitons.  Here is a picture of it:

 

 

 

Do you have further information, stories or pictures that you would like to contribute about arctic warfare and military ski training on the Eklutna Glacier?