Lt. Brookfield's Ordeal

A month after Lowe's aborted attempt to find the old glacier-free, Russian route through Keystone Canyon, Lt. Brookfield led a party over Corbin Glacier. Corbin Glacier seems an unlikely route, but Abercrombie seems to have insisted that the Valdez Glacier was not the route he explored in 1884. Abercrombie's map shows an east-west running glacier with a lake on the far side draining into the Copper River. The Valdez Glacier runs north-south.

Brookfield's orders were to proceed over Corbin Glacier, the "summer route," to the lake on the other side and then down to the Copper River.


On his first attempt, avalanches killed some of the pack horses and the guides barely escaped with their lives. On the second, the scouting party left Valdez at 10am on May 26th, reached the supplies the first party cached at 3am on May 27th where they had breakfast in a sleet and rain storm, then climbed to the summit which was now obscured by snow. Since they were traveling light with very limited supplies, Brookfield decided to push on across the pass to the wooded lake on the other side. At 8pm, some 30 hours of arduous climbing after leaving Valdez, they reached Corbin Glacier's eastern terminus and found it nearly impossible to descend. They finally slid 800 feet down an avalanche gully, then began trudging down Bear Creek Valley over and around large boulders on a route that Brookfield reported "was not practicable for any kind of travel."

After 43 hours of nearly continuous hiking, they reached a wooded area. There was no lake. Even worse, Bear Creek did not flow northeast into the Copper River, but south into the Lowe. One can only surmise the mutinous thoughts Brookfield and the rest of the party must have entertained as they realized Capt. Abercrombie's duplicity -- and their despair at finding a better route back to Valdez.

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