When the early prospectors steamed up Port Valdez, they must have been glad to have the map based on Capt. Abercrombie's 1884 report of his crossing of Valdez Glacier, because from the water, there is no obvious route across the coastal mountain barricade.
On arriving, George Hazelet optimistically wrote home: "We will in the next two weeks have to reach the summit, and in order to do this we have to cross at least 12 miles of rough rugged glacier, now covered with snow. From the foot to the summit it rises at least 2,000 ft."
But just which glacier was the route? Abercrombie, reported the glacier as running east/west, having a pass at 2,000 feet, and being 15 miles from the Port Valdez to the lake on the other side. To the prospector's dismay, nothing matched the map.
Fortunately, the prospectors had help from an unexpected source. Bill Beyers, a fur trader from Fox Island, had a log cabin at the head of Port Valdez. His wife, Omelia, was a Copper River Indian who had been abandoned after she froze her feet crossing the glacier.
When prospectors such as Margeson's party doubted they were on the right route, it was Omelia who assured them that the north/south running Valdez Glacier was, indeed, the correct trail even though it was 29 miles, not 15, from Port Valdez to Lake Klutina, and the pass was at 4,800 ft. not 2,000. Instead of taking the expected two weeks to haul their goods across, most parties spent a month or more.
(Read more about the gold rush in Margeson's Experiences of Gold Hunters in Alaska and the Lethcoe's Valdez Gold Rush Trails 1898-99. )