April in 1898 seems to have been a fairly mild month. The prospectors' diaries talk
of long sunny days and snow-blindness, of slushy, melting snow and having to work
Then, on April 26, a spring snowstorm began, with heavy wet snow falling in huge flakes,
hour after hour, for five days trapping 300 men at the Foot of the Summit Camp. Most
had expected to be across the Summit. Many risked leaving their tents to go begging for firewood to melt water for cooking. The little available wood and kerosene that
was for sale sold at 25 cents a pound for wood and $5 a gallon for kerosene. Caches
soon disappeared under the snow.
On April 30, snow stopped. Men meansured 7-8 ft. of new snow; 12 ft. in drifts. They
began shoveling out tents, hunting for caches, breaking the trail, listening to distant
avalanches rumbling down the mountains.
Exhausted, the men retired for a good nights sleep. But suddenly a huge avalanche
broke away from the mountain and ran out onto the glacier covering twenty tents.
Immediately, over 200 men clad only in their underwear began digging out their buried
comrades. A disaster that could have claimed the lives of many was averted by their efforts.
Although only two men died, the newspapers in Skagway feeling threatened by the rival
Valdez route and reeling from an avalanche that had killed 37 on their trail continuously
portrayed the Valdez Glacier Trail as a death trap. The myth has continued to this day.
Previous | Return to Index | Next
© Copyright 1998 Nancy Lethcoe and Virtual Valdez.
This page is a Valdez Gold Rush site.