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The eruption of 6-9 June 1912 was the most voluminous of the twentieth century,
one of the three largest in recorded history,
and one of the few historic eruptions to produce welded tuff.
– Wes Hildreth - USGS

Katmai’s Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, August 2004

Jobe Wymore and Rick Trujillo striding up the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes under Mount Griggs south side After our Mount Griggs summit climb, we strode forth up the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes for more adventure

Here, Jobe Wymore and Rick Trujillo head deeper into the valley while Mount Griggs passes in review
Clouds boiled over the peaks at the head of the valley as we approached Clouds boiled over the peaks at the head of the valley as we approached in wonderment, and with a little bit of trepidation
BLA-LOOM! Like hell! It is the mountain. The mountain is doing something.
Harry Kaiakokonok - eyewitness June 6, 1912
Heading down a dry side creek to inspect Knife Creek Our goal for the day was to cross back to the south side of Knife Creek and find clear water for a second camp

After several miles, we decided to head down this dry side canyon and inspect the unseen but dreaded obstacle

Broken Mountain rises beyond Knife Creek, and of course we named the false summit on the left, “Ka-Boosted”
Unseen from a distance, the barrier to cross-valley travel that Knife Creek presents is indeed formidable Unseen from a distance, the barrier to cross-valley travel that Knife Creek presents is indeed formidable

Here, high in the valley, the roaring creek has spent most of the last century cutting a gorge into the welded tuff
We nervously inspected this 12-foot gap as a possible crossing place We nervously inspected this 12-foot gap as a possible crossing place

Perhaps an Olympic broad jumper could make the leap safely, but with our heavy packs we rejected this dubious opportunity and continued our search upstream for a safe crossing
We thirstly eyed this clear water creek on the far side of the gorge Once again on the dry side, we thirstily eyed this clear water creek on the far side of the gorge
We went upstream until Knife Creek split into three forks and tackled them one-by-one With the weather improving and Griggs watching we went upstream until Knife Creek split into three forks and tackled them one-by-one

The north fork was the first and easiest crossing, providing a narrow step across that we could do with our packs on
Farther upstream we looked down on the middle and south forks Farther upstream, we looked down on the middle and south forks

The south fork (top) looked easy to wade, but the middle fork carried most of the water, and was still too deep for a safe crossing

Note the sand waves in the south fork
Just before reaching the glacier, we found what we were looking for - an open, braided portion of Knife Creek Just before reaching the glacier, we found what we were looking for - an open, braided portion of Knife Creek
Picking our route through the braids carefully, we waded across Picking our route through the braids carefully and probing ahead for hidden gorges, we waded across
We pitched Camp 2 near the clear water creek that we had admired earlier, and enjoyed a stunning view of Mount Griggs We pitched Camp 2 near the clear water creek that we had admired earlier, and enjoyed a stunning view of Mount Griggs
And then one old man from Katmai started hollering and telling people about their water. “Put away as much water as you can and store it, reserve it. Wherever ashes come down, there will be no water to drink anywhere. Turn your boats upside down. They will be filled up with ash.” He knows everything, that old fellow.
– The oral tradition of passing on the ancestral knowledge of antiquity
Like kids playing in the world's largest sandbox, the next morning saw us charging up the slopes of Broken Mountain Like kids playing in the world’s largest sandbox, the next morning saw us charging up the slopes of Broken Mountain
Pausing on top of 'Ka-Busted,' Chad Alber examines the remaining hike to the top of Broken Mountain Pausing on top of “Ka-Boosted,” Chad Alber examines the remaining hike to the top of Broken Mountain
Some erosion gullies between Broken and Baked Mountains Some erosion gullies between Broken and Baked Mountains

While interesting to look at, these gullies require hubris to walk across
And then afternoon - sometime in the afternoon - it was just like this, bright sunshine, hot, no wind, that’s when the volcano started. Started snowing like that fine pumice coming down. Make a lot of noise, the size of rice, some of it, some of it smaller, and some of it bigger, and some of it was as big as a kettle or pot. Kaflia Bay started to get white gradually. That water used to be blue, flat calm, no wind; and started to get white, white, white, and pretty soon all white and dark, dark came. Dark didn’t come all of a sudden, it comes gradually. Getting darker and darker and darker, and pretty soon, pitch black. So black even if you put your hand two or three inches from your face outside you can’t see it ‘cause it was so dark. And then the people started to gather up.
– Six-year-old Harry Kaiakokonok’s account of the eruption, which he watched from the fish camp at Kaflia, 32 miles east of - and directly downwind from - Novarupta
Leaving Broken Mountain behind, we head for Baked Mountain Donning our extra clothes against the rising wind, we left Broken Mountain behind, and headed for Baked Mountain

We had been warned about the wind out here, and today got to suffer it firsthand
Rick Trujillo striding across the Baked-Broken saddle Rick Trujillo striding across the Baked-Broken saddle

As our views started to open toward the western part of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, the extent of the destruction that took place here expanded in our minds

We walked in a wonderful wasteland that excited us in strange new ways
Our battle for Baked begins in the rising wind Our battle for Baked begins in the rising wind
Chad Alber fights up the slopes of Baked Mountain in a ferocious wind The loneliness of the Katmai climber

Chad Alber fights up the slopes of Baked Mountain in a now ferocious wind
The battle for Baked continues The battle for Baked continues

Baked’s lower slopes are covered by tuff from the 1912 eruption, but the black summit rock is the original mountain
From the false summit 'Half Baked,' the summit of Baked juts up above the dust storm below From the false summit “Half Baked,” the summit of Baked juts above the dust storm below
Brad balances up Baked's wind-blasted summit ridge while Broken broods behind Brad balances up Baked’s wind-blasted summit ridge while Broken broods behind
Gerry Roach braces against the blast on top of Baked while Mount Mageik matches the mood Gerry Roach braces against the blast on top of Baked while Mount Mageik matches the mood
The Katmai mountain blew up with lots of fire and fire came down trail from Katmai with lots of smoke. We go fast Savonoski. Everybody get bidarka (skin boat). Helluva job. We come Naknek one day, dark, no could see. Hot ash fall. Work like hell.
– Petr Kayagvak - who witnessed the 1912 eruption from near the present day tourist viewing center for the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes
The next day we set out under calmer skies to explore Novarupta while Mount Trident watched The next day we set out under calmer skies to explore Novarupta while Mount Trident watched
Bear tracks near Novarupta Bear tracks near Novarupta, which prove that bears do visit this desolate place
From the top of the Turtle, we had our first good view of Novarupta with Falling Mountain and Mount Mageik behind From the top of the Turtle, we had our first good view of Novarupta with Falling Mountain and Mount Mageik behind

Novarupta was the center of the 1912 eruption, which truncated Falling Mountain - the burp of lava that is Novarupta today was just the volcano’s afterthought
Brad Alber contemplating Novarupta and the enormous forces that shaped this unique landscape Brad Alber contemplating Novarupta and the enormous forces that shaped this unique landscape
It get hot in those barabaras. We pull off all our clothes. We soak them in water and put them over our face. Those peoples who have mosses in their barabara pour water over those mosses and put them over their nose and mouth so they can breathe. After a while we open the door and try to see out. All black, everywhere. A little bird fly into barabara. He can’t see where he go. We childrens wash his eyes with water and he stay in barabara with us.
– Harry Kaiakokonok - from an interview in 1975
Jobe Wymore heading for Falling Mountain Jobe Wymore heading for Falling Mountain
Jobe Wymore approaching the summit of Falling Mountain A summit ride to remember

Jobe Wymore floating toward the summit of Falling Mountain
Cerberus from the top of Falling Cerberus from the top of Falling

In Greek and Roman mythology, Cerberus is a multi-headed monster in the shape of a dog who guards the entrance into Hades - the home of the dead
Mighty Mount Mageik from the top of Falling Mighty Mount Mageik from the top of Falling
Light is coming. Oh boy, just like snow. Can’t see nothing. No kind of tree. All white to mountain. No kind of beach. No bluff. Nothing. All white, the big river. Filled up. No running, the water. Just like cement. That time get hard, boy. Lots of animals that time killed. Lots killed - the bear, ducks and everything.
– George Kosbruk
Light is coming Light is coming

Oh boy
Gerry took the above photos in August, 2004
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