Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Glacier Trekking in Juneau

by Robert L Gisel

 So you want to go home with a wild tale of Alaska? What better yarn can you tell back home than touching and crawling around inside a glacier for your own personal rendition of Jack London.

 In Juneau there is an opportunity to experience the glacier that you won't easily get anywhere else in Alaska. Because the Mendenhall Glacier is so accessible this makes for a very memorable adventure, can be done within a day, and get you back to the ship on time.

 On a trip up the inside passage possibly the best way to experience Ketchikan and the Misty Fjords is by kayak, but in Juneau you can get close in on the glacier, and that is something you don't want to miss, while it lasts. That is a sad tale, for us old time Alaskans.

  Of the glaciers in Alaska roughly 20% are advancing and about 80% are receding. Taku Glacier is advancing. Mendenhall used to advance 40 feet in the winter and recede 80 feet in the summer. Now it is receding 400 to 600 feet a year. It still comes up to the lake, but only for another year or two. Get up there soon, in other words, before it backs off entirely leaving rock in front of it.

 You can go there on your own, if you have any experience with prowling around glaciers. The fairly easy trails on either side of Mendenhall glacier require no guide, East Trail for viewing it from above, West Trail to access the glacier itself.

Mendenhall Glacier 2002

If you want to explore the ice caves, though, it is safest to go with a guide. The caves can be unstable and dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. For ice climbing, go with a guide.

 You can rent a kayak, if you didn't bring your own, and paddle on Mendenhall Lake up to the glacier to view its magnificence that way. That doesn't require as much vigor and still the scenerama is awesome.
 To make sure you have the best hands-on glacier adventure get a real Alaskan guide to take you to their favorite spots known to be exciting . There is a good tour guide service that will make sure you don't get lost in a crevasse or crushed by the glacier, which I recommend, Above and Beyond Alaska, LLC.

 Born and raised in Alaska that makes them Sourdoughs, for Sean third generation, second generation for Becky, and they are professional, experienced, and licensed guides. Heralded as "a real Alaskan experience", "life changing", and "the highlight of our Alaskan trip", these are great testimonials to their glacier trekking and ice climbing tours.

 Go there while it lasts and get close in on the glacier, bring a camera, and bring back a good yarn.