Crampons, Crevasses, and Caves, ICE CAVES!
A couple of years ago my boyfriend and I went to Alaska. We did a 7-day cruise that left from Vancouver and then stayed another week on land on our own. The cruise ship was a Royal Caribbean, Radiance of the seas. We scheduled a glacier trek in Juneau of Mendenhall Glacier. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I had never done a “trek” before let alone a glacier trek but I was excited. We get to the trail-head and the guide gives everyone all the necessary gear for the trek and then we embark. The first three and a half miles are through a temperate rain forest. The first mile is well maintained, we’re hopping on moss, picking up cool mushrooms, basically in la la land.
Then comes the second two and a half miles which was not so much la la land. The trail was uneven, there were areas of mud, slippery bedrock, and multiple short, steep up and downhill sections. Upon reaching the top of the most difficult section of the trail, the rock scramble, all the effort we’ve invested instantly pays off as the Mendenhall Glacier and the surrounding peaks come into full view. I’ve never seen a glacier before and my what a treat it was to sit and have lunch staring right at one. I was so overwhelmed with joy. Every second I would just look around in awe like how am I on this part of land right now.
Once we reached the glacier, the tour guide instructs us to open the backpacks they gave us and put on the crampons. Crampons are a necessity to securely travel on snow and ice. We spent a while on the ice exploring crevasses, melt water streams, and as if I wasn’t in full jubilation mode, we were about to make our way to an ice cave! I had seen a picture of ice caves on the tour companies’ website but it wasn’t a sure thing that we would get to enter one because of weather conditions etc. It was our lucky day!
It was THE COOLEST THING EVER!! We wiggled our way down a slope and there we were, about to enter an ice cave. It didn’t feel real. I can’t even explain what I was feeling. This has already been the coolest day and I had already accepted in my head that we wouldn’t be doing the ice caves because I didn’t want to be disappointed if we didn’t. Ah complete jubilation while writing this and thinking about it. Sooo anyway… After all the picture taking and selfies, the tour guide told the non-claustrophobic people to follow him. So, we basically crawled our way through a little passage and sat for a minute in this low part of the cave.
After that insane experience we made our way to an ice tunnel. It was a HUGE passage way and it was as if time stopped right above us. The best way to explain it was like if you go to a really cool aquarium and they sometimes have water tanks above you. It was like that but we weren’t at an aquarium and it was an ice mountain above us.
So all in all what did we take away from this experience? We can officially call ourselves trailblazers! (right?) Now I’m gonna be honest, on the way back I got a bit restless (and hangry), and at one point I even fell, but hey it’s all part of the experience.