Sunday 18 June 2017

Ice Climbing on Exit Glacier, Seward Alaska

Day 2 continued the action packed week, with an ice-climbing trip with Exit Glacier guides.

Theme song: The Wishing Well by Walter Martin.

We (five tourists, two guides) met in their office to get fitted with mountaineering boots, crampons, and helmets (as well as lunch and some snacks). After a short drive to the exit glacier parking lot we started hiking up the Harding Ice Field trail to access the ice.

The hike up is fairly steep and the day was warm, so we did it in T-shirts. The mosquitoes on the trail are pretty intense, definitely recommend bringing some repellent. You hike 2.4 miles to the "top of cliffs overlook" then turn left down an unmarked trail that takes you to the side of the glacier. This is the optimum point for ice climbing on the glacier: good width crevasses without too much snow.

View over the outwash plain from the Harding Ice Field trail

Exit Glacier

A glacier hiking trip starting out ahead of us

Crampons on, ready for ice

Setting up the first practice climb

Walking on ice

View up the glacier towards the icefield

Setting anchors with ice screws. We ran two ropes into each crevasse.

All up I think we climbed around 5 times in three different crevasses. Longest climb was probably around 20m. Some of the crevasses were much deeper in places (I couldn't see the actual bottom), but we usually just belayed down until we hit a snow bridge. Climbing wasn't physically challenging, more technically challenging being in the right posture, kicking your feet in correctly etc. We used the guides' ice tools to do the actual climbing, and just hiking poles for stability when walking on the ice.

We went from T-shirts on the trail to multiple layers, down jackets and shells on the glacier itself. It's dramatically colder air coming down the ice.

Looking up, about to climb

It was great fun, and much more interesting than just tramping around on the glacier. The hardest part of the whole thing is getting belayed over the edge of the crevasse. Anyone with good fitness should be able to handle one of these trips.

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