Camp 17 to Camp 10 Traverse

By: Melissa “Luna” Brett

Our team got an early start on the traverse from Camp 17 to Camp 10. The sky was cloudless and blue, and there was a sense of adventure throughout the group. A not-so-graceful ski down the Lemon Creek glacier ended at the blue ice, where we prepared ourselves for the trek with crampons and some excitement about the alien landscape.

On the traverse: Lemon Creek Glacier.

There is no other blue like that of a glacier, freshly exposed from the melting snow pack, alive and creeping slowly along. Aware of the quiet river beneath us, we trekked on and on, up and up, to Nugget Ridge. The clouds crept in around us just before the crevasse zone, where we roped up in teams, double and triple checking each other on the skills we learned at Camp 17.

Getting roped up in the clouds at the top of Nugget Ridge.

Slowly through the foggy mountain pass we forged ahead, watching our tracks and the slack in our rope with a heightened sense of things, ready to react to any movement, any change in landscape. The fog let up just as we finished the heavily crevassed trail, and we all stood in silence with our first view of the deep icefield. Peaks jutting from the ice as far as any heart could imagine, and farther than our eyes could see. The sun turned the mountains purple and blue, with soft orange and pink snow and ice hugging every slope. A view of our campsite, the Norris Cache, was a tiny spot in the distance, above the Norris Icefall, with Death Valley sinking between us.

Death Valley.

I knew right then, that everything I had ever done had led me to this one moment, to this one place. I found my limit and left it 6 miles behind me, 1000 feet below, pushing past my breaking point to find out who I am, and where I belong. Down we went, following with tired eyes and weakened legs into Death Valley, which seemed to go on forever. As the sun sank behind the peaks, the sky gave up its starry secrets, and we pushed on under the shining constellations, the Big Dipper leading the way. We finally reached the base of the Norris Icefall, weary from the relentless push. Everyone was helping each other, from layering up, to eating and drinking, staying warm, staying positive, getting prepared for the final push. We roped up for the crevasses on the icefall, checking each other’s exhausted knots 5 or 6 times, just to be sure. We began the climb up the icefall, slow and steady, calling out to each other as we went along to help keep the focus. The crevasses were deep blue canyons, as dark in the bottom as the night sky above, only there were no stars down there. It was like climbing the back of a sleeping blue dragon, slowly we inched our way to the top. At last, the tents were in sight, and the sweet thoughts of a warm sleeping bag sank into our minds. We all arrived safely, together, and sleep came easily that night. The next morning was bright and quiet, with a long straight shot to Camp 10 across the Southwest Branch and the Taku Glacier. The aches and blisters were no match for the need to finish the trek. We geared up and headed out early, taking it hour by hour, minute by minute, step by step, and enjoying the wild view the entire way. After what felt like days we got a glimpse of Camp 10, perched high on the rocks ahead of us. The last push took us to places we never could have imagined, and there was no greater gift than taking off the skis and hiking up the rocks to Camp 10. Tears of pride and joy brought me to my knees, and as I looked back at the ice below I felt strong and happy. Happy to be part of something so vast and meaningful, proud to be here with this team, in the most wild classroom on Earth, the Juneau Icefield.