The Southwest Branch Overnight Camp-out

by Lexi Crisp, Wittenberg University

In the midst of mass balance pit digging, surveying, safety training, lectures and work detail it can be easy to lose yourself in work.  So when I found out that I would get to go on an overnight trip to the Southwest Branch of the Taku glacier I couldn’t have been happier to get out of camp for a while.  The camp out on the Southwest Branch was to serve two purposes.  First, to make it easier for the mass balance team to reach some far away pits.  Second, to give the biology group a chance to collect beetles, sedges, and water samples. 

A combined team of 13 people left on Monday, July 21st, to complete their research.  The mass balance team left early since they had a long ski ahead of them.  The biology group, myself included, headed to our camp site to set up camp, which included setting up tents, and digging a latrine and kitchen area.  Once camp was set up, we headed off to the closest nunatak to look for beetles. Once at the nunatak, we set out to look under rocks near the snow line, where beetles like to rest during the day.  Searching for beetles turned out to be a fun and daunting task.  It was satisfying to find a beetle after flipping over what seemed like hundreds of rocks, but frightening to not know what other bugs could be lurking beneath the rocks.

Within ten minutes of searching Jeff made the first beetle find.  Within an hour we had met our fifteen beetle quota.  Since we were in no hurry we decided to climb to the top of the nunatak to enjoy the view.  In one direction was a great view of Devil’s Paw, and in the other the Taku Towers.  The geologist in me was ecstatic to find some awesome rock samples and dikes cutting through the nunatak as we descended back to the snow.  We skied back to our campsite and finished cooking dinner just as the mass balance crew returned from their pit.  In preparation for bed, everyone helped dig a giant cuddle pit to sleep in, despite the already set up tents.  The pit was complete with many cuddles, candles, and massages.

 Hannah, Danielle, Carmen, and Laurissa wake up in the snuggle pit after a good night's sleep.  photo by Gillian Rooker

Hannah, Danielle, Carmen, and Laurissa wake up in the snuggle pit after a good night's sleep.  photo by Gillian Rooker

After a beautiful sunset and a great night’s sleep, the biology group took off to another nunatak and the mass balance crew started on another pit.

 Hannah, Alex, Laurissa, Danielle, Luc, and Carmen dig a mass balance pit on the Southwest branch of the Taku glacier.  photo by Gillian Rooker

Hannah, Alex, Laurissa, Danielle, Luc, and Carmen dig a mass balance pit on the Southwest branch of the Taku glacier.  photo by Gillian Rooker

For the biology group we had a less successful day, with only one beetle find.  Despite the lack of beetles, we had a wonderful time because the sun was shining and the views were great.  Just after two o’clock, we started our three hour ski back to Camp 10.  Overall, this campout was my favorite trip out on the icefield.  We couldn’t have asked for better weather, views, sunsets, snuggles, or fellowship, and I was pleased to get to know my fellow JIRPers even better.

 View of Devil's Paw at sunset from the Southwest Branch of the Taku glacier.  photo by Gillian Rooker

View of Devil's Paw at sunset from the Southwest Branch of the Taku glacier.  photo by Gillian Rooker