The Cozy Camp 9

The Cozy Camp 9

Jeff Gunderson, College of Wooster

Sharing an entire camp out here on the icefield with roughly 50 other people breeds a certain type of claustrophobia. That isn’t to say that being surrounded by that many people is undesirable, it just amounts to a stressful living environment. Imagine 50 individual people telling each other how much better the coffee could be if they had made it, that lectures are too long, that the weather is a drag or that their projects aren’t going the way they had hoped. The list goes on. And on. And on. Truly, everyone is a critic in camp whether they realize it or not. Room for reflection and personal space in general are constrained by everyone’s self-declared expertise in literally everything. But in spite of all the pettiness, I found a solution in digging large pits in the snow.

As such, on the 29th of July 2015, a crew consisting of 6 spritely JIRPers and 2 solid staffers embarked on a journey to a small, teeny weeny, little cabin smack dab in the middle of nowhere. Before I continue I must interject to say that, if that ain’t irony then I don’t know what to tell you. Sure, I mean the blatant, most obvious cure for cabin fever clearly is going to an even smaller camp and living in even closer quarters with everyone. Alright there you go; I acknowledged my blunder. You can stop yelling at your computer screens and waving your hands in the air. Besides, you’ll hurt your lower backs and wrists if you keep that up. No, seriously, carpal tunnel is a real thing. Anyways, to those of you keeping track at home this cabin was the lovely Camp 9. Our goal, as a mass balance crew of divas, a hustler, a dental hygienist, a shovel wrecker and a mass imbalancer stood as the lumbering task of digging 4 pits in 3 days in and around the area. 

  The dinky Camp 9 perched atop a lonely nunatak. Photo by author.

The dinky Camp 9 perched atop a lonely nunatak. Photo by author.

Though slighted by the lack of visibility and incessant falling of this water stuff uncommon to the Juneau Icefield called rain, spirits were high among the crew on our traverse. Gliding, sliding, slipping and tripping— all one in the same when it comes to skiing, really— we made our ways to the first pit site before arriving at Camp 9. Dug, measured and sampled within an hour we moseyed up to set up our living arrangements at Camp 9. Upon arrival, it dawned on me how closely I would physically be to everyone in our crew. My mind tip toed its way back to the can of sardines staff member Tristan had eaten the day before. There would be an astounding likeness to those forsaken fish delicacies at Camp 9. I gulped. What had I done?

 Beautiful nunataks surrounding the pit dug during the second day. Photo by author.

Beautiful nunataks surrounding the pit dug during the second day. Photo by author.

In actuality, I quickly found the proximity with a much smaller group to be incredibly refreshing. This trip opened up a space for intimacy and sincerity, allowing everyone to forget their woes and tribulations, which is ultimately unattainable with large numbers of people. With the comradery coupled with the labor of digging deep into the snow, JIRP culture flourished. Faces were painted, music jammed and pit dancing was at its classiest. By the time measurements to the annual layer were taken, the sun had even managed to poke its rays through the clouds and blue sky illuminated the gorgeous encompassing nunataks. 

 Annika paints Allie’s face while Sydney and Olivia (also with painted faces) record mass balance data. Photo by author.

Annika paints Allie’s face while Sydney and Olivia (also with painted faces) record mass balance data. Photo by author.

 Adrian displays his war paint indicating his reign as king during the 2015 “Year of the Diva” mass balance Camp 9 trip. Photo by author.

Adrian displays his war paint indicating his reign as king during the 2015 “Year of the Diva” mass balance Camp 9 trip. Photo by author.

In the evening, the food was scrumptious despite its resemblance to something you would see in a Dr. Suess book. And in case you were wondering, no I do not like green eggs and ham. Or was it green eggs and spam? I forget. After gobbling down the gloppity glop or what have you, it was time to sleep. The arrangements in the upstairs loft were rather cozy so no one was cold. It was like bumper to bumper rush hour traffic. The nails poking out from the wall boards were a nice touch in my opinion, but I’m no interior designer. For all I know, they probably clashed with the color of the plywood.

In all seriousness, the trip to Camp 9 remains as a standout memory of time thus far in JIRP. In regard to the other students on this little excursion, the closeness to them was not at all a deterrent; rather it was what made the trip so memorable. So, if you are ever diagnosed with claustrophobia I ask you to reconsider the prognosis, for in my experience fighting fire with fire has worked remarkably well.