All Good Things Must Come to an End

by: Natalie Raia, The University of Texas at Austin

Portable JIRP Blog, this is Portable Natalie conducting her two-month post-JIRP check-in.

            Exactly two months ago, 33 students solemnly, groggily departed from University of Alaska-Southeast housing. We were returning to family, friends, school, modern conveniences, and once-familiar, but now seemingly foreign lifestyles. Today, I sit on a plane bound for the Geological Society of America conference in Vancouver, where many JIRPers will be gathering to present the research products from our summer on the icefield.

            Now, our last blog entry leaves us packing up a charter bus in Atlin, and though many of you may now have heard stories from JIRPers you know, or have been through the journey yourself, Id like to fill in the gaps of those final, turbulent, poignant days.

            August 15th: We departed Camp 30 in Atlin, B.C. and took a scenic drive to Skagway, AK. We waited in Skagway for the ferry to Juneau. How bizarre it was to walk confined to sidewalks streaming with tourists, to stand in the ferry station surrounded by fluorescent lights, and to hear the voices of relatives on the phone. Looking at fellow JIRPers glazed, wide-eyed faces, it was apparent that I was not the only one who was overwhelmed by the sudden shift in environment. Boarding the ferry, JIRP overtook the solarium on the top deck, and settled in for the ~5-hour ferry ride with our sleeping bags. The rainy weather cleared (its burning off!) as we proceeded down the Inside Passage. Soon, sleeping bag sumo wars, ballroom dance lessons, and general JIRP revelry filled the upper deck, to the entertainment of the occasional non-JIRP passerby. All too soon, that glorious ride ended as dusk settled and we docked in Juneau. Wrestling our gear onto school buses (again, much to the amusement of passerby wondering precisely what we could possibly be doing with skis in August!), we returned to University of Alaska Southeast housing.  Dorm mattresses had never seemed so luxurious! Truly, we were coming full circle, and going home.

 JIRP overtakes the top deck of the ferry from Skagway to Juneau.  Photo by Natalie Raia

JIRP overtakes the top deck of the ferry from Skagway to Juneau.  Photo by Natalie Raia

            August 16th arrived. Like a point in the horizon that the safety staff swore was Camp such and such on a traverse, August 16th had always been a day way off in the future, something hazy that never really seemed to be getting close until all of a sudden, you arrive. Well, that final day began with JIRPers pretending to go about business as usual. I wrote a plan of the day in my journalas usual; we had cereal at the pavilionas usual; we even had morning announcements and work detailsas usual. Nevertheless, this was anything BUT a usual day. After practicing presentations in the morning, we went on one last hikeappropriately, to John Muir's cabin. The day passed in a dizzying blur of science, meals, and trails through the woods, and soon I found myself on a bus headed back to Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center. In an all-too-fitting fashion, a misting rain descended on Juneau as we gathered to complete our one last task.

 One final hike to John Muir's Cabin.  Photo by Natalie Raia

One final hike to John Muir's Cabin.  Photo by Natalie Raia

            I think I had an unshakable grin on my face the entire presentation. It was impossible to not be moved, proud, and content to watch and listen to my JIRP family talk about their hard work and passions. I looked upon the face of each person I had lived with, learned from, worked through challenges with, and come to respect and appreciate to the utmost extent. As I sat in the audience, I reveled in the fact that I could count myself in this group of remarkable, eclectic people. The atmosphere was loose and it was obvious that JIRPers (and the audience) were having fun recounting the summers activities. And then it was overI distinctly remember boarding the bus and Princes 1999 was playing on the radioin some sense, the perfect songupbeat and celebratory, but the lyrics tell a slightly darker story about endings, about running out of time.

            Sleep is for the weak was the unofficial motto from there on out! With just hours left (shout out to the 4 am departure crew!), we attempted to bring some sort of closure to a two-month, perspective-altering ordeal. Ha. Good luck! JIRP awards, a final video, and a well-written rap closed out the evening as people drifted about saying goodbyes and trying to maximize every minute left.


            No more mass balance pits. No more sunset skis. No more tan line contests. No more wet socks and sun-screened faces. No more Pilot Bread with peanut butter and brown sugar. No more glacier dragons. No more Science! No more icefield. And just one traverse left: the traverse without a trail party, the traverse no one tells you aboutthe hardest traverse of all.

            Somehow two months had passed, and this bizarre, beautiful social experiment (Hey, lets throw 30+ complete strangers together and have them live in confined spaces in the middle of an icefield under less than ideal conditions!) was at an end. Through quietly irrepressible tears that surprised this normally reserved author as the plane took off from Juneau, I was left with a singular line of questioning: How? How does this social experiment succeed? What is the secret of JIRPs transformative power in the lives of generations of young, aspiring scientists? How?

            The largest part of the answer involves the development of the program under Dr. Miller and his wife, JoanI am convinced. Their lifes work and legacy live on not only in the incredibly valuable scientific record JIRP produces, but also in the alumni and people who return year after year because it is such a transformative program. The second part of the answer is the students. The experience succeeds because JIRP assembles a group of diverse individuals from all corners of the U.S. and beyond. Despite our individuality, I thought about the common core values we necessarily share, and Id like to describe some of them briefly.

            We are dreamers. We dream of a healthier planetone in which our own human footprint is reduced. We dream of graduate school, of careers in engineering, environmental science, geology, and the list goes on. We dream of lives lived close to and in harmony with nature. Lives lived deliberately, surrounded by people we care about. We are dreaming.

            We are seekers. A never-ending thirst for knowledge drives us forward. Always searching for new ways to examine our beliefs, change our perspectives, and expand our horizons. We aim to learn from each person we meet.  We seek out and celebrate their best qualities. We are seeking.

            We are explorers. Testing our physical limits, pushing the bounds of our comfort zone, we never stop moving and never settle. Every new corner must be rounded, for we know that around each bend lies a new adventure, a new way to reinvent and reimagine ourselves and the world we live in. We are exploring.

            And finally, we are free spirits. Each JIRPer brought a unique addition to the summer. Artists, musicians, writers, singers, dancers, athletes, thinkers, and outdoorsmen (and women!) abound. We are compassionate characters, possessing a delicate sensitivity coupled with extremely tough mental faculties and willpower. We are soaring.

 Kelly Hughes takes an incredible sunset above the Gilkey Trench.  Photo by Natalie Raia

Kelly Hughes takes an incredible sunset above the Gilkey Trench.  Photo by Natalie Raia

            The bruises and blisters have healed. Clothes have been washed (I hope!). Photos shared. Departing tears have dried. But memories prevailStep, step, stepping up the Ptarmigan. Prusiking on July 4th, surrounded by delightful pandemonium. Aching through the snow at 3:23 am. Kick, step. Kick, step. Stark red, white, and blue waving in front of resolute Towers and miles of dazzling white snow. The ping of shovels striking scientific gold. Kick, glide. Kick, glide. Haunting silence in a cavernous crevasse. The joyous laughter on sunny days. Swish. Swishcrunch. Marmot calls and gurgling glacial streams pointing down, down. Step. Step. Step. During our last radio contact with the icefield, a catch in the strongest voice does me in: “…going clear. The unsaid phrase, for the last time, hangs in the air. A single tear escapes me, for as she packs away the disassembled radio, the thunderous icefield is silenced. The Icefield. Perched on the hill, turning my back on that staggering, immense place. One last, fleeting glancequickly, quickly, the trees are swallowing us. Will I ever return? Rain strikes still waters in that pristine inlet, disrupted by the inconvenient arrival of civilization. Wonderful wind whistles on that massive, open deck, sweeping us closer, closer to the end. The End. A new kind of deep-rooted ache, stamping memories on my heart that read, Delivered via Icefield. Delivered via JIRP. Yes, memories prevail.

            And so, with the tenor of life permanently, beautifully disrupted, we carry on. Step, step, stepping. Never settling, never stopping, always fulfilling that Emersonian ideal: Books. Nature. Action.

            We are dreamers. We are seekers.

            We are explorers. We are free spirits.

            Now and forevermore, we are JIRPers.

All good things must come to an end. And through this end, all is well. Mighty fine, mighty fine.

JIRP 2014, going clear.

For the last time.

 The sun rises through the clouds on the last day at Camp 17.  Photo by Natalie Raia

The sun rises through the clouds on the last day at Camp 17.  Photo by Natalie Raia

Geobotany and Entomology on the Juneau Icefield

by Polly Bass, University of Alaska, Anchorage, Matanuska Susitna College

Today I am at camp 18 above the Vaughan Llewis Icefall and Gilkey Trench.  Some of the objectives of the geobotanical and biological sciences research group this summer include: Continued monitoring of permanent vegetation quadrats; Evaluation, retrieval and redeployment of temperature data loggers at some of the permanent plots; Investigation of possible invasive species at C18; evaluation of Saxifraga sp. found on the Mount Moore nunatak in 2013, re-evaluation of an observed Taraxacum sp., and investigation of a Draba sp. not before seen on the icefield nunataks. Work at camp eight on Mt. Moore revealed a second species of Saxifrage present. The two Saxifraga members are the only vascular species observed and recorded on Mt. Moore during the relatively long history of JIRP.  The vascular plants on Mt. Moore were found to inhabit a specific geological dike of fissile aphinitic intrusive igneous mafic composition.

 Polly Bass leads the JIRPers on a geobotanical field lecture at Camp 10.

Polly Bass leads the JIRPers on a geobotanical field lecture at Camp 10.

Grasses are being collected for a collaborative project with Saewan Koh at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Saewan is exploring the relationship between the Neotyphodium ungus in grasses, and grazing by herbivores. In the Ruby Range of the Yukon Territory, the presence of the fungus has been identified as a deterrent to grazing. Poaceae family members and, in particular, Festuca genus members were collected at several sites to determine if the observed influence of the fungus on the forb impacts grazing across a latitudinal gradient.

Sean Schofield from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has joined us to continue the investigation of Nebria lituyae and N. nivalis, two species of Arctic/alpine beetles. Dave Kavanaugh began an investigation of Nebria sp. in the Paradise Valley region of the icefield in 2012. In 2013, student, Ben Slavin collected Nebria at several nunatak sites for Sean Schofields research. This year, Sean is expanding on Bens work to include more sites. He is interested in understanding the distribution of the species across the icefield nunataks, and how the species migrated to the sites. He will also explore the adjacent environs. Additional collections and observations were made adjacent to the icefield in the Mt. Roberts and Mt. Gastineau areas. Future work will benefit from further collaborative field efforts between the geobotanical and entomological research groups. These joint efforts will strive to correlate habitat, substrate, and microclimate variables influencing the presence and absence of icefield flora and microfauna.

 Phyllodoce glanduliflora on the icefield.  photo by Alex Micheler

Phyllodoce glanduliflora on the icefield.  photo by Alex Micheler

 JIRPers gather around during the geobotanical lecture.

JIRPers gather around during the geobotanical lecture.

Field Work of the Seismic Bandits

by Dan King, State University of New York at Oneonta

The Other Seismic Bandits:

Lizzie Kenny, Bowdoin College; Julian Alwakeel, Florida International University; Josh Ivie, Tarleton State University; and Mike Staron, Keene State College

Our Project:

Most research groups here at Camp 10 have now prepared, or already begun, their various projects. The seismic group, or the Seismic Bandits as weve come to call ourselves, has completed our research because all of our fieldwork needed to be done on the Taku Glacier.

Our research became a race against the clock upon our arrival at Camp 10. The delayed departure of the latter trail parties from Camp 17 certainly didnt help our cause. Our faculty research advisers, Don Voigt and Kiya Riverman (both from Penn State University) were set to fly out of camp just under two weeks after the arrival of the first members of our research group  ( Lizzie and I) and our fieldwork needed to be concluded prior to their departure. Don and Kiya were also kind enough to provide the group with all of the essential equipment needed to conduct our fieldwork. Just a few days after arriving at Camp 10, our group began testing the field equipment in Icy Basin, just a couple hundred meters Southeast of Camp 10. Collection of the critical data for our research project did not begin until all of the Bandits had arrived at Camp 10 several days later.

In the past, Don and Kiya have typically used explosives for their seismic work. However, since we didnt have permits for seismics, we used a sledge hammer, and occasionally an instrument known as Betsy, for a sound making device. Betsy is a surprisingly light piece of equipment that fires blank 12 gauge shotgun rounds into the glacier.

Before I get too specific, Ill take a step backward Our original goals were to use standard methods of seismic reflection to determine the depth of the Taku Glacier, and also to determine the underlying material (bedrock, sediment, water, etc.). We also planned to do seismic refraction surveys in areas of both low and high strain on the Taku Glacier in order to create firn density profiles. Firn is snow that has survived at least one entire melt season. It is denser than fresh snow, but not as dense as glacial ice. Using the firn density profiles that we create from our surveys, we hope to better understand how regional strain can affect the rate at which firn densifies into glacial ice. Firn densification is important to consider when trying to understand ice flow dynamics this is where our work becomes valuable.

After getting into our fieldwork, we decided unanimously that we would prefer to devote our time to the refraction surveys, and to drop reflection from our work entirely. We did this, in part, because we were crunched for time, but mainly for other reasons: While seismic reflection had been used on the Taku Glacier before, refraction surveys to examine properties of firn densification have not. The Bandits agreed that it would be best to devote our time to a single research project that was unique to the area, and our advisers supported that decision.

We conducted 4 refraction surveys: two in areas of relatively low strain, and two in areas of relatively high strain. Each individual survey, however, was conducted in the same manner. We would start by laying out 500 meters of cable in a line, with nodes at 20 meter intervals. At each node, we dug a hole, buried a geophone, and connected it to the node. The cable was connected to a magical box called the geode. Also connected to the geode, was the trigger switch, which we connected to the end of the sledge hammer, or to the mallet used to trigger Betsy. We ended up using the sledge hammer much more than Betsy because it was faster and worked just as well, if not better. The geode was connected to a battery and our laptop. These connections made up our temporary seismic station for each survey.

 One of several temporary seismic stations.  Don Voight - left, Kiya Riverman - right;  photo by Dan King

One of several temporary seismic stations.  Don Voight - left, Kiya Riverman - right;  photo by Dan King

Starting at the closest geophone, and gradually moving to a distance of 20 meters, we would place the “shot” then take several recordings. The “shot” is the term for each sledge hammer hit. When ready, the Bandit manning the computer would say, “Quiet on the line,” to eliminate noise interference from the group, and the person manning the sledge hammer would strike a metal pipe on the surface of the glacier. The impact would trigger the switch and start a timer. The computer then recorded the magnitude and time of arrival of the sound wave(s) produced by the shot at each individual geophone, which we analyzed back at camp. Shots were usually taken 0-20 meters away from the first geophone, at an interval of 2 meters each.

Although the fieldwork was repetitive, we never got bored. Each of the Bandits learned the various team roles, and became masters of using the equipment. After a while, I became the designated sledge hammer-er… The team even started calling me “Thor.” Mike’s ski ballet was also a brilliant source of entertainment during our brief moments of down time. In the end, we were all able to walk away with great data and close bonds from our memorable moments in the field. All that’s left now is to return to camp and crunch our data.

 Don, Josh, Julian, Lizzie, Dan, Kaya - right to left; Mike - center; photo by Randall Stacy

Don, Josh, Julian, Lizzie, Dan, Kaya - right to left; Mike - center; photo by Randall Stacy

Id like to thank Don Voigt and Kiya Riverman, not only for their instruction and the use of their equipment, but also for the enthusiasm and patience they expressed while working with the Bandits. I speak for us all when I say that it was a pleasure to work with you two. We couldnt have done it without you. Perhaps the Bandits will someday reunite.


Portable Cloud 9

by Jennifer Berry, University of Michigan

Camp 9 – Plan of the day

8:45 – Roll over in sleeping bag to do morning check-in

9:30 – Actually get out of sleeping bag to make breakfast

9:45 – Eat breakfast with a topping of nutella

10:00 – Press 4 buttons to sample aerosols

10:05 – Press same 4 buttons

10:10 – Press same 4 buttons

10:15 – Press same 4 buttons

10:20 – Press same 4 buttons

10:25 – Press same 4 buttons

10:30 – Go crazy after pressing same buttons so many times. Decide to sample every half hour

11:00 – Eat chunk of frozen nutella

11:15 – Think about eating lunch

11:30 – Warm up nutella on pilot bread using the cover of the pot of boiling water

12:00 – Make and eat lunch, dessert of nutella

14:00 – Wonder what exactly happened in the past two hours. Eat more nutella

14:30 – Pick out all the M&Ms from a few bags of GORP for a nice present for the mass balance group coming in a few days

15:00 – Brainstorm GoPro ideas

15:30 – Throw GoPro tied to a rope into the bergschrund

16:00 – Eat more nutella

17:00 – Throw rocks into bergschrund

18:00 – Stare off into space

19:00 – Make and eat dinner. Wonder why you’re eating so much despite not having done anything all day

20:00 – Dessert of pilot bread and nutella

20:15 – Try melting M&Ms because Jenny admitted to really only eating fruit when it’s covered in chocolate

20:30 – Notice that M&Ms aren’t melting. End up squishing M&Ms onto apple slices

21:00 – Wonder how we ate a large container of nutella in less than 3 days

23:00 – Lights out

For those that aren’t that familiar, every day at camp the staff tells us the plan of the day so everyone can know what’s going happening. Camp 9 is slightly different though, being only one building and holding a maximum of 8 people. When I was at C-9 there wasn’t exactly much to plan and there were only 3 people at camp, so we ended up coming up with a joke “plan of the day”. The walls of C-9 have these kind of plans of the day going back decades, each one hilarious. Most of them talked about sleeping in late and discussing odd things like how many cups are in a quart (but does anyone really know that off the top of their head?). One of my favorites went something like “Initiate search for mass balance group by yelling,” followed by “observe silence in the fog.” All of these plans posted on the walls show how much free time you get at C-9, and my stay was no exception.

 Camp 9 (aka Cloud 9) in a whiteout.  photo by Gillian Rooker

Camp 9 (aka Cloud 9) in a whiteout.  photo by Gillian Rooker

I was at Camp 9 to set up atmospheric sampling instruments away from the burn pits of the other camps. Sent all the way from Michigan, I had a 2B Technologies ozone monitor, an AeroTrak, and a microAeth in order to look at ozone, black carbon, and size-resolved particle counts of the atmosphere. We had a sampling line run out from the porthole window, up a metal pole that we conveniently found already at C-9, to up inlet that stuck above the roof. So far there hasn’t been much of a chance to look into the results of this study, but even just the data on the monitors shows some really interesting events going on. The first day we turned on the instruments we saw that the ozone values were around 250 ppb (around of the levels of ozone found in Mexico City) and after that it started to slowly drop down, but there were also really high particle counts in the atmosphere at the same time. Sadly, at the close of the first day things started to go wrong. One of the ozone monitor wouldn’t connect to the computer, meaning that the data was only logged onto the internal memory of the monitor. This left the chance for the loss of the data if the monitor stopped logging data, which naturally happened at the end of the first day. Just around that time, the AeroTrak stopped being able to reach the proper flow level. This mean that the only way to sample was to manually hit start every couple of minutes. I’ve been told that everything going wrong is a part of field work, but it certainly is frustrating. In the end, the generator breaking was the final nail in the coffin of my study.


 Camp 9 still in a whiteout.  photo by Gillian Rooker

Camp 9 still in a whiteout.  photo by Gillian Rooker

Beyond the frustrations of field work, Camp 9 was amazing. After spending most of the time in large camps with upwards of 50 people, being in a one building camp with only 2 other people felt like a vacation. It was a very relaxing change to be able to sleep in a bit and sit outside (when the weather permitted it) while reading books and writing letters. I was able to go to Camp 9 two separate times and the first time there the weather was beautiful. It was rather windy, but if you sit behind the right corner of the building you could be blocked from the wind but still facing the sun. Camp 9 is the closest thing you can get to a vacation on the icefield. We only had to start the AeroTrak sampling every 30 minutes and fill up the generator every 5 hours. Even though my second trip was during a whiteout that included rain and snow, it was just as enjoyable. I loved my time at Camp 9 and I was really sad to leave it behind when my study came to an end.

 Packing up Camp 9 after the generator died.  photo by Gillian Rooker

Packing up Camp 9 after the generator died.  photo by Gillian Rooker

Alternative JIRP

by: Stephanie Romano (Binghamton University)

The goal of Alternative JIRP is to analyze fossil fuel consumption at each of the camps and to determine solar and/or wind availabilities in hopes of propelling JIRP into a more sustainable future. The project based on the four main camps (17, 10, 18, and 26), and will be conducted my mentor, graduate student Kim Quesnel from Stanford University, and me.

Camp 17 and Camp 10 currently use a 2.5 kilowatt generator to power electronics including lights, laptops, radios, cameras, and a projector for lectures. When they are occupied, both camps have a consistent load of 1.5 kilowatts for about 11 hours. This equates to a daily consumption of 16.5 kilowatts (16,500 watts). These readings will be used to estimate how much wind or solar power would be necessary to continue current operations.

Thus far, hourly solar radiation measurements have been taken for Camp 17 and Camp 10 using a pyrometer (measured in watts/m2) in both “bluebird” and cloudy/rainy weather. Radiation measurements are recorded with a percentage probability of the different weather conditions; for example, “Cloud 17” has poor weather about 80% of the time. Radiation measurements will continue at the two remaining camps (Camp 18 and 26) when we arrive.

Meteorological stations have been recording wind measurements at Camps 17 and 18 for a few years. I am currently analyzing these readings and using average wind speeds to determine if wind turbines are a feasible option. Unfortunately, a reliable record of wind speed has not been found for the other two camps.

Findings at this stage suggest that solar and wind power could be a feasible option for JIRP camps. Additionally, these alternative technologies could serve as learning tools and possible future projects for JIRPers.

We have submitted an abstract about this project to the Geological Society of America (GSA) and hope to present our final report at their annual meeting.

Below I have included a figure expressing Camp 17’s solar availability and generator usage.

 Solar availability and generator usage at C-17.

Solar availability and generator usage at C-17.

A Grand Day Out

by Hannah Rosenkrans, University of Montana

A bluebird day opened up the Vaughn Lewis Glacier, revealing crevasses, snow bridges, and bergschrunds previously hidden by the clouds and rain. The location was perfect for the goal of the day: learn how to rappel. We roped up to approach the crevasses and stopped in the wanded-off safe area, where we dug strong anchors in the dense, wet snow.

 Mary and Danielle make sure their harnesses are in order.

Mary and Danielle make sure their harnesses are in order.

 Hannah is pumped to go rappelling.

Hannah is pumped to go rappelling.

As you first back down into a crevasse, a symphony of wet, dripping sounds engulfs your ears. Nervous hands guiding the rope through the rappel device quickly find a rhythm as excitement and awe take over, crampons sticking fast into the wall.

 Luc makes rappelling look easy.

Luc makes rappelling look easy.

Rappelling into a crevasse feels like going back in time. The compacted snow at the surface gives way to the layers of ice that have hidden from the sun. The thin crack at the surface conceals the overhanging lip and chasm below. Smooth walls line this icy world, exposing the processes of compaction and metamorphism that affect snow beneath the surface. The sunlight only makes it halfway down the walls, leaving the imagination to wonder just how far the dark holes descend. Ice sculptures etched from dripping water and the rare glimpses of sunlight expose the juxtaposed hardness and fragility of ice.

 Lindsey gets a little hungry during her adventure in the crevasse.

Lindsey gets a little hungry during her adventure in the crevasse.

 Kim is fearless down in the crevasse.

Kim is fearless down in the crevasse.

Ascending out of the crevasse back up to the surface, looking back one last time into the shadowed depths, there is a feeling of reassurance – reassurance that there will always be places to marvel at, wondrous worlds tucked just out of sight, and those who willingly venture into their realms.

 Laurissa is having a great time rappelling!

Laurissa is having a great time rappelling!

Camp 18 Opening

by Barbara Burger, Technische Universitaet Muenchen

The first trail party to Camp 18 (Kate, Newt, Ben, Mariah, Hannah, Mike and I) arrived after a long day in a whiteout with the first snowfall of the trip. It was very windy and rainy, but the view from camp was amazing. We skied down the hill to the camp and saw the big icefall of the Vaughan Lewis Glacier on the left and the amazing Gilkey Trench in front of us. The Gilkey Glacier has beautiful alternating wave crests called ogives that appear as dark and light bands of ice. When I saw the view for the first time, I knew that Camp 18 would be my favorite camp of the icefield.

 The view from Camp 18: the Vaughan Lewis Icefall and the Gilkey Trench

The view from Camp 18: the Vaughan Lewis Icefall and the Gilkey Trench

 After we put our backpacks into the sleeping areas and changed out of our wet clothes, we went into the cook shack, where we were in for a big surprise. Imagine all the chaos a few mice and rats can create during the year the camp is not occupied. The rats destroyed some food packages and chewed through an important part of the stove, which delayed dinner. Luckily, Ben and Newt repaired the stove very quickly, but while they were occupied we started sweeping the cook shack. The next two days would be filled with similar activities: we swept all the buildings, washed all the dishes (plates, pans, and pots - it took us one entire day), bleached all the shelves, sorted and organized the food from previous years, and unpacked the books in the Benstitute (the library building that Ben Partan built).

 The wood stove area before cleaning.

The wood stove area before cleaning.

After the first day, we got help from Jon, Jenny and Gillian, who did the traverse from Camp 9. It was a lot of hard work to clean everything, but it gave me a new perspective on our camps. It was good to see in person how much work goes into opening a camp - I now appreciate more than ever how nice and clean our camps are when the majority of people arrive. Of course, we also had a lot of fun during the cleaning days. We were a really fun group and had plenty of free time to cook together (on one day we had crepes, cinnamon rolls, homemade bread and pizza), sit next to the wood stove and talk, or just look at the amazing scenery outside.

 The C-18 Opening Crew: Hannah, Mariah, Jenny, Gillian, Mike, and Barbara

The C-18 Opening Crew: Hannah, Mariah, Jenny, Gillian, Mike, and Barbara


by Mary Radue

Ever since the beginning of JIRP we’ve been hearing about the magical holiday of JIRPmas. On July 25 all members of JIRP would gather together, eat delicious food, and exchange homemade gifts. We listened to stories about memorable JIRPmas presents of the past and eagerly looked forward to this icefield-specific holiday.

Unfortunately, on JIRPmas day we found ourselves dispersed across the icefield. Some people were stationed at Camp 10 maintaining normal camp life, while others had ventured off to the Northwest Branch of the Taku Glacier to dig mass balance pits in the cold rain. On the 25th I found myself traversing to Camp 18 with Ben, Newt, Hannah, Mike, Kate, and Barbara to open the camp before all the other trail parties arrived.

We left Camp 10 in the fog and began our trek to Camp 18. The fog turned into a drizzle, the drizzle into sleet, and sleet into snow. Even though we couldn’t see the surrounding mountains, travelling through the impressive snowflakes landing on our packs and skis and noses was truly magical. I felt lost in winter even though it was the middle of the summer. I grew up in Maryland, where snow on Christmas is by no means a guarantee, so when I saw fresh snow six months after Christmas in the middle of summer, I could not believe my luck. We sang JIRPmas songs (composed by altering Christmas songs ever so slightly) and continued on our way to Camp 18.

 Snowy traverse to Camp 18, photo by Barbara Burger

Snowy traverse to Camp 18, photo by Barbara Burger

Thankfully, Kate (our camp manager) decided that it was necessary to celebrate JIRPmas formally on July 31st when we were for the most part united at Camp 18. Everyone drew names out of a tin can for the gift exchange and got to work making presents. The time, effort, and thoughtfulness that people put into their presents were astounding. It was great to see everyone’s different approaches, ideas, and hidden artistic talents.

On JIRPmas day (round two) we ate a JIRPmas feast of potatoes, fresh salad, lentils and beans, with pumpkin pie for dessert. After the mass balance trail party got back late, we gathered around the JIRPmas tree constructed with ski poles and paper ornaments. The sunset illuminated the mountains rosy pink and the mountains beyond the Gilkey Trench looked like shadows stretching on forever. With the stunning landscape as our backdrop, Kelly dressed in a bright orange jump suit and passed out our gifts.

 Everyone gathered around the JIRPmas tree while Kelly handed out gifts.  photo by Barbara Burger

Everyone gathered around the JIRPmas tree while Kelly handed out gifts.  photo by Barbara Burger

Some people received thoughtful gifts like a JIRP survival kit and a mailbox full of compliments. Other presents were perfectly tailored to the person, like a hat to help fight nose bleeds or a model snow machine. Some presents were outright ridiculous and others were undeniably beautiful, like a painting of a mountain landscape. It was wonderful to see how well we have gotten to know each other and how close we have become. Even though our resources were extremely limited, people produced some amazing gifts that were full of thoughtfulness and care. JIRPmas allowed us to recognize, appreciate, and solidify the strong bonds that we have made while at JIRP. It is rare to live in such a strong, close-knit community and I will miss the ability to share such joyful moments with so many wonderful people when JIRP is over.

 Danielle shows off her anti-nose bleed hat.  photo by Maya Smith

Danielle shows off her anti-nose bleed hat.  photo by Maya Smith

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

The JIRP Truth

by Gillian Rooker

For those of you reading, I won’t be deceiving

Living on an icefield is hard.

It’s dirty yet white, the rain is a fright

Clouds hover over camp like a guard.


Once you arrive, you mutter, “how will I survive?”

That hike was like hell never ending.

And inside the camp, you notice “hmm, everything’s damp.”

Oh… Wow, that trench-foot could sure use some mending.


Day after day, we do the plan of the day

Learning ‘bout safety, science and skiing.

So when out in the white, we’ll know more how to fight

Against the hardships we’ll probably be seeing.


PITS! Dig till you’re weary, yours will also get hairy,

There’s no showering up here you see.

We smell but no one’s cried, since our olfactories have died

But air passengers, prepare once we’re free.


Blisters here and there, but mostly everywhere

It’s a struggle and a constant fight.

But these JIRPers you see, we stay happily

We know it will all be alright.


Fast friends we have made, these bonds we will save

It’s good that we all are so close

‘Cause out on a ski, when someone needs to pee

There’s nothing we can do but be close.


Camps 10 and 17, 26 and 18

We traverse unlike most of the masses.

It truly is far, a total of 70 miles (no car)

Writing this I think, “Damn, we’re badasses!”


JIRPers are strange, our hobbies they range

From furrows to pole dancing and more.

But it’s not what you think, although we all stink

Living here is anything but a chore.