Welcome to the JIRP Family

By Annie Boucher and the student alumni of 2015 and 2016

Students usually come to JIRP for either the science education or the promise of adventure (or both). With 16-hour days and seven day weeks spent pursuing both, we hope most leave with a good taste of whatever they sought.  At the end of August, however, when students talk about what they’re most going to miss about JIRP, they tend to look to the people. While we all have more science and more adventure in our futures, saying goodbye to the expedition team is difficult. JIRPers are extraordinary people, and every summer they seem to form a community that is unusual in its acceptance, its support, and its ability to challenge its members to be their best selves.

While every season brings its particular quirks and inside jokes, the program is run along lines of decades-old traditions and surprisingly durable culture. These traditions and culture bind together the JIRP family across years - certainly at any Earth Science conference one will find a group of JIRPers, but they tend to come out of the woodwork on buses, in foreign countries, and, once, the father of a friend whose house I happened to visit for dinner.

This year’s students are taking their first steps towards joining the JIRP family. Soon enough we’ll be steeping them in the well worn adages that provide structure to every icefield traverse: Nature is screaming at you! - Always ski in the snow machine track. - No coupling. - Our priorities, in order, are: look good; look good; go big; look good; safety; and (last) personal hygiene! - Beware the center of the Llewellyn Glacier! - Whatever happens on your traverse, it’s not as bad as the crew that bivvied on the ridge for three days in a white out! - Always carry your ten essentials! - Tape your feet as soon as you feel a hot spot!

As a first step towards welcoming the 2017 crew into the wide open, often smelly, and usually sunburnt arms of the JIRP family, the students of 2015 and 2016 offer up the following advice for preparing and packing for JIRP.

Warning: A few things on this list are contradictory, and many come down to personal preference. Perhaps the first lesson of the Icefield is that there isn’t always one good or right answer, and the only way to figure out what works for you is to jump in and be ready to learn by experience.


Bring a journal, and be vigilant about keeping up with it as much as possible. I was very diligent about writing every evening, and not only did this time allow for self-reflection, but it was also tangible evidence of my evolution as an individual over the course of the program. I still return to my writings when I want to remember a particular feeling, or remind myself of why I care so strongly about action on climate change. I also laugh A LOT when I re-read certain sections, and that alone is worth the extra effort of writing often.
— – Donovan Dennis, student 2015
Bring light shorts, they were the last thing I thought to bring to a glacier so I ended up borrowing them off people!
— – Ellie Honan, student 2016
It's a bit counterinuitive, but you will likely wind up wearing shorts a LOT when on an Alaskan glacier in the summer. Photo: Kellie Schaefer

It's a bit counterinuitive, but you will likely wind up wearing shorts a LOT when on an Alaskan glacier in the summer. Photo: Kellie Schaefer

One thing I absolutely regret not bringing was a small field thermos for tea or hot chocolate.
— - Jacob Hollander, student 2015
JIRP 2015 staffers Annika Ord and Adam Toolanen enjoy an espresso at Camp 26 - demonstrating the luxury of a hot beverage from a small thermos. Although we don't recommend packing the Handpresso and pounds of ground espresso all summer, we sure did appreciate Adam making the effort in 2015! Photo: Matt Beedle

JIRP 2015 staffers Annika Ord and Adam Toolanen enjoy an espresso at Camp 26 - demonstrating the luxury of a hot beverage from a small thermos. Although we don't recommend packing the Handpresso and pounds of ground espresso all summer, we sure did appreciate Adam making the effort in 2015! Photo: Matt Beedle

Begin journaling before you get to Juneau! I wished I had written down the process towards JIRP as well as my time in it.
— – Victor Cabrera, student 2016
1. Bring a backpack fly (aka cover)! They are cheap and worth the money especially if your pack is older.
2. Keep a journal. It’s a great way to make sure you slow down and take some time for yourself each day, and is an excellent way to relive JIRP memories after the summer is over.
3. Not sure if eye masks are on the packing list, but if you are uncomfortable sleeping when it is light outside make sure to bring one.
4. If your rain gear is older, re-waterproof it!
5. Bring a waterproof /shockproof/drop-your-phone-down-a-rock-crack-of-unknown-depth-and-abandon-it-to-the-elements-proof phone case if you bring your phone onto the icefield. (*Note: Riley did get his phone back, but it took a couple days.)
6. Go easy on your skis, they can break.
— – Riley Wall, student 2016
Cheap dry bags will suffice (you can get 3 for $10 at Walmart)! I liked having one truly waterproof one, but was glad I didn’t spend $100+ on the other 5 that I used to organize my gear. Also I would suggest not bringing/investing in a pack cover: a trash bag liner will keep the inside of your pack dry (and your ice axe will quickly shred the pack cover, anyway).
— - Olivia Truax, student 2016
Bring music!! (Note: There may be speakers available for group use that have aux cables. Please don’t bring your own speakers, and you will be expected to abide by JIRP rules on appropriate and safe use of headphones.)
— – Kenzie McAdams, student 2016
Commit to good gaiters or you may very well find your rain pants shredded!!!
— - Matty Miller, student 2016
If possible, thoroughly test the waterproofing of your rain gear in advance.
— - Eric Kittilsby, student 2016
The 2015 mass-balance team readies for their departure from Camp 10 to Camp 9 - in the rain. Note the variety of wet-weather apparel - from full rubber, to Gore Tex, to plastic bags to compensate for a jacket that perhaps isn't as waterproof as desired. Photo: Matt Beedle

The 2015 mass-balance team readies for their departure from Camp 10 to Camp 9 - in the rain. Note the variety of wet-weather apparel - from full rubber, to Gore Tex, to plastic bags to compensate for a jacket that perhaps isn't as waterproof as desired. Photo: Matt Beedle

When booking flights, consider giving yourself a couple extra days in Juneau after the program. (NOTE: This suggestion was seconded by ten others!)
— - Chris Miele, student 2016
Don’t skimp on getting a good pair of sunglasses or a good raincoat.
— – Hannah Marshall, student 2015
It's perhaps impossible to overstate the importance of having good sunglasses for eye protection during a summer on the Juneau Icefield. Photo: Matt Beedle

It's perhaps impossible to overstate the importance of having good sunglasses for eye protection during a summer on the Juneau Icefield. Photo: Matt Beedle

Write down your AGU username and password and bring it with you! Makes the abstract submission a bit easier.
— – Molly Peek, student 2016
If you’re on the fence about buying rubber tips for your ice axe (20 or so bucks) invest! I did and it totally saved my pack cover.
— – Kenzie McAdams, student 2016
My main piece of advice is to bring a bunch of extra plastic bags! A couple trash bag size ones and some ziplocks. Icefield life is so much drier with plastic bags. Also, don’t forget to eat plenty of blueberries on the hike up to Camp 17!
— – Isabel Suhr, student 2015

Are you a previous JIRPer or an intrepid adventurer with advice for the JIRP 2017 cohort? Please chime in on JIRP's social channels with your suggestions for those things that a JIRPer should be sure to have along for the expedition.

The JIRP 2017 Staff!

The individuals that comprise JIRP's field staff are in many ways the heart and soul of each summer. This talented crew is the team that is present throughout the eight-week season, lead safety and logistical training for the students and faculty, lead trail parties and research teams as they traverse the Juneau Icefield, and perhaps most importantly they model what it means to be a JIRPer. In short, they enable everything that happens on the Icefield, and do so in a manner that fosters the incredible community of JIRP. We are fortunate to have such a phenomenal staff team for JIRP 2017!

Newt Krumdieck (Operations Manager):


First a JIRP student in 2008, I immediately felt a deep and unquestioning connection to the people and places that JIRP brought together. Since then I have been returning as a member of the field staff most years since 2010, playing roles ranging from safety staff to carpenter to operations manager. I graduated from Colby College with a degree in Geology, and worked for several years in the sciences, doing research and field work for the NY state geological survey, and then teaching earth science to middle schoolers. Currently I work as a carpenter/woodworker, and spend as much time as I can in the outdoors hiking, biking, skiing, motorcycling, and travelling. JIRP to me is about the ultimate combination of learning, the environment, and most importantly the community. Getting a chance to share these aspects with folks each summer is a privilege I do not take lightly, and continue to enjoy immensely.

Ibai Rico (Safety Manager):

I have been the safety lead and mountain guide at JIRP since 2015. I've been a climber and skier from a young age and now have several new ice climbing routes in Patagonia and the Himalayas. When I am not at JIRP I work as a mountain guide in the Pyrenees, Alps, Norway and the Greater Caucasus. I also deliver snow/avalanche, expedition logistics and risk management courses. I combine my mountain guide activity with carrying out glaciology research in the glaciers of the Pyrenees and Tierra del Fuego (Glacier Change, Glacial Geomorphology, Permafrost and Geo-Hazards).  My last expedition to the Chilean Patagonia was focused on exploring the Cloue Icefield; understanding glacier change and ascending the unclimbed summits in an expedition sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

Guiding JIRP has been one of the most fulfilling experiences; the combination of Nature, Books and Action makes it a completely unique and unforgettable experience for every person in the program.

Incognita Patagonia Project

Basque Mountain Guides

Annie Boucher (Assistant Operations Manager):

My name is Annie Boucher, and I first came to JIRP as a student in 2012. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, got my B.A. in Geology at Carleton College in 2011, and I'm finishing up my M.Sc. at the University of Maine modeling Alaskan tectonics and glacial erosion. This will be my sixth season on the icefield; in the past I've worked as field staff, taught science communication, and collected field data for my master's research. This season I'll be assisting with logistics and operations management, helping the new staff jump into the swing of things, and filling a couple part-time roles on the faculty. I've been leading trips and working in outdoor education for fourteen years, and I keep coming back to it for the same reasons I return to JIRP: few things in this world give me as much joy as working with a group of motivated and passionate people bent on exploring the big wide world.

Sarah Gotwals (Juneau Logistics Manager):

I am very excited to be returning to Jueanu for summer 2017 for the second time. I was a JIRP student in 2015, and spent last summer working as a logistics coordinator at the Colorado Outward Bound School. Originally from Massachusetts, I graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota this past May (2016). I am interested in everything that "makes science happen" and can't wait to be on the ground with Mary ensuring a safe, productive, and (most importantly) fun summer.

Lara Hughes-Allen (Senior Staff):

In the summer of 2015, I participated in JIRP as a student and returned in the summer of 2016 as field safety staff and helped lead the GPS survey effort. In the winter, I coach the Alpine race team at Northstar California Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe, CA. I enjoy backcountry skiing, hiking, and backpacking with my dog Boomer.

I graduated from the University of Southern California in 2016 with a Master’s degree in Geographic Information Science.  My thesis focused on using remote sensing analysis to quantify changes in the Taku Glacier, specifically equilibrium line altitude, accumulation area ratio, and total glacier surface area from 1973-2015. The goal of this research was to look at how in situ monitoring might be underestimating total glacier loss resulting from anthropogenic climate change. I graduated from Pitzer College in 2011 with a double major in Environmental Biology and Geology.  

Annika Ord (Senior Staff):

I grew up floating between Juneau and my family's remote cabin on the Chilkat peninsula. Exploring and learning from wild places and the people who make their homes there is what I love most. JIRP is a beautiful blend of this -- full of deep belly laughter, immense snowscapes, and inspired learning.

I am super stoked to return for my third season as staff and am particularly excited to  continue helping the botany and mass balance research groups and to lead field sketching expeditions!

When not romping around the icefield with JIRP, you can find me commercial fishing with my dad, sketching a tree, snorkeling in kelp, or trekking around the mountains of Southeast Alaska. To check out (or submit to!) the environmental feminist Selkie Zine I co-created, visit: cargocollective.com/selkiezine

Allie Strel (Senior Staff):

My name is Allie Strel and I hail from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  These days I am living in Munich, Germany where I am completing my master’s degree in Cartography with a side interest in cryospheric sciences.  My student experience at JIRP in 2015 had me certain that I wanted to come back to the icefield and I am excited to be joining the team again this year for my second season as safety staff.  I can’t wait to see some familiar JIRP faces and to meet all of this year’s new students.  When I’m not at JIRP (and not being a thesis-hermit) you might find me telemarking somewhere in the Alps, flying my kite on a mountain peak, cooking up a mad curry, or inflicting my terrible German on the locals.

Danielle Beaty (Field Staff):

I grew up in the rainy city where hipsters roam (Portland, OR), then made my way to the University of Colorado Boulder where I received degrees in geography and ecology/evolutionary biology. After doing JIRP as a student in 2014, I returned to school to complete an honors thesis on mass balance of glaciers on the Juneau Icefield. I also decided I had had enough of Colorado lift lines and ski traffic so I moved to Juneau, Alaska where I became a glacier/kayak guide. I am thrilled to return to the icefield as staff this summer, and I am excited to have the opportunity to make as great an experience as I had on JIRP for the students this year. I most look forward to seeing all the creative ways students make the otherwise abysmal pilot bread an enjoyable snack with various toppings, and am equally excited for pit talks in the bottom of several meter deep mass balance pits. When I am not JIRPing you’ll most likely find me backcountry skiing the AK pow, ski patrolling, climbing, or wishing there was some way I could own my spirit animal - an orca whale - as a pet.

Evan Koncewicz (Field Staff):

Hello! My name is Evan and I am originally from Upstate New York, right down the street from Newt. I was a JIRP student last year in 2016 and loved it so much I came back as staff! JIRP is a truly unique experience, and personally reminded me of the power of place-based education. I graduated from St Lawrence University in 2015 receiving a BS in Geology. Since graduating I have taught environmental education and skiing in Jackson WY, done JIRP, traveled to Peru, and substitute taught. I enjoy being outside, skiing, exploring the Tetons, following current events, learning, and telling lame jokes. I am super excited to meet you all and share an amazing summer on the ice!  

Mo Michels (Field Staff):

My name is Mo. I’m 22 years young. Last year I participated in JIRP as a student and am beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to come back as part of the 2017 staff team. I grew up in the small town of Talkeetna, AK (a town that truly believed in the maxim, it takes a village to raise a child) where I first learned the value of community. What has drawn me back to JIRP is a similar sense of community – it takes every JIRPer for a mass balance survey – if you don’t know what I mean by this yet you will at the end of the summer.

Over the past five years Juneau, AK has become home. Working winters as a downhill and cross-country ski instructor and getting a bachelors degree in geography and environmental resources. In past summers, I have zipline guided, worked extensively in tourism, and counted salmon for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. I enjoy long treks through the woods, up mountains, and on the water. I am inspired by the look in peoples eyes when they achieve that ‘ah-ha’ moment after they were willing to struggle, to practice, to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, to adapt, and to grow, all just to learn something new.

I look forward to meeting, working and growing with all of you who will create the JIRP community this coming field season!

Mike Staron (Field Staff):

My name is Mike Staron currently from Bend, Oregon. I was a student on JIRP in 2014 and fell in love with the icefield. While not JIRPing I enjoy traveling around the world with other JIRPers in beautiful places in South America. Since participating in JIRP the first time I have developed an obsession with skiing so I converted a van and have been living in it on and off for the past year or so, skiing and climbing around the country (#notanothervan). I’m spending the spring before JIRP attempting to climb/ski all the Cascade volcanoes. I have a B.S. in geology from Keene State College in New Hampshire. For the past two years I have been working on Mount St. Helens as a guide/educator leading people on backpacking trips and to the top of the mountain while teaching them the local geology/ecology. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for JIRP. I can’t wait to help make this the best JIRP season yet!

 

 

 

 

The Magic of Camp-8

Mackenzie McAdams

Purdue University

I would love to say I felt the magic of Camp-8 right when I arrived, but that was far from reality. After being towed behind a snow machine across the Matthes Glacier in a whiteout, we came to a halt on the edge of a slope. Newt told us that the snow machine had gone as far as it would go, and it was time to ski up from there. Still completely disoriented as to where I was, I started switchbacking up the slope until we reached the nunatak that Camp-8 was on. Dropping our skis and boot-packing to the top, we couldn’t wait to see our new home for the next two days. We opened up the door to a musty smelling one-room building with four bunks, a table, and a kitchen fully equipped with a waffle maker. We didn’t get to stay too long at first, because at the bottom of the nunatak sat the sled full of food and four tanks of propane. We headed back down, filling our empty packs with all the food and supplies we could, and grabbing a propane tank each. Slowly but surely, we made our way back up to camp. Magical yet? Not in the slightest, but as with most things that are worthwhile, you’ve got to work a little bit to achieve them. Arriving back at camp, and still only able to see about a meter in front of us, we tucked away inside our new home and finished all of our camp opening chores. 

Camp-8 when we first arrived. Photo by Kenzie McAdams.

Camp-8 when we first arrived. Photo by Kenzie McAdams.

After we finished cleaning, we stepped outside and the clouds were starting to clear. Newt and Tristan insisted that we take advantage of the weather and make the trek up to Mt. Moore, the summit of the nunatak. Deirdre and I exchanged glances. I knew we were both tired from opening and just wanted to take a break. But here we were standing in the middle of the icefield with hopes of blue sky above us; how could we not take the opportunity to see this beautiful place from a different perspective? So up we went, and boy was it worth it. At the summit, the sun was shining bright above and the clouds were flowing over the peaks below us like a river. I had never seen anything even close in comparison to the views that day. It was ethereal, everything below us was moving so fluidly, an important part of this natural system that happens every hour of every day, regardless if anyone is there to see it or not. It was in this moment that I felt the true magic of Camp-8. In the rest of our time at Camp-8 we summited Mount Moore twice more, each time different from the last. 

Newt Krumdieck overlooking the cloud-covered icefield from the summit of Mount Moore. Photo by Kenzie McAdams. 

Newt Krumdieck overlooking the cloud-covered icefield from the summit of Mount Moore. Photo by Kenzie McAdams. 

The magic didn’t stop once we came down from the summit. That evening we made cornbread waffles with barbeque chicken and roasted potatoes, played Settlers of Catan, and shared chocolate brownies right out of the tin with a couple of forks. We became fast friends with Lucifer, the heating unit that warmed the whole room, and learned all about the tradition of “RASHing”. We were trained on the radio, learning how to keep the radio log, understand the lingo, and what the importance of radio communication meant to JIRP. Whether it be the back and forth between Juneau Base to Camp-8 and Camp-8 to Camp-18 trying to relay weather information to get a helicopter in that day, or the happy-go-lucky trail parties calling in for their daily check-ins, the success of JIRP hinges on this radio system. Although we had an important duty monitoring the radio, in the true spirit of JIRP we didn’t stop exploring. Our remaining time at Camp-8 was spent exploring the bergschrund on the side of the nunatak, (or more fondly know as “the ‘schrund!”), mastering our tele turns on the hill and rappelling into the snow crevasse that opened up near camp overnight, always to return to warm waffles waiting for us at camp.

Kenzie Mcadams sharing the view from inside the Camp-8 crevasse. 

The opportunities for exploration and growth are endless on the icefield; each camp, each traverse and each conversation has its own unique type of magic. After reading all of the writing on the walls and chatting of the JIRPers before us, we left Camp-8 knowing that we were joining the ranks of those JIRPers who got to experience this magical place. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

The Many Lessons Learnt by JIRPers

Kellie Schaefer

Michigan Technological University

It is fair to say that the majority of students participating in JIRP this year have never been on a glacier before. I thought it was insane that a large group of 20-somethings was going to be transported via skiing throughout different locations on a large ice sheet in Alaska. Through trial and error that broadened their range of knowledge (and perhaps developed some “character”), the students began to learn a few lessons on their JIRP journey.  

Crampon training on the Mendenhall Glacier. Photo by Kellie Schaefer.

Crampon training on the Mendenhall Glacier. Photo by Kellie Schaefer.

They first began their quest through the famed “vertical swamp”. While most of the trek consisted of slogging through dense blueberry bushes and boggy muskeg, there were a few short moments of excitement. While crossing a large stream, Chris managed to drop his bright green roll of duct tape into the rushing water. The duct tape was eventually fished out of the stream with a ski pole, much to the excitement of the trail party. Two lessons were learned during this episode:

1) Don’t “Christmas Tree” your pack

2) Duct tape is a crucial piece of gear that must be saved at all costs

About halfway up the vertical swamp, Victor hiked past a stump, and promptly began to hoot and holler, yelling “Stinging!!! Stingers!!! Aaahhhhh!!” Having no idea what was meant my “stingers”, I continued to slosh through the muskeg, only to hear a buzzing sound. I glanced up to see a swarm of angry bees. I quickly changed my course and escaped with no bee stings, while Victor managed to receive three. About three weeks later, I was collecting Isotope samples along Profile A. Unfortunately, I was paying more attention to the GPS path than the terrain. Before I knew it, I had toppled face first into a rather large sun cup. Maybe I was not being as observant on the icefield as I had been with the bees. In short:

3) Be aware of your surroundings at all times

4) You don’t always have to follow the exact GPS path

The weather had treated us JIRPers unusually well during the voyage up to Camp 17, with the exception of one night that consisted of 60 mph winds and everyone in the camp running outside to lean into the wind. Clear skies and impromptu outdoor nights of sleep continued throughout the week at Camp 10. The staffers continuously reminded us of how spoiled we were in terms of weather. When the clouds rolled in and the rain began to patter on the corrugated roofs of the various camp buildings, the students began to panic. Clothes that had been laying out on the granite rocks for days had suddenly become sodden. Boots left out to dry were now soaked again. People scrambled for their rain gear, which is pretty unserviceable on the icefield (unless you utilize the rubber rain jackets in the cook shack). When mass balance or GPS teams returned from their daily excursions in the rain, their faces were freshly sunburned and contoured with even more tan lines. The recent precipitation has taught us many things:

5)    Rain is wet

6)    The driest sock is sacred

7)    You can get sunburned all of the time, even when you’re in a cloud 

Shawnee and Alex being the "victims" during crevasse rescue training. Photo by Kellie Schaefer.

Shawnee and Alex being the "victims" during crevasse rescue training. Photo by Kellie Schaefer.

Due to the change in weather, most of the student’s free time is now spent in the kitchen area. If they are feeling particularly observant, they may find entertainment in witnessing the exploits of the creatures known as “the cooks”. The cooks are extremely vigilant of “vultures”, swooping in on anyone who takes one too many slices of fried spam. Only the bold will enter their domain to seek a certain spice, or if they are feeling particularly cocky, exit/enter the cook shack through the cook’s door. The cooks can become frazzled after a long day of catering to hungry FGERs, and can sometimes do silly things. Take Joel for example, who turned on the stove, struck the match (after a brief period of time), and lit the stove. Joel did not realize that propane gas is quite flammable, and proceeded to scorch all of the hair off of his hand in the flame that ensued. Kate-CO forgot to drain the water after cooking the mac n cheese noodles, and ended up making a mac n cheese soup.  Eric somehow got bit by a carrot. The cooks frequently make too much oatmeal in the morning, and creative new recipes are born from the leftovers. A few very important life lessons can be obtained from the experience of being a cook:

8)    Light the match before turning on the burner

9)    You love oatmeal and oatmeal loves you

10)    SPAM® is a beautiful thing 

Cheers from 'Taku B'!!!

Cheers from 'Taku B'!!!

Our Beautiful Machine

Annie Zaccarin

UC San Diego

I love embarking on expeditions: being able to discover new places, explore the wilderness, and learn more about the world around us. Yet, expeditions are a lot of work and for an expedition to be successful, a certain degree of planning and teamwork is required. As Howard Tomb says in his essay Expedition Behavior, the Finer Points, “Think of your team - the beautiful machine - first. You are merely a cog in that machine”.  Inadequate planning and cooperation often leads to chaos and poor execution of an expedition. JIRP runs for 8 weeks, with an average of 50 people, or cogs, in camp consisting of 32 students, 10 staff, and 6-8 rotating faculty and professors.  The larger the expedition, the more planning and gear required. Each individual requires personal gear (sleeping bag, clothes, skis, etc.), fuel, food, and bunk space. As the quantity of individuals increases, not only does the quantity of supplies increase, but so does the amount of people needed to support and help make the expedition run. It becomes imperative that expedition logistics and teamwork be running smoothly to prevent falling into disarray. Here’s a look into how our little community resists falling into such chaos through logistics, flexibility in the face of weather, and teamwork.

JIRP’s organization, leadership, and staff played a vital role in helping the JIRP machine run smoothly as we traversed across the Juneau Icefield. There were four main pieces that make up the bulk of the logistics concerns: food, fuel, machinery, and movements. Food and fuel were perhaps the easiest to understand. Food was of utmost importance in keeping us all fed, healthy, focused and enthusiastic. We used fuel to cook food, run the generator for lectures, and power the snowmobiles. Snowmobiles (known locally as “snow machines”), some of our most important machines, went out in the field almost every day to help the GPS Survey group complete transects of the glacier. They were also used for hauling supplies (tents, food, scientific equipment) out to temporary base camps for overnight scientific excursions. In addition to the smaller snowmobiles, a trusty old Thiokol (snow cat) towed out-of-commission snowmobiles and heavy sled loads up the steep slope back to camp. The fourth part of logistics, movements, might be the hardest component to understand for those readers who have not been up on the icefield. During our expedition, we slowly traversed 90 miles from established base camp to base camp across the Juneau Icefield from Juneau, Alaska to Atlin, British Columbia. Overall, this required movement of people, equipment, food, and fuel. When it came to organizing the traverse, the field staff had to consider: forming trail parties to go to the next camp, time needed for research, available camp space, and significant time just for opening and closing camps. Luckily, much of life on the icefield was intertwined with helicopter support. They brought us food, fuel, and mail and took away our waste metal and outgoing mail. In addition, new faculty arrived, and exiting faculty left on the helicopters. Helicopters also helped transport gear and scientific equipment from camp to camp when snowmobile transportation was limited due to crevasses and topography. 

Coastal Helicopter bringing us new supplies and personnel at Camp 17. Photo by Annie Zaccarin.

Coastal Helicopter bringing us new supplies and personnel at Camp 17. Photo by Annie Zaccarin.

 

However, a tricky part of running logistics and making all the pieces fit together was flexibility in the face of weather. So much of what we did relied on either going out in the field to conduct research or having helicopter flights arrive on time. When bad weather drifted in and camp was surrounded by a white out, research was delayed without new faculty arriving, fresh food could not be flown in, and weather-dependent field work had to be put off. While this may seem frustrating to those of you reading back home, we JIRPers are resilient folks who always found ways of making the most of any weather that came our way. The role of overseeing all of these components fell on our field staff and Juneau staff. It could very easily be argued that while everyone on the icefield were the engine and the heart and soul of the program, the expertly-run logistics, by the Juneau and field staff, was the motherboard that kept the expedition going. 

While staff kept the big picture and organization in perspective, all expedition members were key cogs in making the expedition machine run smoothly through teamwork and cooperation. Imagine having all 50 expedition members cook their own meals or clean the outhouses; not very practical. Within the camp, the camp manager assigned cook teams every day, and everyone pitched in on other camp chores and maintenance tasks every morning. Typical chores ranged from maintaining our makeshift snow-fridge, to refilling fuel barrels, or to touching up paint around camp. Although some of the chores were intimidating at first, such as figuring portion sizes for over 50 people, eventually we grew in learning not only how to complete each chore, but also each one’s importance in maintaining camp life. An important lesson I learned during cook crew was how to make and keep gallons of coffee ready for the never-ending cups needing refilling throughout the day. While these small tasks definitely helped keep camp from falling into chaos and disorder, less obvious forms of teamwork and community were similarly instrumental in helping our community come together.

We saw teamwork in the staff member that helped you tape up your blisters, in the faculty who worked in challenging conditions to impart their knowledge, in the friend that slowed down to ski with you, in the rope team that arrested your fall, and in the community that became a family. None of us would have been as successful up there on the icefield without that community around us. Every day, as I looked around, I saw our friendships deepen, our team grow stronger, and our community turn into its own 50-person family isolated up on our little nunatak. Our community came together as seen through the cooks that got excited to serve new culinary creations, everyone’s genuine interest in each other’s research projects, and our willingness to share dry clothing. It’s amazing how these all helped contribute to the positive, pleasant, and productive environment whatever the circumstances we were facing on the icefield. In the end, whether we were student, field staff, faculty, or Juneau staff, we all had a role to play in helping make the JIRP machine run smoothly and continue to be the remarkable program that it is. I am ever thankful for getting to be part of the amazing community that is JIRP, and all of the new found friends (students, staff, and faculty) that were instrumental in making the community and experience incredible.

Thank you to Newt for providing me with some of the insight needed for this blog post.

Coming together over dinner at Camp 10 to enjoy the view and each other's company. Photo by Annie Zaccarin.

Coming together over dinner at Camp 10 to enjoy the view and each other's company. Photo by Annie Zaccarin.

Cooking and Teamwork

Olivia Truax

Amherst College

On an expedition filled with steep learning curves (you’ve never seen snow before? Try telemark skiing down a hill with a 30-pound pack! You’ve never slept outside before? How about camping on a glacier! You’ve never had a science class before? Let’s talk biogeochemical field methods!) the steepest, by necessity, is that of camp cook. When your name appears on the “plan of the day” as part of the three-student cook team it’s do or die. Well, I doubt that our camp of hungry JIRPers would kill a cook who, at the end of a long day of fieldwork, failed to produce an edible meal. However, cooks do run the risk of going down in JIRP history like “that idiot in such-and-such year who cooked the pasta into barely edible salt mush.”

Luckily, Brittany, Lyda and my first mistake was one of quantity not quality. Fifty JIRPers can eat a lot of oatmeal. They cannot, however, eat eighty servings of oatmeal. Having made it through breakfast without memorable slipups we faced our next task: lunch and what to do with 30 servings of rapidly congealing Quaker Oats (because all of our food on the icefield is delivered via wildly expensive, gas-guzzling, helicopters, food waste, always environmentally and financially irresponsible, is inexcusable). Word to the wise: 1. JIRPers love burritos 2. if you mix leftover oatmeal with brown sugar, flour, raisins, vegetable oil, and baking powder and stick it in the oven it won’t turn into an “oatmeal cake,” but it will turn into a delicious pudding-esque dish even if you forget about it and bake it at 400 degrees for an hour and a half.

For dinner we decided that it’d be a fun challenge to make a meal that used every dish in the kitchen. Well, our goal was to make enough roasted potato medley, chopped salad, and beef stew, for 51 people— no more, no less. The somewhat predictable result was four hours of chopping and roasting twenty-five pounds of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots in a single oven, stewing canned beef in the largest cast iron skillet I have ever encountered (this behemoth requires two burners), and a brief stint as short-order cooks desperately trying to chop enough peppers, apples, and lettuce to keep the salad bowl full in the face of the seemingly inexhaustible appetite of a never ending line of JIRPers (it was our own fault, we told them to help themselves to “bottomless salad”).

The Mass-Balance Team - Evan Koncewicz, Victor Cabrera, Tai Rozvar, Olivia Truax, Alex Burkhart and Kate Bollen - present their research proposal on the deck at Camp 10. Photo by Matt Beedle.

The Mass-Balance Team - Evan Koncewicz, Victor Cabrera, Tai Rozvar, Olivia Truax, Alex Burkhart and Kate Bollen - present their research proposal on the deck at Camp 10. Photo by Matt Beedle.

When the line of salad-seeking JIRPers finally ended we had a moment to enjoy our meal staring out at the view of the Taku Towers from the porch of the cook shack before the mountain of dishes called us back inside. Sitting with Brittany and Lyda, enjoying the meat Brittany stewed, clutching a cup of coffee Lyda brewed, and savoring the last of the peppers we had frantically chopped I found myself reflecting that 1. Kirkland-brand canned meet and pre-ground coffee has never tasted so good and 2. my day cooking, a task that I’d dreaded as a chore for weeks, had been one of my favorite days so far on the icefield. Sometime in-between preparing almost twice the amount of oatmeal we needed and the final dash to finish the salad something about JIRP clicked for me. Far from the day I had anticipated away from the science and exploration I thought constituted the “real” business of JIRP, my time in the kitchen—surrounded as I was by the laughter I shared with Lyda and Brittany, the aroma of baking “oatmeal cake,” and the smiles of JIRPers with full bellies—took me to the heart of what it means to be part of an expedition family.

Here on the icefield we talk a lot about community and teamwork. The idea that we are stronger together than the sum of our parts is an organizing principle of our daily life, drawing us closer as we navigate the challenges of living and learning in this harsh environment. I began to feel the strength of this community on the long trek from Camp 17 to Camp 10 when the quiet encouragement of the person ahead of me on the rope team got me through the final slog up the crevasse field to our camp at the Norris Cache. It buoyed me when I took a hard fall running through Camp 17 to grab my ski boots for a sunset ski on the Ptarmigan Glacier and my fellow JIRPers patched up my bruised knees and low stoke level (word to the wise: DO NOT RUN IN CAMP). Co-authoring a research proposal and digging snow pits with the rest of the Mass Balance project group, I’d begun to feel an inkling of what’s possible when JIRPers devote themselves to a project as a team. But it was in the kitchen with Brittany and Lyda brainstorming an original menu from limited ingredients and dashing about to make enough salad that I first understood that phrase “stronger together than the sum of our parts” as not only an aspirational aphorism but an incontrovertible truth.

Completing the two-day traverse from Camp 17 to Camp 10. Photo by Catharine White.

Completing the two-day traverse from Camp 17 to Camp 10. Photo by Catharine White.

Our meal won’t go down in JIRP history. I’m sure the potatoes we agonized over have already begun to fade into the many delicious meals we’ve had here on the icefield in the minds of our fellow JIRPers, but my first day in the kitchen will stay with me. Working together wasn’t always easy: I stubbornly stuck to the idea that we should fry up two sausages to feed 51 people for dinner long after Brittany and Lyda, sensibly, pointed out that if we did that 40 JIRPers would go hungry. But, together, we produced three meals (none of which involved sausage) that kept our expedition, our community, happy and fed.

Sweet Tooth

By Sarah Bouckoms

Just because we live on a remote icefield in Alaska is no excuse to not be civilized and have dessert. In fact the peer pressure to come up with the next greatest dessert is a competition no one minds. We started with brownies and escalated  to a super secret ice cream concoction. While it had a different texture the taste was remarkably delicious. Then we started with the pie baking competition. It was a joint effort to make a delicious Pumpkin Pie fit for any Thanksgiving table. There was also a peach pie, but well, not even I took the time to snap a photo before devouring the treat. Have no fear, the sweet tooth of the JIRP students and staff is in no danger of going without.

[NOTE:  Click on any of the images below to open a slideshow with all photos and captions.]   

Our Royal Throne Rooms

By Sarah Bouckoms

Without fail, whenever I give a presentation about Antarctica to school kids, there is always some cheeky little boy who raises his hand and asks, “How do you poop?”. Mind you this question never gets formally asked by a more mature audience; however, I know they are all thinking it. So here is the answer to the question of all questions you have been wondering about your loved ones or children:  "How are they going to the bathroom?”.  While the facilities may not be five star, they are more than adequate and very sanitary. They are cleaned thoroughly everyday and handwashing stations are used religiously. The early morning busting bladder wake up call is alleviated with a most glorious view, a far more grander experience than having the luxury of carpet on your walk to the royal throne room. Let my picture diary explain what words can not.

[NOTE:  Click on any of the images below to open a slideshow with all photos and captions.]  

The Camp-17 to Camp-10 Traverse is Underway

By Jeff Kavanaugh

Trail Party One skis across the Taku Glacier – as seen from Camp-10, their destination.  Photo by J.L. Kavanaugh

As I type this, the first trail party of 11 students and staff is skiing across the Taku Glacier, having just finished a refueling break at the base of Juncture Peak (which is located at the confluence of the Southwest Branch and the main trunk of Taku Glacier).  They’ll thus arrive at Camp-10 in less than an hour. The second trail party – containing the remaining 21 students and staff – recently radioed in to say that they were making the descent from Nugget Ridge into Death Valley.  They will reach the Norris Cache (from where Trail Party One departed this morning) later this evening, and tomorrow morning will follow in the ski tracks of their fellow JIRPers to join us at Camp-10.  Once all of the students and staff are reunited, the glacier monitoring surveys and academic lectures will kick into high gear.

Taking a break from towing.  Photo by S. McGee

In support of the myriad research activities that will take place at Camp-10, this morning Scott McGee (JIRP’s Field Logistics Manager) and I took “Thor”, JIRP’s venerable Alpine II snowmachine, to Camp-18.  There we pulled three additional Skandik snow machines out of cold storage.  The two of us brought the four machines back to Camp-10 by loading two of the machines onto sleds – an unusual sight, given that each of the towed machines was also towing a sled.  Although much of the landscape was shrouded in clouds, the single building of Camp-9 (located at the half-way point between Camps 10 and 18) stood proud during both the outbound and return legs of the trip – and both times appeared to be hovering in cloud above the glacier.  The students will get their own view of Camp-9 several weeks from now, during the next camp move.

Camp 9 appears to float within the clouds.  Photo by J.L. Kavanaugh

Waiting in Cloud

By Jeff Kavanaugh

As anyone who has spent time in coastal Alaska will tell you, weather here pays no heed to schedules or the wishes of its inhabitants (or itinerants).  Nowhere is this more true than at Camp-17, which often sits in cloud even when the surrounding landscape is clear.  Currently, the weather is engulfing not just that camp, but also Camp-10 – where I sit typing this – in the very heart of the icefield.

The first of three student groups was scheduled to begin the two-day traverse from Camp-17 to Camp-10 on July 6th, with two other groups departing on the 7th and 8th.  As that morning dawned, the decision was made to wait: wind, rain, and poor visibility made the prospect of negotiating Nugget Ridge too risky to contemplate.  These weather conditions remained until well past 10:00 am, the cut-off time for departure from Camp-17.  (The first day of this traverse is long, generally taking 10–12 hours to reach the tents and food of the Norris Cache, which is established in advance from Camp-10.  A late departure from Camp-17 therefore makes for a very late arrival at the cache.)

Poor visibility persists at Camp-10 and across the icefield, delaying the students’ departure from Camp-17. Photo by J.L. Kavanaugh

To minimize the impact of the weather delay, two actions were taken.  When the weather improved slightly later in the day, a group of field safety team members (including Jeff Barbee, Annie Boucher, Stanley Pinchak, and Adam Toolanen) put their experience to the test by marking the route through the toughest sections of the traverse.  This was accomplished using both the high-tech (waypoints marked using handheld GPS units) and the low-tech (bamboo wands, which were driven into the snow to mark points of safe travel or, if crossed as an “X”, hazards).  The following morning, a subset of the staff (including Field Logistics Manager Scott McGee, Mechanic/Carpenter Ben Partan, and myself) boot-skied to the lowest reach of the Ptarmigan Glacier, which sat below the cloud deck.  From here we were picked up by helicopter and flown across to Camp-10 – thus being granted incredible views of the icefield’s terrain, but denied both the challenge and the reward of traversing it under our own power.

We’re now two days past these actions.  Both mornings we’ve awakened to rain and limited visibility; both mornings we’ve further postponed the departures from Camp-17.  We’re well-set to take advantage of any positive change in the weather: the students are primed and ready to depart Camp-17; a safe route has been established up and over Norris Ridge; the Norris Cache supplies are packed and ready to deploy; and Camp-10 is open and functional.  Additionally, four more participants have fleshed out the skeleton crew at Camp-10: Jay Fleisher, JIRP Director Emeritus and glacial geologist; Bill Isherwood, geophysicist; Bill Peterson, MD; and Ben Slavin, a JIRP ’11 alumnus who has returned to investigate the genetic variability of a particular insect species across the icefield. (You’ll read about each of these individuals in later blog posts.)

Over the next few days, the weather will surely clear sufficiently to allow the trail crews to depart Camp-17 for the broad views and spectacular peaks that await them on the “high ice”.  In the meantime, students will continue to practice their skiing (both roped and unroped) and crevasse rescue techniques, write a few more letters to family and friends, and master the art of brownie baking.   We’ll soon be reunited at Camp-10.