[Time] It doesn't matter, you're at Camp 8 . . .

By Amy Towell, University of Toledo

Camp 8… A place for rest, relaxation, the occasional radio relay and experimentations in waffles…
Camp 8 has one sole purpose: to relay radio calls between the Juneau Base and Camp 18. While the entire expedition is based out of Camp 18, groups of four take turns being stationed at Camp 8 for two nights. It isn’t a terribly long ski (usually four hours) between Camp 18 and Camp 8, but it took us a bit longer due to route conditions on the ridge approaching Camp 8. The snow bridges covering the giant bergschrunds [crevasses that extend all the way through the glacier to the bedrock] and crevasses had collapsed, which made taking the original route dangerous. We scouted a new route with help from Gavin, who was manning the radio at Camp 8 and could see the hazards from above. The other three inhabitants of Camp 8 were also helping on the ice by scouting the new route from the opposite direction. We had to probe extensively, which slowed our pace considerably, since the new route put us between two very large crevasses.

Our rope team, probing our way slowly and safely through the maze of crevasses. Photo: Amy Towell.

Our rope team, probing our way slowly and safely through the maze of crevasses. Photo: Amy Towell.

A view from the top of Mount Moore looking down on C8 and the route through the bergschrunds and crevasses. Photo: Amy Towell.

A view from the top of Mount Moore looking down on C8 and the route through the bergschrunds and crevasses. Photo: Amy Towell.

After an hour of nerve racking zigzagging and navigating over crevasses, we made it to the safety of our new abode on the slopes of Mount Moore. My feet were happy to arrive and be able to rest for a few days, and the group, as a whole, were excited to eat nothing but waffles for the duration of our stay; Camp 8 has the only waffle maker of the entire icefield! Our mission: eat more waffles than the previous group, which ate 14 in total.

Blisters galore. I have been anti-croc for many years, but caved on this expedition. They are actually great for letting blisters air out. Photo: Amy Towell.

Blisters galore. I have been anti-croc for many years, but caved on this expedition. They are actually great for letting blisters air out. Photo: Amy Towell.

Our first order of business upon arriving: make some waffles. We were told that food supplies were low, so we had brought oil, pancake mix, peanut butter, jelly, brownie mix, freshies (broccoli, cauliflower, apples, pears, cheese, hummus and carrots), and probably some other stuff. Needless to say, our packs were heavy! Our first batch was reminiscent of grilled cheese with fresh sliced tomatoes. They were delicious. All the fresh food was a nice change of pace from the canned goods that we typically eat at main camps.

A photographic summary of life at Camp 8: radio, coffee, power stances and waffles atop the roof. From left to right: Danielle Beaty, Bryn Huxley-Reicher, and Avery Stewart. Photo: Amy Towell.

A photographic summary of life at Camp 8: radio, coffee, power stances and waffles atop the roof. From left to right: Danielle Beaty, Bryn Huxley-Reicher, and Avery Stewart. Photo: Amy Towell.

Unfortunately, the weather was quite cold and misty that first night, so we slept inside. On the plus side, we slept great knowing that we were not going to get the standard 0730 wake up call for 0800 breakfast; we were on our own schedule. Our first radio check of the day was at 0845, so we got an extra hour of sleep! I had big plans to nap a lot while at Camp 8, but that did not happen. After our morning waffles (pumpkin, chocolate chip with pears), Dani and Avery climbed Mount Moore while Bryn and I got busy cleaning up camp. There was a large pile of old insulation that had been subjected to the weather for who knows how long. With my handy surgical gloves, I carefully laid out all of the insulation so it could dry and later be disposed of. After the morning chores, Bryn and I got busy washing ALL of our laundry. Hauling our dirty clothes up to Camp 8 also added a considerable amount of weight to our packs, but it was worth it.  

The author amidst the drying insulation and deteriorated burlap. Photo: Amy Towell.

The author amidst the drying insulation and deteriorated burlap. Photo: Amy Towell.

Lunch consisted of broccoli, cheese and cornmeal waffles topped with even more sautéed broccoli. They were fantastic! Just look at that melted, oozing cheese (see picture below). After lunch, I monitored the radio and let my feet rest, while Dani, Bryn and Avery scouted the route we had set the day before. Some of the crevasse crossings had opened up even more, so the route was adjusted slightly and flags were placed for easy navigation. While the gang was out, I received a radio call from Camp 18 informing us that the “fancy dinner” was moved to that night and that we would miss it. We were all pretty bummed since we would have originally made it back in time for the festivities: dressing up, dancing and hamburgers!
 

Our first dinner: cheesy, broccoli waffles. Photo: Amy Towell.

Our first dinner: cheesy, broccoli waffles. Photo: Amy Towell.

We decided to have our own fancy dinner and celebrated by making our best waffles yet. We sautéed broccoli and cauliflower and then mixed that into the batter with cheese. To top the waffles, we made BBQ chicken and two over easy eggs. We had precariously brought two eggs with us with intentions of using them to make brownies. We hadn’t had a fried egg for nearly two months, so they were reallocated for dinner, which really fancied things up. Bryn decided to go all out and made some baked beans and pineapple to top his waffle, too. I literally spilled the beans all over the floor in this process. Cleaning them up actually gave the floor a nice “waxy” shine. We ate our waffles on the roof and completed our nightly radio check-in before hiking up Mt. Moore for the sunset. We felt fortunate to see the sunset because Camp 18 was stuck in the clouds, yet we were above them. We had tried to make brownie waffles for the sunset jaunt, but they didn’t really turn out too well. We spent awhile sitting atop Mt. Moore, taking in the scenery. It is arguably one of the best views from the icefield. With the clear skies, we could see our entire summer traverse, which was super cool and really put perspective on how far we skied this summer. We could see Split Thumb, the peak near Camp 17, where we started. We could see the Taku Towers, near Camp 10. We could see Camp 18 and also the valley where Atlin Lake is situated, where our journey would come to an end in a couple short weeks. We could also see Mt. Fairweather, which is quite far away and impressively large, sitting at roughly 15,000 feet.

Our fancy dinner: A waffle with sauteed broccoli and cauliflower with melted cheese, BBQ chiken, pineapple and an over easy egg to top it off. Photo: Amy Towell.

Our fancy dinner: A waffle with sauteed broccoli and cauliflower with melted cheese, BBQ chiken, pineapple and an over easy egg to top it off. Photo: Amy Towell.

Bryn standing atop Mt. Moore at sunset. Photo: Amy Towell

Bryn standing atop Mt. Moore at sunset. Photo: Amy Towell

That night, we slept atop the roof and were pleasantly surprised with a northern lights show. The aurora forecast was only a three of seven, so we did not expect to see any activity. Bryn and I had never seen them before, so we were in awe, to say the least. Avery, who is from Juneau, said that they were hands down the best three-of-seven aurora he had ever seen and probably the best he had ever seen in general.

The next morning, we climbed Mt. Moore a couple more times (five in total for the duration of our stay) and got busy tidying up camp for the next crew to arrive later that day. We also made our last batches of waffles. One batter consisted of cold brew coffee (in place of water) with chocolate chips and roasted coconut flakes. It was easily my favorite waffle. The other batter consisted of pumpkin, oats, chocolate chips, apple, pear, cinnamon, and brown sugar. It was also delicious. We had a lot of batter so these were also made for lunch before we departed. In the end, our group ate a total of 34 waffles during our stay! We left Camp 8 a bit later than we had hoped for, but our next mission was in sight: get back to Camp 18 for dinner at 1900. We cruised back in a swift two hours and made it with 15 minutes to spare. Mission success!

Ecological Survey of Avalanche Canyon

By Susannah Cooley, Davidson College

The Ecology research group woke early on a windy and overcast morning to begin our 13-mile trip to Avalanche Canyon. Avalanche Canyon begins at the terminus of Echo Glacier, is the home of abandoned JIRP Camp 21, and was our intended study site for the next three days. Our trail party left Camp 10 in high spirits and with much excitement. Avalanche Canyon, known for its beauty and lush vegetation, had not been visited by JIRP in many years; much of the terrain and conditions of our destination were unknown. The maps available in Camp 10 are several years old. Given the likelihood that the terminus of Echo Glacier had receded a great deal since the maps were made, we knew very little about what the area would look like when we arrived – How far would the glacier have receded? Would we have to cross blue ice? Would we be able to reach our destination at all? We were unsure of the hazards that lay before us, so we took the necessary precautions: we brought our glacier safety gear and our crampons and, as we approached the terminus of Echo Glacier, roped up into teams and probed for crevasses as we traveled. To our great pleasure the route we chose was safe. Under the guidance of our supportive and knowledgeable staff Evan and Annika, we arrived at Avalanche Canyon with ease.

Staffer Annika Ord pointing out a snow swamp during the trip to Avalanche Canyon. Photo credit: Susannah Cooley.

Staffer Annika Ord pointing out a snow swamp during the trip to Avalanche Canyon. Photo credit: Susannah Cooley.

The trail party was all in good spirits as we came around the final ridge of the trip and the amazing view of Avalanche Canyon came into sight.  We made camp on a rocky outcrop next to the margin of the Echo Glacier ablation zone. Our camp overlooked several icefalls, the terminus of the Gilkey Glacier, a wonderfully vegetated refugio called Paradise Valley and Avalanche Canyon itself. The dynamism, the movement and flow of the dramatic landscape was overwhelmingly beautiful. The power of the ice and rocks were humbling; it is an area devoid of apparent human influence, in which geologic forces served as a reminder of the comparable weakness of the human form.  As we sat in awe eating our lunch and looking out over this view, I pondered how amazing it is that we, through our actions, are in the process of destroying a landscape that seems so far above the elements of daily human life.

Looking out at the view on the first day. Avalanche Canyon, in the middle ground, is vegetated. In the background the Bucher and Gilkey glaciers flow through the Gilkey Trench and out the left side of the frame. Photo credit: Kara Vogler.

Looking out at the view on the first day. Avalanche Canyon, in the middle ground, is vegetated. In the background the Bucher and Gilkey glaciers flow through the Gilkey Trench and out the left side of the frame. Photo credit: Kara Vogler.

The Ecology group spent a wonderful three days exploring Avalanche Canyon. We studied the diversity and abundance of plants and lichens, and compared them to the level of development of the soils in each survey plot. We found a strong gradient in vegetation from the highest elevation near our campsite, which was predominantly rocky with few plants, down through the canyon to about 400 ft. below. Here we found a greater diversity and abundance of vegetation including some much larger species such as mountain hemlock and alder trees.

Collecting data at the study site at highest elevation with very little vegetation. Photo credit: Catharine White.

Collecting data at the study site at highest elevation with very little vegetation. Photo credit: Catharine White.

High diversity of plants found at mid-elevation in a transition zone between the rocky top and highly vegetated valley. Some species in this photo include: Rose Root, White Mountain Heather, Yellow Mountain Heather, Mosses, Grasses, and Fireweed. Photo credit: Susannah Cooley.

High diversity of plants found at mid-elevation in a transition zone between the rocky top and highly vegetated valley. Some species in this photo include: Rose Root, White Mountain Heather, Yellow Mountain Heather, Mosses, Grasses, and Fireweed. Photo credit: Susannah Cooley.

Alder Tree – found at lower elevation in a highly vegetated zone. Photo credit: Susannah Cooley.

Alder Tree – found at lower elevation in a highly vegetated zone. Photo credit: Susannah Cooley.

The ecology group was also lucky to have JIRP’s artist in residence, Hannah Perrine Mode, along with us. While surveying the area Hannah contributed drawings of some of the survey plots, a beautiful way to represent the diversity of the area and the unique plants we were able to see.  

Overall, the trip to Avalanche Canyon was a huge success. We were able to survey plants and soils, see a wonderful view, and return to Camp 10 safely. The opportunity to see such a unique area, full of vegetation in an area otherwise dominated by rock and ice, to study plants and soil profiles that I had never seen before, and to return to Camp 10 with information on the current conditions of the terrain surrounding the terminus of the Echo Glacier was a truly unique experience. I’m sure I can speak for all the other students, staff, and faculty who were lucky enough to make the trip over to Avalanche Canyon, that we would definitely return to that beautiful spot if ever given the opportunity.

 

Morning Routine at Camp 10

Izzy Boettcher, Dartmouth University

“Good morning, beautiful nerds.” Allen’s voice rings clear, and full of excitement. The clatter of eating utensils, the hum of sleepy conversation, and the overall organized chaos that is each morning on the Icefield quickly fades and is replaced with an attentive silence. We sluggishly turn in our seats towards the back wall. A room of mildly caffeinated eyes focus on Allen, the academic lead, and the “Plan of the Day” white board that (tentatively) organizes each day. I’ve come to learn that life on the Icefield is highly dependent upon factors that we can’t always foresee — weather, snowmobile functionality, a Pilot Bread famine, etc.  — and thus our “plans” are always subject to change.

“07:30 wake up — check,” Allen begins, ticking off the tasks we have already completed. “08:00 breakfast — check.” He continues down the list, asking for daily chore volunteers, summarizing the day’s fieldwork outings, and concluding with the routine, “20:15 lecture” and “23:00 lights out.” At this point, the morning lull diminishes — fast replaced by the characteristic buzz of curious students energized by the day’s possible adventures. Will we test the skills we learned during safety training and practice crevasse rescue?  Will we snowmobile across the Taku marking a new GPS profile? Or will we strap a shovel to our pack and dig a mass balance snow pit? Our minds race as we eagerly consider our options. We all ultimately know that we can’t really go wrong, no matter our final decision. Each option guarantees unparalleled scenery, good company, and new accomplishments, calamities, and understandings that will soon be relayed when we reconvene for dinner. On this day, I decide to tag along with mass balance, and quickly finish my breakfast as others continue to brainstorm.

Cooks prepare for the morning breakfast rush. Four-person student cook crews are in the kitchen by 6:00 am to serve hot breakfast at 8:00 am for upwards of 60 people. Here, Camp Manager Annika Ord (left) and Artist in Residence Hannah Mode (at the stove) assist students Susannah Cooley and Benjy Getraer. Photo credit: Jay Ach.

Cooks prepare for the morning breakfast rush. Four-person student cook crews are in the kitchen by 6:00 am to serve hot breakfast at 8:00 am for upwards of 60 people. Here, Camp Manager Annika Ord (left) and Artist in Residence Hannah Mode (at the stove) assist students Susannah Cooley and Benjy Getraer. Photo credit: Jay Ach.

“Hey, hey.” Mike, our camp manager’s voice cuts through the building volume. We pause our planning efforts to refocus our attention. “You ready?” he asks us. We grin, and nod our heads — we all know what’s coming. This moment is perhaps the last truly predictable part of each day. For although each morning begins with the same routine, each day holds something different. “Okay,” Mike says, bringing his hands in front of him and hovering his palms a few inches apart. We mimic his motions and anticipate the countdown. “3, 2, 1” he starts. And on “break,” 54 pairs of hands clap in unison, queuing both the mad rush of hungry JIRPers hoping for a second helping of oatmeal and SPAM, and the start of another day at Camp 10.

Hungry JIRPers waiting in line for food. With a full camp it takes about 30 minutes for everyone to wind through the breakfast line. The mark of a truly great cook crew is keeping the coffee flowing for the whole process. Photo credit: Jay Ach.

Hungry JIRPers waiting in line for food. With a full camp it takes about 30 minutes for everyone to wind through the breakfast line. The mark of a truly great cook crew is keeping the coffee flowing for the whole process. Photo credit: Jay Ach.

 

 

Adventures in Isotopes

By Jane Hamel, Middlebury College

This year, my research group is planning to take snow samples from the same snowpit multiple times. We want to study how the snow changes over time as we experience different weather patterns such as rain and sunshine.  We are hoping that this will help us answer our big picture question for the summer: what affects the ratios of water isotopes on the Juneau Icefield.  

Now to explain a bit about isotopes and how we can use them in our project this summer!  Not all water molecules are the same.  Most are the same weight, but there are some that can be heavier.  By comparing the ratio of heavier to lighter water molecules in the snow, we can learn about the snow and the conditions in which it formed and fell.  We will give a more thorough explanation of isotopes in a later blog post.

We were excited to start this project and kick off our summer research.  We planned the pit location to be adjacent to our ski hill for easy access, as we would be coming back multiple times to hopefully get new samples.  The process of probing and digging went well; we had an idea that the pit would end up being about 160 cm deep.  After some digging and snacking we were more than halfway through our pit, at about 100 cm when the snow started getting slushy.  Confused, we dug a bit deeper and wider to see if the slush layer continued throughout the snowpit.  Not only was the slush layer continuous, but it was 60 cm deep in some places, continuing all the way to the bottom of the pit. After shoveling out some of the slush, we saw that digging further would not be possible; the slush turned to water after a few centimeters, and even if we could somehow remove all of the water, it would just fill in again.  We were all surprised to find out that glaciers can have water layers in them, and we definitely could not have predicted it or known that our location had this.  

Alex Ihle floats on his therm-a-rest in the pool while recording data in the group field notebook.  JJ Graham takes a snow sample form the pit while Jane Hamel labels sample bottles and Chelly Johnson organizes the samples. Photo credit: Jay Ach.

Alex Ihle floats on his therm-a-rest in the pool while recording data in the group field notebook.  JJ Graham takes a snow sample form the pit while Jane Hamel labels sample bottles and Chelly Johnson organizes the samples. Photo credit: Jay Ach.

We decided to have some fun with our discovery, converting half of the pit into a pool by clearing out the rest of the snow and slush layer.  Some brave JIRPers went in for the inaugural dip, hot after shoveling in the sun.  On the other side of the pit we prepared the wall for sampling by making it smooth all the way down.  After collecting snow samples from the wall, we decided to also take one from the water in the bottom of the pit to add to our data of the pit.  

Even though the pit didn’t turn out how we had expected, it was still a really interesting discovery that we could learn from and use in our project. We were still able to collect data for our project, just with a bit of tweaking.  Since the construction of the pit, we’ve had two rain storms and after each one we’ve been able to go back and take new samples.  We don’t know yet how the water layer is affecting the pit and our data, but we’re excited to get our results at the end of the summer.  This project taught us that field work often doesn’t go as planned, but that you can make do with what you have and still get good data.

 

Water in a Frozen Land

By Ann Hill, Skidmore College

Ever since high school, I have been very conscious of how water resources vary throughout the world. Of all the water on Earth, three percent is fresh, but two percent is trapped in glaciers, unavailable for human use. The remaining one percent sustains all of humanity, and making sure everyone has access to this resource is a huge global challenge. Growing up, I never struggled to access freshwater, but on the Juneau Icefield, acquiring freshwater requires more strategic planning.

The amount of effort we invest in collecting water is ironic, since we are surrounded by huge stores of it. Everyday we ski over, conduct research on, and live next to the Juneau Icefield, comprised of many interconnected glaciers. Southeast Alaska experiences a high amount of precipitation annually, and yet its frozen form makes it difficult to access. Consequently, each day we spend hours of human labor managing our water supply.

All of our water is sourced from melting snow. At Camp 17, we shoveled water onto blue plastic tarps, which slowly melted into large trash barrels. At Camp 10 the snow melt drains into a tarp-lined pond. However, currently the clean snow supply is dwindling, requiring the additional use of tarps and trash barrels. Once it’s melted, we use buckets to haul large quantities of water into the kitchen where more large trash barrels sit for use while cooking meals. We heat a small amount for warm hand washing water.  

The water supply at Camp 17 is shown above, displaying the tarps onto which we shovel snow from the patch just off the bottom of the photo. A piece of white gutter connects the tarp to the trash barrel, into which the melted water drains. A sauce pan can be seen on the side of the barrel on the right, used to scoop water into buckets for transport. Photo credit: Ann Hill.

The water supply at Camp 17 is shown above, displaying the tarps onto which we shovel snow from the patch just off the bottom of the photo. A piece of white gutter connects the tarp to the trash barrel, into which the melted water drains. A sauce pan can be seen on the side of the barrel on the right, used to scoop water into buckets for transport. Photo credit: Ann Hill.

The water is never filtered or sterilized before consumption, making it imperative that strict measures are taken to keep our water sources clean. Water bottles and cooking pans must never directly touch the water supply. Instead, we use sauce pans to dip into the barrel, and only the handle may be touched so no hands ever come into contact with the water supply. The pan must only be set in its proper place, never on a counter as it will become contaminated. While initially these rules seemed rather overbearing, they are essential in limiting the spread of germs through camp.

Each day a student is assigned the job of Camp Assistant. Their job largely consists of shoveling snow from the source to the tarps, hauling water to the kitchen, and filling the hand washing station. This takes a lot of time, and proves physically demanding. For personal tasks, such as doing laundry or taking a shower, snow must be melted in large metal buckets instead of on a stove because the phase change from solid to liquid requires a lot of energy, and it is expensive to bring fuel to the Icefield.

At home, we also rely on a complex set of processes to obtain this valuable resource, but they take place mostly behind the scenes. People have jobs that involve pumping water up from the ground, or managing treatment facilities to make water available at the turn of a faucet. Today’s infrastructure places distance between us and the technology behind our tap water, but here on the Icefield that distance disappears.

The above photo shows the water supply system set up at Camp 10. The pond acts as the main water source, and additional tarps have been set up to drain water into the pond, as the snow directly surrounding the pond has melted. Photo credit: Ann Hill.

The above photo shows the water supply system set up at Camp 10. The pond acts as the main water source, and additional tarps have been set up to drain water into the pond, as the snow directly surrounding the pond has melted. Photo credit: Ann Hill.

Learning to Live on the Ice

By Kelcy Huston, University of Minnesota Duluth

Adjusting to life on the ice comes with learning a unique set of skills and routines. Some of the daily chores are variations of familiar things (like using water and sweeping), and other skills are things I think many of us thought we would only see in the movies if it weren’t for JIRP. The following pictures capture highlights of our time at Camp 17.

One of the first things we did upon arrival to camp was set up water collections. We did this by framing tarps with 2x4s to funnel into a gutter and then into a bin after shoveling surrounding snow onto the tarp. It’s good to scrape off the top layer before shoveling, but no filtering or purifying needed! Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

One of the first things we did upon arrival to camp was set up water collections. We did this by framing tarps with 2x4s to funnel into a gutter and then into a bin after shoveling surrounding snow onto the tarp. It’s good to scrape off the top layer before shoveling, but no filtering or purifying needed! Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

Our first week had a heavy focus on ski training and safe glacier travel practices, which requires learning to “rope up” in case someone in a trail party falls into a crevasse. This way, if someone were to fall in, everyone else on the rope team drops to the ground to prevent a long fall and prepare the next stages of rescue. Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

Our first week had a heavy focus on ski training and safe glacier travel practices, which requires learning to “rope up” in case someone in a trail party falls into a crevasse. This way, if someone were to fall in, everyone else on the rope team drops to the ground to prevent a long fall and prepare the next stages of rescue. Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

Building on roping up, we’ve also been practicing building anchor and pulley systems to actually be able to pull people out of a crevasse. Snow anchors allow us to take the weight of the fallen person off of ourselves and the pulley systems give us mechanical advantage to pull them up more easily (it was an added training bonus that it stopped raining and the sun shined for the first time in 6 days!). Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

Building on roping up, we’ve also been practicing building anchor and pulley systems to actually be able to pull people out of a crevasse. Snow anchors allow us to take the weight of the fallen person off of ourselves and the pulley systems give us mechanical advantage to pull them up more easily (it was an added training bonus that it stopped raining and the sun shined for the first time in 6 days!). Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

When not out in the field we’ve been having evening lectures from guest faculty, starting to think about our own upcoming research, and taking in the views. Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

When not out in the field we’ve been having evening lectures from guest faculty, starting to think about our own upcoming research, and taking in the views. Photo credit: Kelcy Huston.

****Special happy belated birthday to my Dad – hope it was a great one, I love you!

 

Tour of Camp 17

By Zach Gianotti, Santa Clara University

Perched on the top of a ridgeline in between the Lemon Creek and Ptarmigan glaciers, just out of view of Juneau, sits Camp 17, the first camp for our JIRP crew.  A mix of seven buildings, 2.5 outhouses, and a weather station, it is a humble and close quarters start for this year’s 60-something JIRPers.

Light glimmers off the aluminum clad buildings in rare sunny events, visible from miles around. In fog — or more rightly labeled, clouds — on approach the buildings slowly grow into focus, sometimes not coming into sharp relief until mere feet away.

Camp 17 on a more common foggy day. Photo: Daniel Otto.

Camp 17 on a more common foggy day. Photo: Daniel Otto.

The Cook Shack is the largest and tallest building in camp, with a small arctic entry, a mud room of sorts, with a place to hang wet coats that leads to the radio room. Above the radio room door is a steep staircase to the upstairs overflow housing and rope/boot drying areas that look down over the main eating area, also accessible from the arctic entry.  The main area is filled with a few long dining tables, a kitchen at the far end with a pantry off the side, and it is decorated with the usual million nails for ropes and cups and plastered with Sharpie graffiti crafted by past JIRPers from floor to rafters.

The other communal area by day is a hop, skip, and a jump (all modes of transport prohibited on JIRP camp sites) away from the cook shack and is called the Library. The Library is where group gear is stored, helicopter transport staging occurs, where some students sleep, where lectures occur, and where a few old books reside tucked away in a corner. There is a wall that is lined with windows that overlook the Lemon Creek Glacier. They flood light into the building the size of a small garage, a place big enough to store a smart car, or a mini cooper, or a fiat 500, but not an American sedan of any sort.

A few of the Library from the outside on a sunny day. Photo: Daniel Otto.

A few of the Library from the outside on a sunny day. Photo: Daniel Otto.

This year the girls’ and gender neutral housing was split in between the library and the James’ Way, a quaint little dome-roofed structure the size of the ‘bed of a dump truck’ as one of the residents described it. The boys were annexed off in housing past the helicopter pad up along the path to Vesper Peak, in a building named the Arm Pit. The Pit, as the boys call it, had two floors filled with all the male students and their damp gear. The rather large design flaw of the Pit was its lack of ventilation, or even ventilation potential. It has one door and one openable small marine window upstairs. The collection of progressively wet and dirty clothes, coupled with a low number of clear days to open up our two ‘vents’, created a unique bouquet quite representative of the buildings name.

Camp 17 in the foreground with Cairn Peak in the background. Ptarmigan Glacier, off to the right, is a popular ski hill easily accessible from camp. Photo: Daniel Otto.

Camp 17 in the foreground with Cairn Peak in the background. Ptarmigan Glacier, off to the right, is a popular ski hill easily accessible from camp. Photo: Daniel Otto.

When talking about Camp 17 one cannot forget to mention the wet weather that was near ever-present at the camp. This forced us to spend our free time shoulder to shoulder in the Cook Shack or crammed in the Library practicing knots. This also provided those new to Southeast Alaska an accurate representation of the climate that I grew up with. The only difference is that at camp we only have heating and electricity for a few precious hours a day leading to next to no drying opportunities for humans and gear alike.

The inside of the Armpit, the domain of the male students. Wet gear hanging from the rafters makes for close quarters. Photo: Daniel Otto.

The inside of the Armpit, the domain of the male students. Wet gear hanging from the rafters makes for close quarters. Photo: Daniel Otto.

A True Alaskan Beginning

By Gavin McNamara, Dalhousie University

After a hectic day of packing, errands, showers, last minute phone calls, and final tastes of civilization, we were ready to hike to Camp 17. This is where our home base was for the first 10-12 days on the Juneau Icefield. Our ten person trail party got to the trailhead and began the long hike with some speed as we knew the trailing group, led by Ibai’s lightweight and fast mentality, would be at our heels. We were certain Ibai [JIRP's Safety Manager] meant business as Christoph heard Benjy exclaiming “I poured out half my GORP (Granola-Oats-Raisins-Peanuts) for you!” when Ibai was checking the weight of bags the night before.

So, after 4-5 hours of efficient movement through forest and steeply angled swamp, we came across an unforeseen obstacle: a large black bear munching on an unlucky goat. To top off this Wild Alaskan scene, there were bald eagles screeching and circling above the valley.

The bear eats the goat. Photo: Gavin McNamara.

The bear eats the goat. Photo: Gavin McNamara.

Other goats look on. Photo: Gavin McNamara.

Other goats look on. Photo: Gavin McNamara.

The black bear stood up over the goat and stared directly at us, chunks of bloody white hair dangling from its mouth. As it was clear the bear had no intention of deserting his coveted goat, we retreated to the ridge to decide upon a course of action. We were bound on both sides by high angled forest and rock bands, so we made the decision to wait for the other two trail parties before making any moves. We felt that there was safety in numbers, so with our larger group of 25 we traversed as high as possible above the bear in order to regain the trail. Luckily, the bear appeared to be in a complete food coma; we safely passed while the bear had dreams of his goat. The rest of the hike was spectacular and we welcomed our new home in the clouds at Camp 17 with cold and open arms. We relished in the comforts of our new rugged abode, happy to have made it past the bear and eager for our own hot meal.

The group successfully past the bear. Photo: Gavin McNamara.

The group successfully past the bear. Photo: Gavin McNamara.

A Chain of Mentorship

Matt Beedle

Director of Academics and Research

Today is a special day on the JIRP calendar. As you read this, the 2017 JIRP staff team – with excitement for the new field season despite the weather – is hiking to Camp 17 for “Staff Week”. These 12 days of opening JIRP’s first main camp, wilderness first aid training, glacier travel/rescue training, and (let’s be honest) at least a few runs on the Ptarmigan Glacier to test skis and snow conditions, kicks off the field season. It establishes more than physical goals and hard skills, however. The culture, community and camaraderie of JIRP 2017 begin to form today. While each season is unique, there are threads of commonality that span the many generations of JIRP field seasons and individual JIRPers. One of the most powerful threads in each field season is that of mentorship.

We’ve done quite a number of short pieces on JIRP history in recent years (see some of them here, here and here), but a component of JIRP that hasn’t been communicated in particular is the long history of mentorship. Post-JIRP, students regularly comment on the value of having tremendous access to inspiring staff members and faculty. The often cheek-by-jowl conditions of a JIRP camp, skiing for hours in a driving rain, discussion of ideas, problems and dreams allow for JIRP students to get to know one another well. These moments, however, are also shared with faculty and staff, moments that have been shared on the Juneau Icefield for decades. The JIRP story begins in the 1940s, but a chain of mentorship can be traced back in time even further.

John Muir first ventured to Alaska in 1879 for the first of his fabled canoe journeys through southeast Alaska. He wasn’t the first to journey here, as western sailors had been poking into the bays and fjords of southeast Alaska since Chirikov’s voyage of 1741, and the Tlingit people had called this part of the world home for many thousands of years prior. Muir’s 1879 voyage, however, did initiate a western investigation of the glaciers of southeast Alaska, enabled by his Tlingit guides.

John Muir and Reid's team at the Muir cabin in Glacier bay, 1890. Source: National Park Service

John Muir and Reid's team at the Muir cabin in Glacier bay, 1890. Source: National Park Service

On a subsequent trip to southeast Alaska in 1890, Muir spent time in Glacier Bay with Harry Fielding Reid and a team of scientists investigating the dynamics of Muir Glacier.  Reid’s subsequent Variations of Glaciers work would be a foundational effort for the World Glacier Monitoring Service of today. One of the individuals that Reid mentored and inspired was William O. (Bill) Field, known as one of the founders of modern glaciological study in North America. For his 1941 expedition to southeast Alaska, Field inquired with Bradford and Barbara Washburn in looking for a capable field assistant.The Washburns pointed him to Maynard Miller, a Harvard undergraduate who had been on their expedition to Mount Bertha the previous year. Field and Miller’s shared field experiences in 1941 and subsequent years gave rise to this important new direction to explain glacier behavior:

It became fairly clear to us in 1941 that a full explanation was more likely to be found in the upper elevations rather than at the terminus.
— W. O. Field and M. M. Miller, Geographical Review, 1950
Maynard Miller (right) explores the remnants of the Muir cabin in Glacier Bay during the 1941 expedition led by Bill Field. Source: Field, William Osgood. 1941 No Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media.

Maynard Miller (right) explores the remnants of the Muir cabin in Glacier Bay during the 1941 expedition led by Bill Field. Source: Field, William Osgood. 1941 No Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media.

After a few years of aerial reconnaissance and further investigation of the termini of glaciers of southeast Alaska, followed by a first exploration of the “high ice” of the Juneau Icefield in 1948, JIRP the annual field expedition began in 1949. It has continued ever since, and this chain of mentorship has been ongoing, from Field and Miller, to individuals such as Ed LaChapelle, Austin Post, Kurt Cuffey, Christina Hulbe, Steven Squyres, Kate Harris, Alison Criscitiello and many hundreds more. From this annual traverse of the Juneau Icefield, dreams, careers, adventures are launched.

It is challenging to keep track of the inspiring work that recent JIRP alumni are taking on, let alone the many hundreds who have come before them. A part of this inspiration has come from interactions with JIRP mentors: the long ski traverses filled with academic discussions, songs, and stories; the hardships and smiles shared in the field and back at camp; the guidance during the season and in the years that follow. With this view back at the long chain of mentorship through many decades of exploration of the icy corners of southeast Alaska, it is exciting to think of the JIRP staff of 2017. Slowly making their way to Camp 17 today, hiking in the literal and figurative footsteps of the many hundreds before, they are setting in motion the foundational community of JIRP 2017 - the community of staff, faculty and students that will continue this chain.

Note: Thanks to Bruce Molnia for being a JIRP mentor of mine and for pointing out the linkages back in time from Mal Miller, to Bill Field, to Harry Reid, and to John Muir.

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.