The JIRP Spirit

By Muriel Will

[NOTE:  Muriel wrote this post at Camp 10 on July 25th (JIRPmas), but helicopter logistics have caused a delay in posting.  Our apologies for the delayed JIRPmas wishes!] 

T’was the day of JIRPmas, and all through the camp every JIRPer was stirring, why even the mouse. The snow pits were all dug by the students with care, while hopes of helicopters danced through our heads.  

Alexei Doncov, and Leah Nelson enjoying the afternoon sun on the Camp 10 deck with our JIRPmas ski tree. Photo by Muriel Will.

Greetings and salutations from Camp 10. Today (July 25th) is an honorary JIRP holiday, “JIRPmas”. We have all been busy on our breaks between lectures and field activities, making gifts to later exchange with our JIRP secret Santas.

Although relaxing days such as this are a great respite after long days of digging and skiing, the true spirit of our team (and the extravagance of the landscape where we find ourselves) is most memorable when down on the glacier. Of the 3 mass balance camping trips going out from Camp 10, I was able to attend the second.  For this trip, eleven students and four staff went up the Northwest Branch of the Taku Glacier with the intention of digging four mass balance pits. The first day (June 22nd) started off with some laughs and regretted goodbyes, as five of our visiting staff (including Alf and Stanley Pinchak, Jason Amundson, Bill Isherwood, and Jay Fleisher) departed our nunatak hideaway to return to their everyday lives.

After a three hour ski to our camp site, we split our strengths between: digging our first pit, setting up tents, and making our kitchen. A 4 inch ice layer approximately a foot down in the snow pack, provided a perfect floor for our kitchen, though a bit of an obstacle for our digging crew . On the second day we split up into two groups, with each of us debating which view we wanted to see most. The day could not be more ideal, with beach-worthy weather, we spent the day in shorts digging and chatting as we dug our pit of nearly 5 meters deep. However, that was before we realized we had dug almost half a meter beyond last year’s ablation layer (the previous summer’s buried surface). After a long day’s work we began our 2 hour ski back toward our temporary home, and at 21:30 we found ourselves in a sunset landscape that can only be described as unbelievable. Skiing over snow turned pink by the setting sun, towards a rainbow stretching clear across the sky, the beauty could only be made more remarkable by the fire in the clouds at our backs. Tired and wet from the rain now misting as we skied, we were greeted after a nearly 12 hour day, by the hoots and howls of the second digging team.  Our evening finished with a dinner of hot lentil stew, which the second team had prepared, but had refrained from eating until our much later return. The final pit of the trip was completed quickly, (July 24th) with all hands on deck, and although sad to leave our snowy getaway, a good dinner and dry feet were a welcome homecoming.

July 23, a fiery sunset that can never be truly captured by a picture, nor described in words. Photo by Muriel Will.

And so from Camp 10, merry JIRPmas to all.  May we all find the strength in our limbs, a fire in our hearts, and may we never take for granted the people and places we encounter along the way.