A Lesson of Their Own

A Lesson of Their Own

Jeff Gunderson, College of Wooster

“How is everyone?” my trail leader asked after a long stretch across the entire Lemon Creek Glacier. Perhaps in the royal sense, my answer to that question would be that I had never been better. I mean, I was immersed in a beautiful landscape, surrounded by incredible people with many having expertise in my immediate academic interests. In that moment, however, I simply replied with a resigned ‘so-so’ gesture and continued to trudge on. My feet were sopping wet with freezing cold snow melt, the emerging blisters on the backs of my heels were each the size of a quarter and the windy rain had reduced visibility to a whopping 8 meters in all directions. All I could think in the midst of my disquietude was that I “only had two more hours of this awful slog to go” before I could return to the shelter of camp 17. To put it aptly, I was miserable for I had brought myself lower than did any of my perceived woes. 

Rainy day out on the Lemon Creek Glacier. Photo by author.

Rainy day out on the Lemon Creek Glacier. Photo by author.

I have since received time to reflect and the sun’s rays to rejuvenate (seriously, I’ve never been so happy to see the sun). As such, I have concluded there is something powerful in experiencing your own ugliness. By putting on display the worst possible reality you are capable of propagating, you enable yourself to improve and grow as an individual. Trust me, as someone who nearly ritualistically makes love to the snow by how much he falls on skis, I know now that patience and a positive attitude are crucial to survival on the Juneau Icefield.

Sunny blue sky on the Fourth of July. Photo by author.

Sunny blue sky on the Fourth of July. Photo by author.

I am able to see the beauty inherent to the otherwise ordinary or mundane. Take the Fourth of July, for example. With the humility gained from the day before, falling during ski practice was a pleasure and loads of fun. The sky was a whole new vibrant shade of blue and the sun shone with a brilliance I hadn’t ever taken the time to appreciate. In the evening the most majestic sunset emerged, dousing the sky in strokes of bright orange and pink. Even though I had expected the Juneau Icefield Research program to expand my academic horizons, I feel as the mountains and glaciers are teaching a lesson of their own. As to what that may be I am only beginning to understand. So the next time I am asked “How is everyone?” without regard to my immediate deterrents, I will reply with “great!” and wholeheartedly mean it.

Sunset on the Fourth of July. Photo by author.

Sunset on the Fourth of July. Photo by author.

A First Reflection

A First Reflection

Donovan Dennis, Occidental College

During an early lecture here at Camp 17, a visiting faculty (Jason Amundson) began his talk by noting that few believed John Muir when he hypothesized the mechanism of formation for the Yosemite Valley was a large glacial network. So, he came to somewhere he could see glaciers in action (Alaska), to support it.

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-US 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0in;
	mso-para-margin-right:0in;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0in;
	line-height:115%;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
    View of Lemon Creek Glacier from Camp 17, morning of July 4. Photo by author.

View of Lemon Creek Glacier from Camp 17, morning of July 4. Photo by author.

I can’t fact check the story (no WiFi here on the Icefield), but regardless of its accuracy, it caught my attention about the double-edged sword that is “seeing to believe.” Many of us are here, arguably stranded on this icefield, interested in studying the science behind climate change. Unlike the five billion people who will never participate in JIRP, see the icefield and fall under its monochrome spell, we have the remarkable benefit of seeing to believe. We can see the terminus changes; the fresh rock never before exposed to the elements; the blue ice appearing higher and higher upglacier; and for those who stick around for more than one season, we can see the striking changes in mass balance or “glacial health” from year to year. 

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-US 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0in;
	mso-para-margin-right:0in;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0in;
	line-height:115%;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
   Ptarmigan Glacier from Camp 17. Photo by author.

Ptarmigan Glacier from Camp 17. Photo by author.

On top of all these tangible changes, however, we supplement our experience living on the icefield with the clairvoyance of scientific research—quantitative analysis and theories—to round out our awareness. Others, those who aren’t intimately familiar with the changing state of global climate, don’t have the same emotional bond with the ice. They don’t make their livelihood from it, or as in the case of many JIRPers, live for it.

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-US 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0in;
	mso-para-margin-right:0in;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0in;
	line-height:115%;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
   Story time with Alf Pinchak, on the ice since 1967. Photo by author.

Story time with Alf Pinchak, on the ice since 1967. Photo by author.

Because of our unparalleled experience on the ice, we have the responsibility to pass on our knowledge and understanding of the crisis at hand. I invite Senator  Inhofe to visit the Icefield and look us square in the face, or better yet square in the recessional termini, and try to tell us climate change is a hoax. No person who finds himself this in love with the Earth on a nunatak 5,000 feet above Juneau would believe him. Thus, it is the responsibility of those 32 students on that nunatak to take their message home—to spread out within their various fields of study and career and use science and experience, not political passion, to inspire others to find their own way to love and protect the world.

On the Adoption of Rocks

On the Adoption of Rocks

Joel Wilner, Middlebury College

Those who come to the Juneau Icefield often have distinct motivations. Some come for the adventure, others for the pursuit of knowledge; many for both. To get away from the neon screens and nine-to-fives of “normal” life is as good a reason as any. But invariably, one motivation touches all: the innate desire to let nature envelop oneself; to allow rain and ice and wind pierce the inside of the skin and flow; pulsing deep and through.

And then some want to literally take nature with them and become the adoptive parents of nature.

Meet Balboa the rock. JIRPers Tadhg Moore and James O’Neil found Balboa on last Thursday’s day hike to the Herbert Glacier. They were stunned when they found the little guy sitting by a stream near the glacier’s terminus, lost and freezing cold.

Tadhg (left) and James (right) show Balboa to his first proglacial lake. Photo by author.

Tadhg (left) and James (right) show Balboa to his first proglacial lake. Photo by author.

Balboa revealed his amazing story to Tadhg and James. He was born many millions of years ago in a vastly different landscape. Balboa doesn’t remember a whole lot from those days. He also doesn’t know much about his birth parents, other than that they were probably of a very similar chemical composition and geological origin as him – as the saying goes, the rock doesn’t fall far from the rock (unless you’re a glacial erratic). Then, after the end of a recent glacial advance, he was deposited, rolling off from the Herbert, his host glacier. He plucked up the courage to go off on his own.

“Balboa certainly has a well-rounded personality,” Tadhg told me. “He might seem to be hard-headed at first, but once you get to know him, there’s more than meets the rock hammer.”

“Balboa’s super smart, too - his mind is crystal-clear,” James added. “You know, a lot of quartz crystals.”

Tadhg and James made sure Balboa was perfectly comfortable as they brought him back to JIRP headquarters at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau. He was finally given a warm home to live in and oxidize to his heart’s desire. Balboa was introduced to the other JIRP students, who warmly welcomed him into their lives. Tadhg and James even baptized Balboa in Juneau’s Auke Lake during a beautiful ceremony.

The new parents stressed that they wanted to open Balboa’s eyes to other glaciers. Later in the week, they carried the hefty rock up on a hike to the Mendenhall Glacier. Despite the extra burden, Tadhg insists that it was well worth it, and plans to carry Balboa across the Juneau Icefield for the remainder of the summer.

As for Balboa’s plans for life after the Icefield? The rock told me that he’s on to bigger and better things. Right now, the goal is to raise a family and settle down, preferably settling on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean as erosional sediment.  

The new parents with adorable Balboa. Photo by author. 

The new parents with adorable Balboa. Photo by author. 


The Journey from Juneau to Camp 17

The Journey from Juneau to Camp 17

Arianna Varuolo-Clarke

We started off on the morning of Tuesday, June 30th from the Home Depot Parking Lot in Juneau. The trail name is the Lemon Creek as it follows the Lemon Creek River which begins at the Lemon Creek Glacier. This is approximately our destination where the first camp of the season, Camp 17, as it is perched on a nunatak between Ptarmagin and Lemon Creek Glaciers. If we are travelling on the Lemon Creek trail along the Lemon Creek River which begins at the Lemon Creek glacier, then we must be close, right? But this is not the case. A full days hike lies between the Home Depot Parking lot and Camp 17.

We start off the hike walking through the rainforest. This may sound odd as we are hiking on to an icefield and but part of Juneau is classified as a temperate rainforest climate. Hiking through this rainforest includes the “Vertical Swamp”. The Vertical Swamp is a section of the hike in which it is relatively steep for about an hour. This section is also typically pretty wet with water running down the trail you are trying to ascend, hence the swamp part. Luckily it was not too swampy for us on this day, but it was indeed still very steep.

A little while after going through the Vertical Swamp, we ascend further above tree-line. At this point, the terrain mellows for a little while as we travel through rolling hills. We heard a few marmots on this part of the trail but I did not get to see any of them.  Soon we get to a point where we can see the Ptarmagin Glacier. This is the steep long glacier that now stands between my trail party and Camp 17. If we looked close enough through the clouds we could even see the camp, but we were still about 2 hours away. In order to get onto the glacier we first had to travel through the valley. We hike over landscape that was once covered by the glacier. Then we walk over snow for a little while and there are large exposed cliffs to our left as we are hiking. At one point our trail party leader, Adam, spots mountain goats on the cliffs. There were about 20 of them! I think I heard one as it was running along the cliff because I heard the distinct sound of heavy strong hooves hitting stone and reminded me of a horse galloping. 

View of Camp 17 from the outhouse, called the Venus Fly Trap. Photo by author.

View of Camp 17 from the outhouse, called the Venus Fly Trap. Photo by author.

Once we get onto the glacier we are about an hour long steep hike up the Ptarmagin until reaching Camp 17, our home for the next 10 or so days. To ascend this kind of terrain it is truly a matter of just one step in front of the other and one step at a time as we climb the glacier. Ibai, another field staff member, skied down to retrieve my backpack and that was one of the happiest moments of my day, only to be topped by finally arriving atop the nunatak at Camp 17. Some of the folks that had already arrived came out to cheer us on during the last bit of the hike. At the top there were a lot of high fives and hugs and we were all quickly rushed inside for dinner. When I walked into the cookshack it was like entering a new world:  the Icefield world. Everyone just looked so cozy and excited and they were all so welcoming. It was a really great experience and I look forward to the rest of the summer with more similar experiences!

A view from Camp 17 looking towards the dead branch of the Norris Glacier. Photo by author.

A view from Camp 17 looking towards the dead branch of the Norris Glacier. Photo by author.