The Juneau Icefield Traverse

 

The Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP) is an eight-week immersion in the wilderness of the Juneau Icefield, during which participants (undergraduate, graduate, and high school juniors and seniors) traverse from Juneau, Alaska to Atlin, British Columbia. 

The program starts in Juneau where students receive initial mountain safety training, introductory academic lectures to prepare them for the Icefield, and field trips to nearby glaciers.

From Juneau, members of the safety staff lead students and faculty on a one- or two-day hike up to the first of JIRP's primary field camps, Camp 17. Camp 17 is accessible on foot and straddles the ridge between the relatively small Ptarmigan and Lemon Creek Glaciers. This makes it an ideal base for both safety training and further introductory lectures. 

From Camp 17, students and staff ski two days to Camp 10, our second major camp, located above the Taku Glacier. Here students start their individual projects guided by faculty mentors, assist in faculty research, and continue with the academic program.

After field research, exploration, and in-camp academics at Camp 10 participants travel to Camp 18. This camp is perched between two icefalls above the awe-inspiring Gilkey Glacier. It's location, in an entirely different type of glacial environment, lends itself to fresh set of field trips, research objectives, and discussions. Students and faculty continue work on their research projects and do preliminary data analysis. 

The final leg of the journey consists of a one-day ski from Camp 18 to Camp 26, followed by another day's hike down the Llewellyn Glacier to Atlin Lake. Students complete their projects in Atlin, where they communicate their results to local residents during a public presentation before returning to Juneau by bus and ferry.

 


JIRP provides a unique opportunity for students to gain both practical and theoretical exposure to a variety of different aspects of the Earth Sciences. It is the best – and grandest – Earth Sciences classroom in the world.
— Dr. Benjamin Santer, JIRP Faculty; Investigator of Climate Change, Lawrence Livermore National Labs; Member U.S. National Academy of Sciences

Our Classroom: the Juneau Icefield

 

The Juneau Icefield

Our classroom is the Juneau Icefield, situated in the Coast Mountains of the Tongass National Forest and Atlin Provincial Park.  This natural setting serves as educator, inspiration, and host for our summer program.  Students, staff and faculty traverse the Icefield, conduct research, participate in a curriculum of lectures and research projects, and live in this amazing landscape.

The Juneau Icefield covers an area the size of Rhode Island, and includes some 50 outlet glaciers. The Icefield straddles the Coast Mountains and exists because of the predominantly cool, wet maritime climate. 

While crossing the Juneau Icefield students traverse the Ptarmigan, Lemon Creek, Norris, Taku, and Llewellyn glacier systems.  One- and two-day journeys lead us from one established camp to another. These permanent camp serve as a base for one or two weeks and trail parties travel locally for day trips and short overnights. 

Facilities

We maintain 11 permanent field stations and a dozen temporary camps on the Juneau Icefield and peripheral areas. The Icefield covers a wilderness region of 5,000 square miles, about half of which is covered by glacial ice. Our main research stations are groups of permanent buildings and we maintain a range of camping equipment to set up temporary snow camps. Throughout the summer we maintain communications with Juneau, Atlin, and between camps with VHF radio and satellite phones. Most participants travel every day by foot or by ski, but we use snow machines and helicopter support for logistical support where necessary. Ground transport is on foot or on skis. All members take their turns with camp chores, from cooking, to radio duty, weather observations, and repair work.

 

 


Copyright 2014 Foundation for Glacier and Environmental Research (FGER), unless otherwise noted.