We Got Halfway Across The Matanuska Glacier, and Then Plans Changed
// by hygienist Taluah Pride //
Things don’t always go as planned, but that doesn’t mean there’s any lack of adventure.
Our plan for the weekend consisted most importantly to get out of town where there wasn’t smoke from all the wildfires all over Alaska. We decided to head north, to Matanuska glacier. There were 5 of us; Nick, Nikki, Taluah, Holly and Nick’s friend Chad, who was visiting from Colorado. We were excited to show Chad the glacier, as he has never seen one before. Once we headed out of town the smoke slowly started to disappear and it was getting clearer and clearer. We got to Matsu and felt like we could breathe! Sunny skies, 60 degree weather, evidence of fall with the beautiful colors all around, and a slight bite to the air.
Our plan was to trek back on to the Matanuska glacier where it was flat enough to cross it so we could camp at the base of Wickersham Mountain. The only way to reach Wickersham Mountain on foot in the summer is across the glacier. Since the glacier has receded significantly and is ever changing by the day, the route was somewhat unknown and our guide Nick was leading us through what he remembered from a year ago. We had spikes on but no other glacier climbing gear, so it was important to do it safely and we hoped to find an easy route. Our backpacks were loaded with camping gear; tents, sleeping bags, and enough food and water to get us to tomorrow afternoon, when we would plan to head back. It was a beautiful sunny day, 60 degree weather, smoke free, clean air. We trekked for a few hours, taking our time while we scouted out the route and explored while making our way. We came across crevasses on either side of where we were trekking, and the further back on the glacier we went, the narrower our path became and the closer and larger the crevasses get. If we were to slip, it could go badly. Very badly.
At this point, it was 4 in the afternoon. The significant changes in the glacier since Nick had last been this way made the trail unpredictable and dangerous, and we had too far to go before nightfall. We didn’t want to risk having to spend the night on the glacier, or turning around even later which would make it difficult to get back if it was dark. We decided to head back to the beginning of the glacier and camp there. We still got to explore around on the glacier and witness the incredible changes this majestic and ancient ice field can go through. We all felt grateful for this experience and it still made for an adventure filled with hiking and glacier trekking. The following day we hiked Lions Head trail. A steep but short trail that provides 360 degree view of the massive glacier. Talking amongst ourselves at the top, we were saying “ we were right there, we just needed to trek that way and across”…. Next time!!
That night we camped on the side of the rushing glacier fed Matanuska River. The weather had proved to be amazing yet again, and the feeling of fall in the air felt like a perfect close to the incredible summer we have had.