Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Melting Ice Cave of Mendenhall Glacier

After hearing recent news that the entrance to the popular Mendenhall Glacier ice cave had collapsed, Cleo Lagunas and myself decided to go check it out in person.  The remnants of the collapse were scattered at the entrance, though obviously smaller in size due to a weeks worth of melting.  Even more interesting though was a noticeable thinning of the ice cave roof.  We walked to the end of the cave were a moulin was located, which was also the location of significant sub-glacial melt water flowing from some distant source through an exit in the cave.  The diameter of this feature had expanded significantly since I had last visited the cave over the winter...no big surprise.  But the entrance of the cave is also shrinking...the end result being a reduction in the length of the cave.  This, combined with the thinning roof adds up to an ice cave that doesn't have long to live.  I'm estimating it will be gone within a few more years.  After exploring the ice cave, we hiked up along side the glacier on a lateral moraine until we encountered a tower of glacial ice slowly flowing downhill from the upper glacier.  We looked back from where we came from and viewed a vast area of thinning glacier that is apparently not being replenished by new ice.  Sadly this part of the glacier will likely melt away during the years to come.

Recently collapsed entrance to the Mendenhall Glacier ice cave.
Sub-glacial melt water finding an exit through the ice cave.
Beneath the cascade of ice exiting the upper glacier.
View of the thinning glacier.  This area doesn't appear to be replenished by new glacial ice, and thus will likely melt away during the near future.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Granite Creek Trail - Juneau, AK

I hiked the Granite Creek Trail via Perseverance Trail on July 10th.  I would argue that this trek is one of the top ten alpine hikes in the United States.  After departing Perseverance Trail, the Granite Creek Trail meanders through thick brush, and then emerges out of the thicket next to a cascading waterfall.  Continuing on past this first waterfall, the trail skirts past a ravine that shows clear signs of avalanche scars.  After this section, a large glacially carved basin blanket with grass and flowers comes into view, with snow fed streams crisscrossing the valley.  After another mile of hiking, the trail begins to steeply ascend up a series of moraines.  Signs of past glaciation become more and more obvious as you hike past several cirques.  The trail apparently ascends to the top of a ridge located a couple thousand feet above the basin.  I didn't get a chance to reach the ridge, but without a doubt will be back to finish the trail in the future.