Category Archives: ice cave

Bad Idea

I can’t believe we are back on the ice cave trail, slipping along the edge of an open crevasse. Because of a recent cold streak, I thought the path would be safe. But I hadn’t given full credit to the power of winter sun. 

            We had no trouble crossing the ice of Mendenhall Lake. One of Aki’s favorite human friends joined us. The easy trail allowed us to enjoy watching the glacier grow in size as we approached it.  Snow still covered the rocky peninsula that serves as a kittiwake rookery each summer.  I searched it without success for ptarmigan feeding on willow catkins. 

            A large slab of ice formed from snowmelt covered the trail just above the lake. Instead of the easy walking we enjoyed on our last visit, we had to scrabble up and over ice to leave the lake. The trail improved after that so we could appreciate the jumble of pyramid-shapes that form the glacier’s icefall. 

              We stop to check out a minor ice cave but It looked like a muddy hole so we didn’t go in. We pushed on to the second cave, which is lined with aquamarine ice. To get there we have to pass through a section of icy trail and steep, snow-covered chutes. 

            Aki watches her humans slip and slide down the trail, like the nursery maid she thinks herself to be.  A golden retriever joins us just before we reach the cave. The big dog distracts Aki for a few seconds. Then she is back on human duty until I pretzel my way through an ice labyrinth and disappear into the cave. Neither she nor the retriever followed me.  


The Ice Cave

Aki is leading some out-of-town guests and me across Mendenhall Lake to the glacial ice cave. Mount McGinnis and the Mendenhall Towers form a jagged skyline against the indigo sky. It’s easy walking. Previous ice cave pilgrims have pounded our path smooth. 

            We got a late start. It’s still only 23 degrees F but the temperature is rising. Even now snow melt is seeping onto the moraine trail, making it too slipper to use without poodle paws or ice cleats. We have both. I ask hikers returning from the glacier if they made it to the cave. None managed it. Undeterred, Aki presses on, leading us across the mile-wide lake and onto the moraine. 

            To avoid sliding into a crevasse or rocks, we climb up hillsides rather than risk ice-covered sections of the trail. Translucent slabs of ancient ice line the trail, encouraging us to press on to the cave. 

            A jumble of clear, blue-tinted ice forms the only access to the cave. Aki refuses to enter. But her humans pretzel their way into the aquamarine-colored chamber. It has the same scalloped roof of the other ice caves we have visited. The roof and walls of those caves imprisoned round, foot-sized rocks. None decorate this cave. 

            Drawn by a patch of bright, white light striking the floor on the opposite side of the cave, I cross a still-frozen stream and enter a vertical tube of scalloped ice. Above a series of ice lens offer circular views of blue sky and clouds. I can’t think of another view like it.