Ice Climbing in Seward

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The Mission: Scale the crevasses of Exit Glacier in Seward, Alaska.

The Prep: 
Tourist season in Alaska is short-lived so making reservations in advance is recommended. After much research, I decided on Exit Glacier Guides- reservations can be easily made on their website. The trip is a bit pricey at $185, but well worth it!

The Gear: 
Exit Glacier Guides graciously provides all climbing gear. Check out their website for a list of what you’ll need:
http://www.exitglacierguides.com/trip_information

The Execution:
We arrived at the shop early and immediately felt comfortable with the staff who helped outfit us with crampons and a pack! Once we were fitted and packed, our small group hopped in the van for the short ride to the park. We moved at a fairly quick pace as we hiked to the trail to the glacier in order to optimize our climbing time. The hike took about an hour and a half with little to no stopping. I was happy with my decision to wear multiple layers as I got quite hot on the hike, but once at the glacier the wind was absolutely freezing!

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When we arrived at the glacier, the guides helped us strap on our crampons and ran us through safety and the basics on walking on the glacier. After a short introduction to climbing basics, we practiced our skills on an easy route to get used to the motions and using the crampons and ice picks. Taking turns climbing and resting was a great way to not only to catch our breath, but to watch and learn from the others in the group.

After a few practice climbs, we moved on to the crevasses! The guides would set up two routes at each crevasse throughout the day- one easier and one more difficult. After picking my route and getting hooked up to my belayer guide, I took my first plunge into a crevasse. The guide slowly lowered me to the bottom, talking me through the process to ensure I was comfortable. Once at the bottom of the crevasse, my guide directed me on how to initiate the climb- reaching and hammering my picks into the ice, pulling myself up and kicking my crampons into the ice to gain my footing. This took much more arm strength than I anticipated and by the time I reached the top, I was exhausted, but thrilled with my accomplishment. We had the opportunity to climb several crevasses before we had to break and hike back exhausted and basking in the glory of our accomplishments.

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The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: moderate
  • The guides made the trip. They were very knowledgeable, friendly, and made the trip a ton of fun!
  • Wear layers! The temperature varies dramatically from the hike to the glacier.
  • The hike to the glacier is fast paced and you will be wearing a pack. Make sure you are physically prepared for this.
  • The only bathroom is at the bottom of the mountain. Bring TP and be ready to go behind a rock if need be.
  • Sunglasses are recommended, the sun reflecting off the ice can really hurt the eyes.
  • This is an all day tour. Be ready to commit to an 8 hour day.
  • This was one of my favorite experiences, but if you’re not ready to climb, they also offer glacier hikes that are not as rigorous.