(Written by Katrina)
In early August, we went to visit Alaska and Michael’s parents for a short visit, and also got to re-meet-up with Erik’s family.
Our first day: Michael, Erik, and I took the scenic Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Placer River, where we hiked 3 miles to Spencer Lake.
|Bridge across Placer River, along hike towards Spencer Glacier|
|Michael and Katrina|
|Michael and Erik|
At Spencer Lake, we packrafted on the lake to the terminus of the Spencer Glacier, exploring the fascinating way the ice spills into the water.
|Spencer Glacier, viewed from the lake|
|Exploring Spenscr Glacier by packraft|
|Erik in yellow boat, Katrina in green|
|Erik eating a chunk of glacier-ice|
|Erik on Spencer Glacier (having managed the difficult extraction from packraft onto the ice)|
|Exploring the ice caves created underneath glacier chunks|
From there, we paddled past icebergs of fantastic shapes, where I could easily imagine creatures of all shapes and sizes frozen by enchantment, but ready to spring back to life with the right spell (like the Narnian courtyard filled with stone sculptures of animals waiting for life to be breathed back into them).
|Icebergs towards the end of Spencer Lake|
|Distant view of icebergs from far shore of Spencer Lake|
|Paddling through some of the larger icebergs|
We then paddled on the Class II Placer River back to the car – though the rain unfortunately obscured what would have been beautiful mountain views. (If you're curious what it looks like in good weather, see the bottom third of Michael's blog post from two years ago, when he did this trip with his dad: http://blog.michaelzlat.com/2016/08/alaska-2016-hiking-rafting-and-more.html)
* * *
On the following day, I had long been looking forward to the rare adventure of going ice climbing at the Matanuska Glacier. Michael and I got a quick glimpse into ice climbing on a trip to Mt. Kazbek last summer, and found it to be remarkably awesome. But without more knowledge about glaciers, ice, anchors, and assembling the right gear (including ropes and climbing-specific crampons and ice axes), ice climbing is not something we would attempt by ourselves. This guided adventure with NOVA was an excellent and more thorough introduction into the sport, along with a great tour of the glacier. The location itself was incredibly scenic, with the Matanuska glacier melting into various pools and mudflats in the beautiful mountain-surrounded valley. And as an added bonus, Ariel – also visiting Alaska – was able to join us for his first experience with ice climbing.
|Michael (with his new go-pro camera on his helmet), Katrina, and Ariel|
|On the Matanuska Glacier|
We each had four climbs total: two climbing up a low-angled wall, one being lowered towards a crystalline-blue pool and then climbing back up, and a final, a more challenging climb that involved being lowered into a crevasse before climbing back up the fully vertical, very hard ice (its crust having never been softened by the sun). It was an awesome experience!
First and second climbs, on the same, low-angled wall:
|Katrina on the first of her four ice climbs (complete with crampons on feet, harness, helmet, and two ice-climbing-specific ice axes)|
|Michael being lowered after completing his first ice-climb|
|Michael being lowered after first ice-climb|
|Katrina being lowered down in order to being third climb|
|Katrina after having been lowered beside the crystalline-blue pool filled with melted glacier-water, ready to begin her third climb|
|Michael about to begin his third climb, with the ice-climbing-specific ice axes|
Ariel finishing his third climb:
|Michael being lowered towards a crevasse for the fourth climb|
|Michael being lowered deeper into the crevasse|
|Michael deep in the crevasse, about to begin his fourth climb|
|Michael climbing back up from the crevasse|
|Continuing to climb up|
|Success! The most challenging of the four ice-climbs completed!|
Video clips of Michael's climb:
Video of Ariel climbing:
|Katrina being lowered for her fourth climb|
|Katrina being lowered towards the crevasse|
|Deep in the crevasse|
|Katrina climbing up|
|And continuing to climb up...|
Beautiful views of the Matanuska Glacier, which is incredibly scenic in its own right:
|Beautiful pools at the base of the glacier|
|Michael with his new go-pro camera|
|Ariel in crampons|
* * *
On the following day, we went to one of my all-time favorite hikes: the start of Crow’s Pass, this time with low-lying clouds and mist blowing through:
|Can you spot the mountain goat?|
|Our third glacier seen in three days: this one terminating in a rushing waterfall|
Before leaving Alaska, we enjoyed driving up to Talkeetna where we stayed with Erik and his family at a cabin by the lake. It was a lovely quick jaunt to Alaska!