Mendenhall Glacier Ice Caves with Grandma

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SEAlpine

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Feb 4, 2014
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Grandma is in town from Pennsylvania and she was brave enough join us for a hike to the Mendenhall Glacier ice caves.

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Grandma looking out over the Mendenhall Glacier close to the entrance to the ice caves.

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Entrance to the caves. Poor grandma bonked her head off the overhanging ice (should have put a helmet on her).

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Reminded us very much of a narrow Utah slot canyon.

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Getting a bit narrow!

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Under the glacier in the ice caves, bit unnverving knowing you litterally have a glacier and tons of ice overhead. And I wish my phone took better pictures in low light conditions.

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My daughter exiting the caves back through the "slot".

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Under the glacier.
 
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Stephanie B

Steph and Blake
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Looks like a great family outing. And, yes, the cave certainly does have the appearance of Utah slot canyons. Thanks for sharing.
 

Miya

Because I am able.
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Oh my gosh....
These trip reports just boggle my mind! What an amazing journey! I need to be in an ice cave now haha.
Thank you for sharing! And go awesome grandma!!
 

Nick

Spiral out.
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Very cool. I'll be in Juneau a few days in late June/early July. A google search makes it look like I'd need a kayak to visit this, is that right?
 

SEAlpine

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Very cool. I'll be in Juneau a few days in late June/early July. A google search makes it look like I'd need a kayak to visit this, is that right?
In the winter when the lake is frozen you can walk/ski/skate across the lake to access the caves. Come summer time and when conditions are calm it is easiest to sea kayak across the lake starting from the near the Visitors Center. During warm days katabatic winds come off the glacier and can create large white cap waves across the lake. You can also hike a spur trail off the West Glacier Trail to access the caves.
 

Nick

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@SEAlpine - We're going to have packrafts with us now so we're planning on doing this on June 30th or July 1st. How critical are traction devices? Those of us with whitewater packrafts will probably float the Mendenhall River back to town as well. I've read up a bit on it, specifically that it can be class III at higher flows. Is it pretty safe to assume that that would be the season for higher flows? Know anything else about it?
 

SEAlpine

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@SEAlpine - We're going to have packrafts with us now so we're planning on doing this on June 30th or July 1st. How critical are traction devices? Those of us with whitewater packrafts will probably float the Mendenhall River back to town as well. I've read up a bit on it, specifically that it can be class III at higher flows. Is it pretty safe to assume that that would be the season for higher flows? Know anything else about it?
I'm not sure what the conditions of the caves are like right now but assuming you can access them ice grippers would be nice. If you need to borrow some let me know I have a bunch. I'm not a whitewater rafter so I can't comment on what class the river will be at. But that time of year the glacier is starting to rapidly melt and if it has recently rained flows could be even higher. A bigger concern to me would be paddling across the lake if air temps are warm and the katabatic winds pick up.

https://www.juneauempire.com/news/3-calls-for-help-in-1-hour-emergency-responders-busy-at-the-glacier/

Another fun option for glacier/packrafts would be to hike ~5miles to the Herbert Glacier and paddle back down the Herbert River to the road.

https://adventureflow.us/project/herbert-glacier-trail/
 

Nick

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Thanks @SEAlpine. I figure if we do Mendenhall it'll be earlier in the day. At least it sounds like those katabatic winds come down off the glacier so at least in close to the right direction hopefully.

Herbert Glacier looks awesome, especially because it's probably not nearly as busy. Thanks for that tip! Let me know if you think of anything else we should look at!
 

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