Truth be told, ice climbing is one activity where pictures speak louder than words! But I’m excited to share the events of the past few days with you, so you get lots of words anyway…
We had three days on the Matanuska Glacier, in a structured program that allowed all of us to slowly grow comfortable with a challenging activity. The first day featured training in gear use and care – including the comical “duck walk” used to ascend gradual slopes in crampons! – as well as environmental education about glacial features and processes. It wasn’t hard to engage students on that point; Matanuska is equal parts dramatic and mysterious, with glowing blue crevasses, echoing moulins, and intricate networks of rills and pools. It’s a space that definitely lends itself to questions!
The weather was gorgeous on that first day – not so our second day, which we used to learn skills such as rappelling and anchor-building. Wind and rain swept over the glacier, and students alternated between learning at stations and huddling together for warmth. As usual, this group exceeded our expectations; they remained attentive during the sessions, and led creative games that kept their bodies moving and circulation (relatively) active. And just when we were starting to flag, lo! The guiding company’s office staff appeared at our site with thermos upon thermos of hot chocolate! Once they heard the weather report, they decided to tramp across the ice in driving rain to make sure we stayed warm. You can imagine how much we welcomed that gesture!
On the third day, we were able to put all our skills to use in a full day of ice climbing – which happened to be sunny, breezy, and beautiful! Guides set up outstanding routes for us; students were lowered into swirling moulins and vibrant crevasses where they could hear the inner rushings and tricklings of the glacier water. Personally, I enjoyed how the relatively straightforward nature of entry-level ice climbing allows students to focus on a few challenging but simple movements and rhythms…which means that all of us saw enormous improvement between our first climb and our third, and our third climb and our fifth! Energy was high as students cheered each other up and out of hidden ice cliffs. Moreover, guides put up strategic ropes for viewing the climbing, which allowed us to capture some of the dramatic shots that accompany this post.
We hope you enjoy these images of students in an environment – and activity – that few people ever get the chance to experience. Shout-outs to our MICA guides, who went above and beyond to deliver us a safe, fun, and educational experience. Compliments as well to Mat (who actively trained for ice climbing prior to this program, and so crushed everything he climbed!), Lily (who overcame her fear of heights to navigate around the glacier), Adrienne (who helped instructor Kyle through some very challenging moments), Audrey (for realizing that the “concentration game” would keeps hands warm). As usual, there are many students that shone and too many memories to share. Hopefully you’ll hear all about it from your child in a few short weeks!
Meantime, we’re preparing to head out for some whitewater rafting today. Then it’s on to our longest backpack – a six-day trek through some beautiful territory! You’ll hear all about it soon…