The Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States stretching 17 million acres across islands, mountain peaks, fjords and glaciers. Above & Beyond Alaska’s owners Sean and Becky Janes have explored this diverse terrain by foot, kayak, helicopter and provide guided tours to some of their favorite wilderness areas.
We joined one of their expert guides, Peter Nave (a Matt Damon look-alike) on a glacier trek to Mendenhall’s “underworld” and were spellbound by a surreal blue ice walls and caves. Peter picked us up in downtown Juneau and within 10 mins, we were at the trailhead. After we geared up, we started our hike to Mendenhall Glacier, previously known as the Auk Glacier named after a Tlingits band by John Muir.
The hike starts in the Mendenhall forest and curves along the lake. The trail is well maintained and marked as we made our way through switchbacks in the first mile. The remaining two and a half miles requires hiking on bedrock and some rock scrambling in steep areas of the trail.
When we arrived to the end of the lake and base of the glacier, we got outfitted with helmuts, crampons, and ice axes.
Our guide shared some basic glacial treking skills and we set out to explore the glacier.
We saw some incredible glacial formations, crevasses, streams, deep ice holes. We even tried some ice climbing and descended into a blue ice cave with a magical atmosphere – very surreal. We were spellbound! Watch the video at this link: Descending down ice wall into ice cave at Mendenhall Glacier.
This glacier extends from the mouth of Mendenhall Lake, to 12 miles into the Mendenhall Valley. Like most glaciers, it is continually changing – ever melting, collapsing, and growing in response to Mother Nature’s dynamic landscape. According to our guide, “Scientists measure this process by studying accumulation & ablation, or the mass-balance of an ice flow.” He provided us with insight to this river of ice that powers the planet, and how the mass-balance of a glacial environment is echoed in all aspects of our lives. At present, the glacier has a negative glacier mass and is continuing to retreat. In fact, our guide mentioned that in the past decade, the hike to the glacier now requires an additional 30 minutes, and will continue to be a longer hike to the base of the glacier as the glacier continues to retreat.
Below are some of the incredible images we saw on this day trekking to the ice cave.
Philippa Mace descending into the ice cave
Photos by James Wadley, Patricia Stone, and Above & Beyond Alaska
Whether you have a few hours or few days in Juneau, there are several adventure options to enjoy with Above & Beyond Alaska. They cater to groups or private guided adventures, and cater to your pace, ability and interests.
Hike in the vast Tongass National Forest. Put on your helmet, crampons, and ice axe for a Glacial Trek around Mendenhall Glacier. Kayak the coastlines and glacial lakes. View Wildlife – bears, eagles, whales, salmon, along the waters of the Inside Passage.
Below are a few of their trips and excursions:
GLACIER TREKKING TRIPS
Mendenhall Glacier Trek
Duration: 7.5 Hours
Private Mendenhall Glacier Trek & Ice Climb
Duration: 7.5 Hours
SEA KAYAKING TRIPS
Admiralty Wildlife Kayak – Brown Bear Sanctuary
Duration: 8 Hours – Exclusive permits with the Forest Service!
Tongass Coast Kayak
Duration: 5.5 Hours
Glacier Lake Kayak Rental Package (Self-Guided)
Duration: 4.5 Hours
Premium Kayak & Whale Watch
Duration: 6.5 Hours
Duration: Custom half-day or full-day trips catered to your schedule. If you want to spend more time ice climbing or trekking on the glacier, or sea kayaking on the water, we recommend booking a private trip with us.
Above & Beyond Alaska was founded by Sean and Becky Janes, who have explored the Tongass Wilderness by foot, helicopter and water taxi. Their company provides fully certified guides who blend expert instruction & interpretive knowledge for individuals, couples, families, and small groups of any ability level. All necessary gear & equipment is provided along with snacks & beverages specific to each trip style.
Book your Alaska adventures with Above & Beyond Alaska at:
Phone: 907-364-2333 Site: www.beyondak.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Patricia Stone, a travel writer based in Seattle
Thank you to Above & Beyond Alaska for inviting Global Adventuress on the Mendenhall glacial trek and ice caving adventure.
Amazing!? What month did you go?
Thanks Evan! We have been to Alaska many different times of the year, this was a late summer early fall trip (September) And we loved it!
Wow, Patricia. These shots and video clips are really extraordinary reminders of the true wonders of nature. They are wonderful reminders of a trek I did in the Talkeetna Mts of Alaska. Thanks so much for sharing your experience … and for reference to Above & Beyond Alaska!
Pls send photos of Talkeetna Mountains if you can – would love to share out. Thanks Ginna!