Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
I smiled as I dug my crampons forcefully into the ice underfoot. I'd forgot how satisfying that sound and sensation were — maybe even better than crunching through fallen leaves in autumn. Certainly better than the sound of ordinary hiking boots on packed earth.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
Yes, there's something very special about hiking on ice with metal spikes attached to your feet. Mostly because the scenery usually looks like this:
Alaska's Matanuska Glacier was not my first glacier hike (last year, I climbed on the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand). But I'm now convinced that glacier trekking is like bungy jumping: it doesn't matter how many times you do it — it's still guaranteed to be amazing.
The morning of this particular glacier hike could not have been more perfect. It was cool and clear — ideal for some outdoor exertion.
A group of us set off early from Anchorage, bound for the Sutton area and the Matanuska Glacier. The 2-hour bus ride provided us with countless postcard-perfect mountain scenes, getting us pumped up for our adventure.
We arrived at MICA Guides, paid a special access fee for the glacier (it's located on private land), and collected all the gear we'd need for the hike. This included boots, crampons, and helmets — all the safety essentials. Thankfully, this hike would not require rain gear; only sunglasses!
Our large group split into 3 smaller ones, with 6 of us joining a guide named Alyssa. It's possible to hike out onto the glacier without a guide (and gear, for that matter), however I wouldn't recommend it. Alyssa not only knew the safest ways to cross the ever-shifting ice, but she was also knowledgable about everything from the history of the glacier to the region's geology.
That, and she knew how to use an ice axe to carve out stairs for us.
It's difficult to describe just how awesome glacier trekking is in words. It's nearly impossible to capture the wonder and awe that accompany crunching up alongside hundred-foot ice falls and crawling into blue-white ice caves. I simply can't put it all into sentences that would do the experience justice.
So, instead, I'll show you.
Hiking on a glacier is epic. There's no other word to describe it. If you haven't ever tried it, I highly recommend you consider it. The glaciers won't be around forever (in fact, some are receding so fast that you can't touch them anymore), so there's no better time than now.
This is what the on-ice experience looks like:
Ice, Ice, Baby
And, of course, glacier trekking wouldn't be possible without the key ingredient: ICE. Tons and tons of ice.
The Matanuska Glacier has a lot of ice. The glacier is 27 miles long and 4 miles wide, and consists of some incredibly cool ice formations. These formations change daily (literally, the ice is in constant motion), but here were some of my favorites:
As much as I loved trekking the Franz Josef Glacier last year, I think the Matanuska Glacier may take the award for “coolest glacier hike I've done.” The climb was slightly less challenging than in New Zealand, the weather was far better, and the ice formations (especially that huge ice fall!) were much more awe-inspiring.
Two hours on the ice wasn't anywhere close to enough.
Which ice photo is your favorite? Does this post make YOU want to hike on a glacier?
*Note: My trip to Alaska (including this awesome glacier trek) was sponsored by the Hilton Garden Inn Anchorage. All opinions, however, are entirely my own.