Tour of Camp 17

By Zach Gianotti, Santa Clara University

Perched on the top of a ridgeline in between the Lemon Creek and Ptarmigan glaciers, just out of view of Juneau, sits Camp 17, the first camp for our JIRP crew.  A mix of seven buildings, 2.5 outhouses, and a weather station, it is a humble and close quarters start for this year’s 60-something JIRPers.

Light glimmers off the aluminum clad buildings in rare sunny events, visible from miles around. In fog — or more rightly labeled, clouds — on approach the buildings slowly grow into focus, sometimes not coming into sharp relief until mere feet away.

Camp 17 on a more common foggy day. Photo: Daniel Otto.

Camp 17 on a more common foggy day. Photo: Daniel Otto.

The Cook Shack is the largest and tallest building in camp, with a small arctic entry, a mud room of sorts, with a place to hang wet coats that leads to the radio room. Above the radio room door is a steep staircase to the upstairs overflow housing and rope/boot drying areas that look down over the main eating area, also accessible from the arctic entry.  The main area is filled with a few long dining tables, a kitchen at the far end with a pantry off the side, and it is decorated with the usual million nails for ropes and cups and plastered with Sharpie graffiti crafted by past JIRPers from floor to rafters.

The other communal area by day is a hop, skip, and a jump (all modes of transport prohibited on JIRP camp sites) away from the cook shack and is called the Library. The Library is where group gear is stored, helicopter transport staging occurs, where some students sleep, where lectures occur, and where a few old books reside tucked away in a corner. There is a wall that is lined with windows that overlook the Lemon Creek Glacier. They flood light into the building the size of a small garage, a place big enough to store a smart car, or a mini cooper, or a fiat 500, but not an American sedan of any sort.

A few of the Library from the outside on a sunny day. Photo: Daniel Otto.

A few of the Library from the outside on a sunny day. Photo: Daniel Otto.

This year the girls’ and gender neutral housing was split in between the library and the James’ Way, a quaint little dome-roofed structure the size of the ‘bed of a dump truck’ as one of the residents described it. The boys were annexed off in housing past the helicopter pad up along the path to Vesper Peak, in a building named the Arm Pit. The Pit, as the boys call it, had two floors filled with all the male students and their damp gear. The rather large design flaw of the Pit was its lack of ventilation, or even ventilation potential. It has one door and one openable small marine window upstairs. The collection of progressively wet and dirty clothes, coupled with a low number of clear days to open up our two ‘vents’, created a unique bouquet quite representative of the buildings name.

Camp 17 in the foreground with Cairn Peak in the background. Ptarmigan Glacier, off to the right, is a popular ski hill easily accessible from camp. Photo: Daniel Otto.

Camp 17 in the foreground with Cairn Peak in the background. Ptarmigan Glacier, off to the right, is a popular ski hill easily accessible from camp. Photo: Daniel Otto.

When talking about Camp 17 one cannot forget to mention the wet weather that was near ever-present at the camp. This forced us to spend our free time shoulder to shoulder in the Cook Shack or crammed in the Library practicing knots. This also provided those new to Southeast Alaska an accurate representation of the climate that I grew up with. The only difference is that at camp we only have heating and electricity for a few precious hours a day leading to next to no drying opportunities for humans and gear alike.

The inside of the Armpit, the domain of the male students. Wet gear hanging from the rafters makes for close quarters. Photo: Daniel Otto.

The inside of the Armpit, the domain of the male students. Wet gear hanging from the rafters makes for close quarters. Photo: Daniel Otto.

A True Alaskan Beginning

By Gavin McNamara, Dalhousie University

After a hectic day of packing, errands, showers, last minute phone calls, and final tastes of civilization, we were ready to hike to Camp 17. This is where our home base was for the first 10-12 days on the Juneau Icefield. Our ten person trail party got to the trailhead and began the long hike with some speed as we knew the trailing group, led by Ibai’s lightweight and fast mentality, would be at our heels. We were certain Ibai [JIRP's Safety Manager] meant business as Christoph heard Benjy exclaiming “I poured out half my GORP (Granola-Oats-Raisins-Peanuts) for you!” when Ibai was checking the weight of bags the night before.

So, after 4-5 hours of efficient movement through forest and steeply angled swamp, we came across an unforeseen obstacle: a large black bear munching on an unlucky goat. To top off this Wild Alaskan scene, there were bald eagles screeching and circling above the valley.

The bear eats the goat. Photo: Gavin McNamara.

The bear eats the goat. Photo: Gavin McNamara.

Other goats look on. Photo: Gavin McNamara.

Other goats look on. Photo: Gavin McNamara.

The black bear stood up over the goat and stared directly at us, chunks of bloody white hair dangling from its mouth. As it was clear the bear had no intention of deserting his coveted goat, we retreated to the ridge to decide upon a course of action. We were bound on both sides by high angled forest and rock bands, so we made the decision to wait for the other two trail parties before making any moves. We felt that there was safety in numbers, so with our larger group of 25 we traversed as high as possible above the bear in order to regain the trail. Luckily, the bear appeared to be in a complete food coma; we safely passed while the bear had dreams of his goat. The rest of the hike was spectacular and we welcomed our new home in the clouds at Camp 17 with cold and open arms. We relished in the comforts of our new rugged abode, happy to have made it past the bear and eager for our own hot meal.

The group successfully past the bear. Photo: Gavin McNamara.

The group successfully past the bear. Photo: Gavin McNamara.

In Which Your Humble Narrator Crosses Nugget Ridge, Death Valley, and the Southwest Branch, braving Ice, Wind, and Clouds, in a search for the Warmth and Safety of Camp 10

By Bryn Huxley-Reicher, Harvard University

After a long night playing JIRPardy (topics ranged from the middle names and previous lives of the staff to the main properties of the waves used in seismology) and packing obscene amounts of trail food, Trail Parties 1 and 2 woke up early to a grey sky and oatmeal for breakfast. Trail Party 1 had already begun their journey by the time we in the second group gathered and left.

 

Trail Party 2, about to set off on our epic adventure across the frozen landscape of the Juneau Icefield. PC Theresa Westhaver

Trail Party 2, about to set off on our epic adventure across the frozen landscape of the Juneau Icefield. PC Theresa Westhaver

 

 

Field staffers Lara and Mike took command as we crossed the Lemon Creek Glacier and then skied down its length to the terminus, where the snow had melted and the blue ice was exposed. The sun peeked out from behind a few clouds, giving us a false sense of hope for the weather ahead.

Crossing the Lemon Creek Glacier at 7:30am with a hint of sun. PC: Bryn Huxley-Reicher

Crossing the Lemon Creek Glacier at 7:30am with a hint of sun. PC: Bryn Huxley-Reicher

 

 

 

Students Zach Gianotti, Theresa Westhaver, and Ilana Casarez crossing the blue ice at the terminus of the Lemon Creek Glacier before our hike up Nugget Ridge. PC: Bryn Huxley-Reicher

Students Zach Gianotti, Theresa Westhaver, and Ilana Casarez crossing the blue ice at the terminus of the Lemon Creek Glacier before our hike up Nugget Ridge. PC: Bryn Huxley-Reicher

 

We crampon-ed our way through the beautiful blue crevasses filled with glacial water, the moulins poking down into the ice, and the debris from the rocks that had been pulverized and dragged with the ice flow. The weather got wetter and windier as we climbed snow and rocks onto the shoulder of Nugget Ridge, ending our hopes for a dry traverse.

 Scrambling up Nugget Ridge through the driving wind and sleet. PC: Theresa Westhaver

 Scrambling up Nugget Ridge through the driving wind and sleet. PC: Theresa Westhaver

 

From there we skied the rest of the way to Lunch Rocks near the top of the Thomas Glacier for a much needed break for calories. We were slowed only by the heel piece to my ski binding popping off, and Matt lashing it back on. Next we headed down the backside of Nugget Ridge towards Death Valley. It was then that the weather gods decided we were not to be allowed to have an easy time of it, and sent a driving wind and icy snow into our faces. We were roped up, and walking in crampons without being able to see more than a few yards in front of us, trying to protect any exposed skin from the shards of pain shooting at us from the sky. After what felt like an eternity of slipping through the soft snow, the wind died down and the snow grew gentle. We broke through the clouds and saw Trail Party 1 below us, heading out onto the flats of Death Valley. In the bowl of the valley, we got to ski with visibility improving towards the icefall we had to climb to get to our halfway camp. We caught up to Trail Party 1 at the base of the icefall, and hiked up a snow ramp to Norris Cache and the tents that Annie and Nigel had set up for us. A large, warm, and filling dinner later and we all crashed early and gratefully.

We slept in, and cleaned up camp before heading out as a large group, following the snowmobile tracks that Annie and Nigel had left. After crossing a patch of crevasses, we skied the length of the Southwest Branch of the Taku glacier, and managed to have some conversation, getting to know each other better as the clouds set in again.

 

Trail Parties 1 and 2 merged to ski the length of the Southwest Branch of the Taku Glacier on Day 2 of the traverse to Camp 10. PC: Bryn Huxley-Reicher

Trail Parties 1 and 2 merged to ski the length of the Southwest Branch of the Taku Glacier on Day 2 of the traverse to Camp 10. PC: Bryn Huxley-Reicher

 

A few hours and a few tens of kilometers later the clouds lifted and we passed the last section of crevasses to see the Nunatak Chalet, also known as Camp 10: our final destination.

 

 

 On the final approach to Camp 10: crevasses ahead! PC: Theresa Westhaver

 On the final approach to Camp 10: crevasses ahead! PC: Theresa Westhaver

 

                Despite the featureless landscape and the snow horizon that did not move, we avoided madness and skied down to the base of Nunatak Chalet, where Stan and Nigel were waiting to welcome us. Our eighteen-hour, thirty-six-kilometer journey ended with a long scramble up steep rocks to Camp 10, where we found warm drinks and dinner, a gorgeous view, and space to sleep.

                The longest and most difficult portion of our summer over with, those of us at Camp 10 are enjoying the space and quiet until the rest of our group arrives. We are looking forward to getting to work on our research projects, cleaning our bodies and clothes, and maybe, hopefully, for the weather to break.

 

Herbert Glacier Recession (2005-2017)

Matt Beedle

Director of Academics and Research

Returning to the same vantage points each year provides JIRPers with a unique opportunity to document glacier change through repeat photography. We've begun this effort during Juneau Week and look forward to continuing it as we make our way across the Juneau Icefield.

Herbert Glacier, Alaska

Herbert is one of the glaciers we visited this week. The recession and thinning of the glacier is quite plain, but a sense of scale is hard to grasp. Look for some JIRPers (multicolored jackets) standing on the bedrock knob in the lower left of the 2017 image for a bit of perspective on the immensity of this scene. While the loss of ice is perhaps the main feature, I'm amazed by how rapid the alders gain a foothold and thrive, turning a barren landscape into a veritable jungle in a handful of years. Thanks to Evan Koncewicz for bushwhacking through this jungle with me to reach this point!

See this post on From a Glacier's Perspective (by Mauri Pelto, JIRP alumni/faculty) for more perspective on the recession of Herbert Glacier in recent decades.

 

A Chain of Mentorship

Matt Beedle

Director of Academics and Research

Today is a special day on the JIRP calendar. As you read this, the 2017 JIRP staff team – with excitement for the new field season despite the weather – is hiking to Camp 17 for “Staff Week”. These 12 days of opening JIRP’s first main camp, wilderness first aid training, glacier travel/rescue training, and (let’s be honest) at least a few runs on the Ptarmigan Glacier to test skis and snow conditions, kicks off the field season. It establishes more than physical goals and hard skills, however. The culture, community and camaraderie of JIRP 2017 begin to form today. While each season is unique, there are threads of commonality that span the many generations of JIRP field seasons and individual JIRPers. One of the most powerful threads in each field season is that of mentorship.

We’ve done quite a number of short pieces on JIRP history in recent years (see some of them here, here and here), but a component of JIRP that hasn’t been communicated in particular is the long history of mentorship. Post-JIRP, students regularly comment on the value of having tremendous access to inspiring staff members and faculty. The often cheek-by-jowl conditions of a JIRP camp, skiing for hours in a driving rain, discussion of ideas, problems and dreams allow for JIRP students to get to know one another well. These moments, however, are also shared with faculty and staff, moments that have been shared on the Juneau Icefield for decades. The JIRP story begins in the 1940s, but a chain of mentorship can be traced back in time even further.

John Muir first ventured to Alaska in 1879 for the first of his fabled canoe journeys through southeast Alaska. He wasn’t the first to journey here, as western sailors had been poking into the bays and fjords of southeast Alaska since Chirikov’s voyage of 1741, and the Tlingit people had called this part of the world home for many thousands of years prior. Muir’s 1879 voyage, however, did initiate a western investigation of the glaciers of southeast Alaska, enabled by his Tlingit guides.

John Muir and Reid's team at the Muir cabin in Glacier bay, 1890. Source: National Park Service

John Muir and Reid's team at the Muir cabin in Glacier bay, 1890. Source: National Park Service

On a subsequent trip to southeast Alaska in 1890, Muir spent time in Glacier Bay with Harry Fielding Reid and a team of scientists investigating the dynamics of Muir Glacier.  Reid’s subsequent Variations of Glaciers work would be a foundational effort for the World Glacier Monitoring Service of today. One of the individuals that Reid mentored and inspired was William O. (Bill) Field, known as one of the founders of modern glaciological study in North America. For his 1941 expedition to southeast Alaska, Field inquired with Bradford and Barbara Washburn in looking for a capable field assistant.The Washburns pointed him to Maynard Miller, a Harvard undergraduate who had been on their expedition to Mount Bertha the previous year. Field and Miller’s shared field experiences in 1941 and subsequent years gave rise to this important new direction to explain glacier behavior:

It became fairly clear to us in 1941 that a full explanation was more likely to be found in the upper elevations rather than at the terminus.
— W. O. Field and M. M. Miller, Geographical Review, 1950
Maynard Miller (right) explores the remnants of the Muir cabin in Glacier Bay during the 1941 expedition led by Bill Field. Source: Field, William Osgood. 1941 No Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media.

Maynard Miller (right) explores the remnants of the Muir cabin in Glacier Bay during the 1941 expedition led by Bill Field. Source: Field, William Osgood. 1941 No Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media.

After a few years of aerial reconnaissance and further investigation of the termini of glaciers of southeast Alaska, followed by a first exploration of the “high ice” of the Juneau Icefield in 1948, JIRP the annual field expedition began in 1949. It has continued ever since, and this chain of mentorship has been ongoing, from Field and Miller, to individuals such as Ed LaChapelle, Austin Post, Kurt Cuffey, Christina Hulbe, Steven Squyres, Kate Harris, Alison Criscitiello and many hundreds more. From this annual traverse of the Juneau Icefield, dreams, careers, adventures are launched.

It is challenging to keep track of the inspiring work that recent JIRP alumni are taking on, let alone the many hundreds who have come before them. A part of this inspiration has come from interactions with JIRP mentors: the long ski traverses filled with academic discussions, songs, and stories; the hardships and smiles shared in the field and back at camp; the guidance during the season and in the years that follow. With this view back at the long chain of mentorship through many decades of exploration of the icy corners of southeast Alaska, it is exciting to think of the JIRP staff of 2017. Slowly making their way to Camp 17 today, hiking in the literal and figurative footsteps of the many hundreds before, they are setting in motion the foundational community of JIRP 2017 - the community of staff, faculty and students that will continue this chain.

Note: Thanks to Bruce Molnia for being a JIRP mentor of mine and for pointing out the linkages back in time from Mal Miller, to Bill Field, to Harry Reid, and to John Muir.

Learning to "shred"

Annie Boucher

Senior Staff and Faculty

 

Next up in our staff spotlights, Nigel Krumdieck. By way of introduction, Nigel is our mechanic. He hails from Averill Park, NY (just east of Albany) and this summer will be his second on the icefield. Nigel is the younger brother of longtime JIRPer Newt Krumdieck; he came to us last summer to fill a vacancy on the maintenance staff. Much of icefield life was new to Nigel but he jumped into the expedition with great enthusiasm. After a few less coordinated attempts on borrowed skis, including one day when he skied over his own hand, telemark skiing especially grabbed his attention.

 

Nigel exploring the inside of a crevasse on the Juneau Icefield in 2016 during a rare moment when there was no work to be done on the snow machines. Photo credit: Annie Zaccarin.

 

Telemark skis, with an unattached heel like cross country skis, allow JIRPers to cover flat, downhill, and uphill terrain on the same set of equipment. Though everyone uses telemark skis, time constraints during JIRP ski training prohibit many first-time skiers from learning the true telemark turn. The telemark turn is easily recognized because it relies on raising the inside heel and dropping the inside knee to bring the skis around. It is somewhat more difficult to master than the more mainstream alpine turn, where the heels are attached.

 

Matty Miller (student, 2016) skis across flat terrain with the aid of his free heel. Most of the topography on the icefield traverse, out in the middle of the glaciers, is flat. Telemark skis allow us to easily transition between field work out on the glacier and the inevitable climb up to our camps on the nunataks and hills above the ice. Photo credit: Tristan Amaral.

 

Upon his return to New York and full-time work as a car mechanic, and with winter approaching, Nigel set himself to the task of “shredding” the mountain. He built up quite the quiver of skis between his JIRP contacts, some work on craigslist, and teaching himself to mount ski bindings in the garage. To learn to execute smooth telemark turns, Nigel consulted other JIRPers, a telemark ski book, a couple chairlift companions, and several YouTube videos. Telemark skiing involves weighting the skis properly, timing the forward movement of the outside ski, and getting the hang of keeping the upper body pointed downhill while the lower body twists into the turn. Nigel reports that the key is to get the inside knee “much lower” than one would first guess, as this makes it “practically impossible to not carve”.

 

Nigel gets his inside, right knee almost as low as possible. His dropped knee is the telltale sign of the telemark turn. Photo credit: Newt Krumdieck.

 

Thankfully, this winter the northeast had periods of ample snow. After work and on weekends, Nigel has been able to ski frequently in the Berkshires, southern Vermont, and the Catskills. He reports that the very best day of backcountry skiing was during the Valentine’s Day storm when the Berkshires got a couple feet of snow. Nigel’s hard work, natural athleticism, and extensive research have allowed him to get the hang of telemarking relatively quickly. He began learning to telemark ski in December; now, in March, he often skis off trail through the trees and is working on perfecting his 360 on the his telemark trick skis.

While the winter ski season has wrapped up, Nigel has a lot to look forward to. He has his eye on a more aggressive pair of boots for next winter, but in the near future he is excited to head back to the icefield. With his own skis and a better idea of the terrain to be explored on the icefield, Nigel is excited for the 2017 JIRP season to get started. As both new and returning members of the JIRP tribe turn their attention to the approaching traverse, we can all look forward to spending our days shredding the glaciers of Alaska, or at least learning to not ski over our own hands.  

 

The JIRP staff go for a sunset ski after a full day of safety training and field work at Camp 17. Video credit: Chris Miele.

Backcountry Feelings

Evan Koncewicz, Junior Staff

The purpose of the pre-season blog entries is to give readers an idea of what goes on behind the scenes to make the field season happen, as well as what the incoming students can expect in the upcoming months. The JIRP staff are critical components of both pieces- they spend significant time getting everything up and running before the students arrive; once the students arrive, they work day in and day out as guides for every aspect of the traverse. We at JIRP hope the program continues to affect the lives of our participants after everyone goes home in August. This entry, and some of those that will follow, are meant to illustrate that hope with examples from the 2017 staff. I solicited blog entries about trips and projects staffers have undertaken over the winter. These “staff spotlights” show just a few ways JIRP has inspired people to seek out new skills and adventures, and how these experiences then inform their work when they return to the Icefield.

 

There is a feeling I get when I am outside. It goes beyond the subjectivity of my mental state. Yes, I feel healthy, athletic, exhilarated, peaceful, and confident when I am outside. Beyond that, however, I am more focused on different sensations than I am on what I perceive in my mind. What I really feel are the things around me. The temperature, wind, humidity, smell, sunshine, precipitation. I get a feeling of the world around me.

 

Overlooking Punta Union, 4750m (15584 ft.). Clouds clear to give us some brief warmth from the sun. Moments later sharp winds carry cold rain from the resurging clouds. Photo credit: Evan Koncewicz  

 

Last fall, I did something I’ve never done before; I traveled outside the United States. I did this without the comfort of my family, my culture, or my language. I left to backpack with a couple JIRP friends for three weeks in Peru. I had a lot of backpacking experience, especially recently coming off a six-week period on an icefield in a temperate rain forest. I have spent a good amount of time in the mountains and even took Spanish throughout high school. I did my research and, with some logistical and vaccine help from mom, was soon boarding a plane to Lima.       

 

Even within the relative familiarity of camping, Peru presents some new experiences. Photo credit: Tanner Pelletier

 

Peru is very different from the lands I am used to - the Northeastern U.S., Wyoming, and Southeast Alaska. Parts of Peruvian culture and geography are completely foreign to me. The coast is super dry. Weather almost never comes from the Pacific like it does on the west coast of the US. Lima is pretty hazy and polluted, causing us to breathe heavily. Streets are scattered with colectivos, oversized minivans that transport locals who are packed shoulder to shoulder and sitting on top of each other in order to cheaply get across the city. However, when you get away from the cultural epicenters created by man and out into the backcountry, Peru feels familiar.

 

The drier climate of the Peruvian Andes reminds me of Wyoming in the summer. Hiking trails zig-zag up mountain sides that lead to summits. As clouds roll in, so do humidity and thunder, which sounds the same as it always does at home. Rain pitter patters against the rain fly of my tent as I fall asleep. Glaciers are scattered across the higher peaks, leaving cold glacially-fed lakes below them. The water is a familiar shock to the body when you jump in, and the sun’s radiation is a relieving warmth. Traveling on glaciers is the same: ice crunches under our crampons as we manage the rope to get around crevasses. Sunsets are breathtaking and unforgettable, as are the summit views on the top of peaks.

 

Former JIRP staffers Tristan Amaral and Kirsten Arnell (2014-2016) and current staffer Evan celebrate on the summit of Vallunaraju in the Cordillera Blanca. Photo: Evan Koncewicz

 

I tell friends and family that the most memorable experience of the trip was not the cool backcountry exploring I did, but trying to negotiate the streets in Peru. It was the things that I was unfamiliar with that made the trip, the experiences I had never an opportunity to feel before. The ability to see and live in a culture so different from my own was eye opening, humbling, and special. The backcountry I have felt before. Those proper practices and techniques are transferable and I can adjust them to any environment. Those skills allow me to explore, play, learn, and most importantly to be safe.

 

The rugged terrain and intense isolation make it surprising to find small town likes this one. Many JIRPers feel the same way when they finish the hike to our icefield first camp! A friend admires the colectivo that brought us over the mountain pass in Vaqueria, Peru. Photo: Evan Koncewicz

 

As a field staffer at JIRP, my job is to facilitate exposure to experiences unfamiliar to many of our students: icefield life and glacier travel. We always hope JIRP students enjoy the process of stepping outside their comfort zones. I hope I can use my memories of traveling through Peru to make the newness of the icefield as exciting and enjoyable as possible.

 

The hardships of heavy packs and persistent rain do have their benefits. Camping below Punta Union on the Santa Cruz Trek as the sun sets behind the clouds. Photo: Evan Koncewicz

 

Welcome to the JIRP Family

By Annie Boucher and the student alumni of 2015 and 2016

Students usually come to JIRP for either the science education or the promise of adventure (or both). With 16-hour days and seven day weeks spent pursuing both, we hope most leave with a good taste of whatever they sought.  At the end of August, however, when students talk about what they’re most going to miss about JIRP, they tend to look to the people. While we all have more science and more adventure in our futures, saying goodbye to the expedition team is difficult. JIRPers are extraordinary people, and every summer they seem to form a community that is unusual in its acceptance, its support, and its ability to challenge its members to be their best selves.

While every season brings its particular quirks and inside jokes, the program is run along lines of decades-old traditions and surprisingly durable culture. These traditions and culture bind together the JIRP family across years - certainly at any Earth Science conference one will find a group of JIRPers, but they tend to come out of the woodwork on buses, in foreign countries, and, once, the father of a friend whose house I happened to visit for dinner.

This year’s students are taking their first steps towards joining the JIRP family. Soon enough we’ll be steeping them in the well worn adages that provide structure to every icefield traverse: Nature is screaming at you! - Always ski in the snow machine track. - No coupling. - Our priorities, in order, are: look good; look good; go big; look good; safety; and (last) personal hygiene! - Beware the center of the Llewellyn Glacier! - Whatever happens on your traverse, it’s not as bad as the crew that bivvied on the ridge for three days in a white out! - Always carry your ten essentials! - Tape your feet as soon as you feel a hot spot!

As a first step towards welcoming the 2017 crew into the wide open, often smelly, and usually sunburnt arms of the JIRP family, the students of 2015 and 2016 offer up the following advice for preparing and packing for JIRP.

Warning: A few things on this list are contradictory, and many come down to personal preference. Perhaps the first lesson of the Icefield is that there isn’t always one good or right answer, and the only way to figure out what works for you is to jump in and be ready to learn by experience.


Bring a journal, and be vigilant about keeping up with it as much as possible. I was very diligent about writing every evening, and not only did this time allow for self-reflection, but it was also tangible evidence of my evolution as an individual over the course of the program. I still return to my writings when I want to remember a particular feeling, or remind myself of why I care so strongly about action on climate change. I also laugh A LOT when I re-read certain sections, and that alone is worth the extra effort of writing often.
— – Donovan Dennis, student 2015
Bring light shorts, they were the last thing I thought to bring to a glacier so I ended up borrowing them off people!
— – Ellie Honan, student 2016
It's a bit counterinuitive, but you will likely wind up wearing shorts a LOT when on an Alaskan glacier in the summer. Photo: Kellie Schaefer

It's a bit counterinuitive, but you will likely wind up wearing shorts a LOT when on an Alaskan glacier in the summer. Photo: Kellie Schaefer

One thing I absolutely regret not bringing was a small field thermos for tea or hot chocolate.
— - Jacob Hollander, student 2015
JIRP 2015 staffers Annika Ord and Adam Toolanen enjoy an espresso at Camp 26 - demonstrating the luxury of a hot beverage from a small thermos. Although we don't recommend packing the Handpresso and pounds of ground espresso all summer, we sure did appreciate Adam making the effort in 2015! Photo: Matt Beedle

JIRP 2015 staffers Annika Ord and Adam Toolanen enjoy an espresso at Camp 26 - demonstrating the luxury of a hot beverage from a small thermos. Although we don't recommend packing the Handpresso and pounds of ground espresso all summer, we sure did appreciate Adam making the effort in 2015! Photo: Matt Beedle

Begin journaling before you get to Juneau! I wished I had written down the process towards JIRP as well as my time in it.
— – Victor Cabrera, student 2016
1. Bring a backpack fly (aka cover)! They are cheap and worth the money especially if your pack is older.
2. Keep a journal. It’s a great way to make sure you slow down and take some time for yourself each day, and is an excellent way to relive JIRP memories after the summer is over.
3. Not sure if eye masks are on the packing list, but if you are uncomfortable sleeping when it is light outside make sure to bring one.
4. If your rain gear is older, re-waterproof it!
5. Bring a waterproof /shockproof/drop-your-phone-down-a-rock-crack-of-unknown-depth-and-abandon-it-to-the-elements-proof phone case if you bring your phone onto the icefield. (*Note: Riley did get his phone back, but it took a couple days.)
6. Go easy on your skis, they can break.
— – Riley Wall, student 2016
Cheap dry bags will suffice (you can get 3 for $10 at Walmart)! I liked having one truly waterproof one, but was glad I didn’t spend $100+ on the other 5 that I used to organize my gear. Also I would suggest not bringing/investing in a pack cover: a trash bag liner will keep the inside of your pack dry (and your ice axe will quickly shred the pack cover, anyway).
— - Olivia Truax, student 2016
Bring music!! (Note: There may be speakers available for group use that have aux cables. Please don’t bring your own speakers, and you will be expected to abide by JIRP rules on appropriate and safe use of headphones.)
— – Kenzie McAdams, student 2016
Commit to good gaiters or you may very well find your rain pants shredded!!!
— - Matty Miller, student 2016
If possible, thoroughly test the waterproofing of your rain gear in advance.
— - Eric Kittilsby, student 2016
The 2015 mass-balance team readies for their departure from Camp 10 to Camp 9 - in the rain. Note the variety of wet-weather apparel - from full rubber, to Gore Tex, to plastic bags to compensate for a jacket that perhaps isn't as waterproof as desired. Photo: Matt Beedle

The 2015 mass-balance team readies for their departure from Camp 10 to Camp 9 - in the rain. Note the variety of wet-weather apparel - from full rubber, to Gore Tex, to plastic bags to compensate for a jacket that perhaps isn't as waterproof as desired. Photo: Matt Beedle

When booking flights, consider giving yourself a couple extra days in Juneau after the program. (NOTE: This suggestion was seconded by ten others!)
— - Chris Miele, student 2016
Don’t skimp on getting a good pair of sunglasses or a good raincoat.
— – Hannah Marshall, student 2015
It's perhaps impossible to overstate the importance of having good sunglasses for eye protection during a summer on the Juneau Icefield. Photo: Matt Beedle

It's perhaps impossible to overstate the importance of having good sunglasses for eye protection during a summer on the Juneau Icefield. Photo: Matt Beedle

Write down your AGU username and password and bring it with you! Makes the abstract submission a bit easier.
— – Molly Peek, student 2016
If you’re on the fence about buying rubber tips for your ice axe (20 or so bucks) invest! I did and it totally saved my pack cover.
— – Kenzie McAdams, student 2016
My main piece of advice is to bring a bunch of extra plastic bags! A couple trash bag size ones and some ziplocks. Icefield life is so much drier with plastic bags. Also, don’t forget to eat plenty of blueberries on the hike up to Camp 17!
— – Isabel Suhr, student 2015

Are you a previous JIRPer or an intrepid adventurer with advice for the JIRP 2017 cohort? Please chime in on JIRP's social channels with your suggestions for those things that a JIRPer should be sure to have along for the expedition.

The JIRP 2017 Staff!

The individuals that comprise JIRP's field staff are in many ways the heart and soul of each summer. This talented crew is the team that is present throughout the eight-week season, lead safety and logistical training for the students and faculty, lead trail parties and research teams as they traverse the Juneau Icefield, and perhaps most importantly they model what it means to be a JIRPer. In short, they enable everything that happens on the Icefield, and do so in a manner that fosters the incredible community of JIRP. We are fortunate to have such a phenomenal staff team for JIRP 2017!

Newt Krumdieck (Operations Manager):


First a JIRP student in 2008, I immediately felt a deep and unquestioning connection to the people and places that JIRP brought together. Since then I have been returning as a member of the field staff most years since 2010, playing roles ranging from safety staff to carpenter to operations manager. I graduated from Colby College with a degree in Geology, and worked for several years in the sciences, doing research and field work for the NY state geological survey, and then teaching earth science to middle schoolers. Currently I work as a carpenter/woodworker, and spend as much time as I can in the outdoors hiking, biking, skiing, motorcycling, and travelling. JIRP to me is about the ultimate combination of learning, the environment, and most importantly the community. Getting a chance to share these aspects with folks each summer is a privilege I do not take lightly, and continue to enjoy immensely.

Ibai Rico (Safety Manager):

I have been the safety lead and mountain guide at JIRP since 2015. I've been a climber and skier from a young age and now have several new ice climbing routes in Patagonia and the Himalayas. When I am not at JIRP I work as a mountain guide in the Pyrenees, Alps, Norway and the Greater Caucasus. I also deliver snow/avalanche, expedition logistics and risk management courses. I combine my mountain guide activity with carrying out glaciology research in the glaciers of the Pyrenees and Tierra del Fuego (Glacier Change, Glacial Geomorphology, Permafrost and Geo-Hazards).  My last expedition to the Chilean Patagonia was focused on exploring the Cloue Icefield; understanding glacier change and ascending the unclimbed summits in an expedition sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

Guiding JIRP has been one of the most fulfilling experiences; the combination of Nature, Books and Action makes it a completely unique and unforgettable experience for every person in the program.

Incognita Patagonia Project

Basque Mountain Guides

Annie Boucher (Assistant Operations Manager):

My name is Annie Boucher, and I first came to JIRP as a student in 2012. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, got my B.A. in Geology at Carleton College in 2011, and I'm finishing up my M.Sc. at the University of Maine modeling Alaskan tectonics and glacial erosion. This will be my sixth season on the icefield; in the past I've worked as field staff, taught science communication, and collected field data for my master's research. This season I'll be assisting with logistics and operations management, helping the new staff jump into the swing of things, and filling a couple part-time roles on the faculty. I've been leading trips and working in outdoor education for fourteen years, and I keep coming back to it for the same reasons I return to JIRP: few things in this world give me as much joy as working with a group of motivated and passionate people bent on exploring the big wide world.

Sarah Gotwals (Juneau Logistics Manager):

I am very excited to be returning to Jueanu for summer 2017 for the second time. I was a JIRP student in 2015, and spent last summer working as a logistics coordinator at the Colorado Outward Bound School. Originally from Massachusetts, I graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota this past May (2016). I am interested in everything that "makes science happen" and can't wait to be on the ground with Mary ensuring a safe, productive, and (most importantly) fun summer.

Lara Hughes-Allen (Senior Staff):

In the summer of 2015, I participated in JIRP as a student and returned in the summer of 2016 as field safety staff and helped lead the GPS survey effort. In the winter, I coach the Alpine race team at Northstar California Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe, CA. I enjoy backcountry skiing, hiking, and backpacking with my dog Boomer.

I graduated from the University of Southern California in 2016 with a Master’s degree in Geographic Information Science.  My thesis focused on using remote sensing analysis to quantify changes in the Taku Glacier, specifically equilibrium line altitude, accumulation area ratio, and total glacier surface area from 1973-2015. The goal of this research was to look at how in situ monitoring might be underestimating total glacier loss resulting from anthropogenic climate change. I graduated from Pitzer College in 2011 with a double major in Environmental Biology and Geology.  

Annika Ord (Senior Staff):

I grew up floating between Juneau and my family's remote cabin on the Chilkat peninsula. Exploring and learning from wild places and the people who make their homes there is what I love most. JIRP is a beautiful blend of this -- full of deep belly laughter, immense snowscapes, and inspired learning.

I am super stoked to return for my third season as staff and am particularly excited to  continue helping the botany and mass balance research groups and to lead field sketching expeditions!

When not romping around the icefield with JIRP, you can find me commercial fishing with my dad, sketching a tree, snorkeling in kelp, or trekking around the mountains of Southeast Alaska. To check out (or submit to!) the environmental feminist Selkie Zine I co-created, visit: cargocollective.com/selkiezine

Allie Strel (Senior Staff):

My name is Allie Strel and I hail from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  These days I am living in Munich, Germany where I am completing my master’s degree in Cartography with a side interest in cryospheric sciences.  My student experience at JIRP in 2015 had me certain that I wanted to come back to the icefield and I am excited to be joining the team again this year for my second season as safety staff.  I can’t wait to see some familiar JIRP faces and to meet all of this year’s new students.  When I’m not at JIRP (and not being a thesis-hermit) you might find me telemarking somewhere in the Alps, flying my kite on a mountain peak, cooking up a mad curry, or inflicting my terrible German on the locals.

Danielle Beaty (Field Staff):

I grew up in the rainy city where hipsters roam (Portland, OR), then made my way to the University of Colorado Boulder where I received degrees in geography and ecology/evolutionary biology. After doing JIRP as a student in 2014, I returned to school to complete an honors thesis on mass balance of glaciers on the Juneau Icefield. I also decided I had had enough of Colorado lift lines and ski traffic so I moved to Juneau, Alaska where I became a glacier/kayak guide. I am thrilled to return to the icefield as staff this summer, and I am excited to have the opportunity to make as great an experience as I had on JIRP for the students this year. I most look forward to seeing all the creative ways students make the otherwise abysmal pilot bread an enjoyable snack with various toppings, and am equally excited for pit talks in the bottom of several meter deep mass balance pits. When I am not JIRPing you’ll most likely find me backcountry skiing the AK pow, ski patrolling, climbing, or wishing there was some way I could own my spirit animal - an orca whale - as a pet.

Evan Koncewicz (Field Staff):

Hello! My name is Evan and I am originally from Upstate New York, right down the street from Newt. I was a JIRP student last year in 2016 and loved it so much I came back as staff! JIRP is a truly unique experience, and personally reminded me of the power of place-based education. I graduated from St Lawrence University in 2015 receiving a BS in Geology. Since graduating I have taught environmental education and skiing in Jackson WY, done JIRP, traveled to Peru, and substitute taught. I enjoy being outside, skiing, exploring the Tetons, following current events, learning, and telling lame jokes. I am super excited to meet you all and share an amazing summer on the ice!  

Mo Michels (Field Staff):

My name is Mo. I’m 22 years young. Last year I participated in JIRP as a student and am beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to come back as part of the 2017 staff team. I grew up in the small town of Talkeetna, AK (a town that truly believed in the maxim, it takes a village to raise a child) where I first learned the value of community. What has drawn me back to JIRP is a similar sense of community – it takes every JIRPer for a mass balance survey – if you don’t know what I mean by this yet you will at the end of the summer.

Over the past five years Juneau, AK has become home. Working winters as a downhill and cross-country ski instructor and getting a bachelors degree in geography and environmental resources. In past summers, I have zipline guided, worked extensively in tourism, and counted salmon for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. I enjoy long treks through the woods, up mountains, and on the water. I am inspired by the look in peoples eyes when they achieve that ‘ah-ha’ moment after they were willing to struggle, to practice, to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, to adapt, and to grow, all just to learn something new.

I look forward to meeting, working and growing with all of you who will create the JIRP community this coming field season!

Mike Staron (Field Staff):

My name is Mike Staron currently from Bend, Oregon. I was a student on JIRP in 2014 and fell in love with the icefield. While not JIRPing I enjoy traveling around the world with other JIRPers in beautiful places in South America. Since participating in JIRP the first time I have developed an obsession with skiing so I converted a van and have been living in it on and off for the past year or so, skiing and climbing around the country (#notanothervan). I’m spending the spring before JIRP attempting to climb/ski all the Cascade volcanoes. I have a B.S. in geology from Keene State College in New Hampshire. For the past two years I have been working on Mount St. Helens as a guide/educator leading people on backpacking trips and to the top of the mountain while teaching them the local geology/ecology. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for JIRP. I can’t wait to help make this the best JIRP season yet!