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.