OverviewThe "glacier" is somewhat of an unusual and interesting feature for Utah. A perhaps little known fact is that the glacier used to have some rather large (by Rockies standards) and visible crevasses before the "Dust Bowl Drought" of the 1930's. Some of the old photos are available at BYU or in Kelsey's book on Timpanogos, and one is posted in the section below.
After the 1930's drought, much of the glacier melted and has never recovered. Also after the Dust Bowl Drought, the glacier was thought to be more of a perpetual snowfield over a rock glacier until the surface snow completely melted for the first time in the drought of 1994. During that year a large crevasse opened up in the talus, revealing glacial ice below. For now it appears the glacier survives and is protected under the talus. The surface snow and ice also completely melted in 2003.
The Timpanogos Glacier in 1908This is the Timpanogos Glacier as it appeared in the early 1900’s and before. Notice the crevasse in the photo. One trip report from 1912 makes the statement that the glacier had “a series of beautiful crevasses” to pass on route to the summit.
The Timpanogos Glacier in 1949The Dust Bowl Drought of the 1930’s took a heavy toll on the Timpanogos Glacier, and much of the surface ice melted. The worst year of all was 1934, and the glacier shrunk drastically in just that one year. In most years, not many crevasses opened up after the 1930’s, and they were all small. The glacier took on the appearance of a perpetual snowfield, more than a true glacier.
The 1940’s provided a welcome relief from the drought and average or above average precipitation returned for several years. During the 1940’s several mid summer ski races were held, usually in late July.
The Timpanogos "Glacier" in the 1950's-1980'sDuring the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s, with alternating dry and wet years, the “glacier” waxed and waned, but always had the appearance of a perpetual snowfield. The early to mid 1980’s could be considered to be generally warm and wet. Heavy snowfall years regenerated parts of the snowfield, and it appeared that the perpetual snowfield might recover to its previous 1940’s size, but not to the glacier it was before the 1940’s.
Hoever, the late 1980’s produced a severe drought that took a toll on the "glacier", and by 1988 the glacier/snowfield was smaller than it had ever been to that date in recorded history. If you have any photographs from the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s, or 1980's, please add them to the article.
The Timpanogos "Glacier" in 1993Some wet years were not enough to compensate for the drought, and although 1993 was a heavy snow year, the “perpetual” snowfield actually melted out completely in the terribly dry and hot year of 1994. This was the first time in recorded history that the “perpetual” snowfield melted away. During that year a large crevasse opened up in the talus, revealing glacial ice below. For now it apprears the glacier survives and is protected under the talus.
Addition by SP member hyperphil:
I was a crevasse witness. I was on TERT in 1993 [1994?] when the crevasse opened up. John Moellmer found it, and Paul Hart and I went up to check it out. It was eery--deep blue ice, 40 feet thick at least. The hole was DEEP. If you fell in, you'd be 30th century archaeological curiousity. I have a photo of it somewhere in my infernally huge collection of slides. Glen Meyer, the TERT director, got a glaciology team from Wash State to assay the ice. Their results were inconclusive as to whether it was truly glacial. The fact that the crevasse did not reappear in 2004 suggests it was moving, that is, glacial. Glacial or not, I NEVER walk down the middle of the snowfield any more.