The Juneau Icefield is the 5th largest expanse of ice and snow in the the northern hemisphere. It stretches nearly 150 miles north to south between the cities of Skagway and Juneau, Alaska. The icefield itself is a conglomerate of 34 glaciers. Nearly all originate from the high divide along the Alaska/Canada border. The area receives massive amounts of snowfall every winter (upward of 100ft) and occasional summer snowfall as well. The area offers a considerable amount of mountaineering, ski mountaineering, advanced climbing and expedition level traverses. Many of such adventures could claim first ascents/descents. The highlight of the is be Devil's Paw
, which is the highpoint of the Juneau Icefield. This massive extrusion of granite is one of the most prominent features on the icefield and can be viewed from nearly every location on the icefield. Extensive mountaineering and glacial travel skills are strongly recommended for any expedition entering this area.
The most popular access to the ice can be gained via the Blackerbee ridge trail which leaves from the city of Juneau. The route climbs from the tidewater flats to nearly 4,000ft. The first 2,000 feet are gained very quickly upon departure and could be considered strenuous.
Access to the ice from the north would most likely be from the city of Skagway, Alaska. However, the trail system is not as developed as those near Juneau. This may cause access to the ice to be a bushwhack through Alaskan rain forest.
A final option of approach could be made via helicopter. The cheapest and most easiest way to do so would be via one of the many charter helicopter companies in Juneau. However, this option quickly becomes expensive as a function of how far one wishes to travel into the interior of the ice sheet.
Most of the icefield is located in the Tongass National Forest
. Permits are not required to enter the area but due to the dangerous nature of the area, leaving a trip route with this agency is highly recommended.
The Juneau Icefield Research Program
opperates from July to August across 60 % of the icefield. During this time outside entities are discouraged to venture into the area for fear they may disturb the sensitive science being conducted. Applications for being a part of the program are available at the above link.
The weather of southeast Alaska is a strong consideration to any outdoor experience in this region. Summer conditions generally are ruled by a strong maritime influence. It is not unlikely to see several weeks with zero visibility and rain. The temperatures in the heart of the icefield usually hovers around 45 degrees F, however subzero temperatures have been recorded in August opposed by temperatures in the mid 80's F.
No permanent campsites exists in the icefield, most camping on a ski traverse would be done on the glacier's surface. The margins of the icefield are thick forest and has a high density of grizzly bears.
Additional Information on the area be found at Cairn Peak, Split Thumb, Juneau Icefield
courtesy of MtnGuide
I have been a participant in the Juneau Icefield Research Program
since 2005. I absaloutly love the area hope to spend more time mountaineering there in the future. Feel free to send me
an e-mail on any questions you may have!