Alaskan Glacier Ice Caves
No matter where you are headed to in Alaska, chances are you will find yourself in some relation with the surrounding glaciers. They are often the greeters at mountain passes and the guard rails along valleys. Sooner or later, after seeing these majestic rivers of ice, you may start to admire the nuances of features that make up Alaska’s glaciers. One feature that seems to stand out is the glacier ice cave.
Finding a Glacier Cave
Glacier caves are an ice feature that you can find on any hanging, alpine, tidal, or valley glacier. A glacier cave is an ice feature that can form within the ice of a glacier. This occurs from meltwater carving into weaker facets of the ice and tunneling through or under layers of ice and along the basal layer (the ground). Some caves are miniature in size while others create space for large groups of people to enter and explore.
Not only do sizes vary, colors do as well. Glacier caves are often lined with thick, blue ice walls, and ceilings. Following the winding pathway into these caves will often lead you to some of the deepest blues that a human eye can perceive. Light bounces off cupped facets of ice and water drips from the walls and ceiling. Water proof shoes come in handy as water snakes into the cave at your feet, sometimes creating layers of shelving.
Light bounces off the ice walls inside a Matanuska ice cave.
Looking out into the light of day from the inside of a glacier ice cave.
Meltwater winds and carves further and further into the ice creating a deeper glacier cave.
Exploring Ice Caves
Since glaciers are constantly moving and changing so are ice caves. When considering entering a glacier cave it is important to note the risks and hazards that are possible. That is not to mention the amount of exploration, knowledge, and skills it takes to find these features. Going with professional ice guides is highly recommended for this kind of adventure. Additionally, this helps you make the most out of the time and resources available to you.
As you enter a cave the mouth starts in a lighter blue color. You may notice air bubbles in the ice nearby and the granules of sediment traveling down the walls. And as you travel further the colors just get deeper and more pronounced. Some ice caves are there for years, maybe months, and some are gone in a matter of days. A glacier ice caves longevity depends on the movement and intensity of the natural elements.
These blue corners of natures giants are captivating and alluring. They can easily pull you in for inspiration and adventure. Simultaneously, as we are enthralled with the magic created in these spaces, we acknowledge the need for awareness. Check out your local guiding companies on how to safely travel glaciers, get your cameras ready, and bask in the blues of a glacier ice cave.