Glacier Trekking: What It’s Like to Walk on Ice!

Alaska. What pops into your head when you hear that? Wide open space? Truly epic, unspoiled natural beauty? Giant peaks? Glaciers? Those are all reasons I was so excited to visit Anchorage back in August, especially since I’m a huge fan of the outdoors and an even bigger fan of stunning natural vistas! So when the opportunity to go Glacier Trekking came up, I simply couldn’t resist!

Matanuska Glacier

Glacier Trekking? Like walking across ice? Yep! And let me tell you, it was a pretty incredible experience!

And don’t worry, you’re not going to slip and slide thanks to this wonderful invention called crampons; essentially spikes that attach to your boots which keep your feet firmly planted in the ice.

A boot and crampon fitting is exactly the way our day began on that bright and sunny summer morning. Settling in at Mica Guides, which, along with the Hilton Garden Inn, was kind enough to host us for the day, we could see a white wave rolling across the mountains in the distance. That, we were told, was our destination, the Matanuska Glacier.

Matanuska Glacier

We piled into their vans for the short drive to Glacier Park, which, strangely enough, is located on private property that doesn’t include the glacier itself but includes the means of accessing the glacier. Upon arrival, we set out on the rather muddy path to the glacier itself.

Mud Before Matanuska Glacier

Water was everywhere. “Glacier runoff,” we were told. It was summer and the glacier, which is constantly changing, was melting, though there was still plenty of it to go around.

Matanuska Glacier

The trail turned into boards, crossing over what appeared to be a muddy surface. But the boards weren’t there to keep your feet clean. No, these boards were here to save your life! See, tap this mud with your foot and it takes on the appearance of Gak, a slimy children’s toy, and effectively behaved like quicksand!

Mud Before Matanuska Glacier

Finally, we cramponed-up and hit the ice, being led through the glacier. Our guide noted the dramatic changes that had occurred since his last visit a few days prior, including things that were tiny cracks that were now huge crevices. It was a stark reminder that this really isn’t an environment you should explore without a guide.

Sinkhole at the Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Our guide pointed out that glacier ice is always blue rather than white like snow (look carefully and you’ll see that in a few different photos). That and the runoff that seemed to be happening all over the place was perfectly potable, despite not having passed through a water treatment plant. We all took the opportunity to refill our water bottles with crisp, cool glacier water straight from the source!

Matanuska Glacier

Meandering through the icy environment was fascinating and exhausting! Despite the crampons, walking through the ice was hard work! But on we went, passing through surreal features that mimicked solid land, like canyons, valleys and hills.

Matanuska Glacier

 

Stopping at a small lake, our guide indicated the stunning formation in front of us. He called it “The Waterfall” and it wasn’t hard to see why!

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Making our way out (and onto our next stop, a truly awesome outdoor zip line experience run by the same company), we took a last look around the sea of ice that surrounded us and I couldn’t help but think about how thrilling the experience had been. Just to witness the pure power that the ice had over the surrounding land was, in itself, mind-boggling!

Stones at the Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Though it was just a little taste, it reinforced all of those thoughts about just what Alaska is. And though there is so very much more (including an unexpected food and craft beer scene), to me, Alaska is adventure. And I just can’t wait to be back to experience more of it!

Matanuska Glacier

Though my time in Alaska was hosted by Hilton Garden Inn, all opinions expressed here are my own. 

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30 Responses to Glacier Trekking: What It’s Like to Walk on Ice!

  1. Maria April 8, 2013 at 1:43 am #

    Frosty, beautiful. Those sink holes look pretty scary but what a thrill to walk on a glacier.

    • Aaron April 9, 2013 at 4:44 am #

      It sure was a thrill! But having seen the unexpected dangers around every turn (or sometimes right under your feet), I wouldn’t suggest going alone! I was really glad to have an experienced guide who was armed with a pick axe!

      • Maria April 9, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

        Definitely not a solo trip Aaron. Don’t want to be the guy sawing something off with your pocket knife. :-/ Your photos make me itch to go.

        • Aaron April 10, 2013 at 1:56 am #

          Haha indeed… Glad you like the photos!

  2. maryna April 8, 2013 at 2:10 am #

    Thank you for sharing such a GREAT experience with us, Aaron !
    (I shared some photo’s on fb !)

    • Aaron April 9, 2013 at 4:45 am #

      Glad you liked it Maryna! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Kieu April 8, 2013 at 3:38 am #

    I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska. We sort of walked on ice while in NZ but its nothing compared to this.

    • Aaron April 9, 2013 at 4:45 am #

      Funny, I’ve always wanted to go to NZ. That said, Alaska was pretty unbelievable in terms of natural beauty! I’m just itching to go back!

  4. Kristin Addis April 8, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    Wow, so cool you can walk right up to it and on top of it! I saw a few in New Zealand but couldn’t get that close.

    • Aaron April 9, 2013 at 4:46 am #

      Yes it was a great experience! Do they not have glacier trekking companies in New Zealand?

  5. Nienke April 14, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    Oh wow, that’s such a great experience. I’ve added it to my new series of inspirational lifestyle & travel stories. I did a glacier walk myself in New Zealand, but the weather was quite bad and my camera broke, but it was still great and love to do it again. Thanks for recommending Alaska, have never been, but definitely on that ‘list’.

    • Aaron April 18, 2013 at 3:42 am #

      That’s awful that your camera didn’t survive! That happened to me in Vietnam. My camera was stolen and I was pretty upstet, more so about the loss of the photos I already had than I was about the camera itself!

      Glad you liked the post! Hopefully you’ll have a better glacier trekking experience soon!

  6. Ariel June 3, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    There’s nothing quite like the crunch of crampons on ice! Anchorage sure is a beauty!

    • Aaron June 3, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

      It’s a sound I don’t think I’ll ever forget! And I agree! Anchorage sure is gorgeous…I just can’t wait to get back there myself!

  7. David June 4, 2013 at 10:55 pm #

    great pictures Aaron

    • Aaron June 5, 2013 at 10:55 am #

      Thanks!

  8. Beth June 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    This is absolutely beautiful! Unfortunately, when I was there it was a fam vacation and they aren’t so inclined to hike 🙁 I’m glad you got to see such beautiful things! I hope I can go back and experience it firsthand 🙂

    • Aaron June 8, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

      Ah pity! You’ll make it back there eventually! It’s such a wild experience!

  9. Simon June 6, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    This look awesome, fantastic photos to compliment to article too. Nice work Aaron.

    • Aaron June 8, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

      Thanks!

  10. [email protected] Base Camp Trekking June 6, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Great picture of alaska Aaron, If you come to Nepal you will make lots of amazing picture of many glacier and mountain as well.Thank you so much for nice work.

    • Aaron June 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      Haha I bet Nepal is gorgeous and the trek to Everest Base Camp is definitely on my “to do” list!

      • anwar hussain June 10, 2013 at 5:24 am #

        Hi Aaron,
        This is great picture. I hope you will enjoy more in Nepal. Whenever you come to Nepal, drop me a mail, we will have Nepali special Masala Tea.

        • Aaron June 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

          Sure!

  11. Shannon J June 16, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

    Thank you for this post – GREAT photos! I went on an Alaskan cruise about 10 years ago and landed on the ice flow in a helicopter. It was an amazing experience.

    • Aaron June 18, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

      Sounds like fun!

  12. Nick (theboywander) June 30, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    I saw one in New Zealand a few years back and the raw power they possess as they’ve gradually consumed the land in front of them is amazing.
    A glacier walk in Alaska has gone on the list though. Incredible photos!

    • Aaron July 3, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

      I agree, the raw power of glaciers is truly mind blowing! It really helps you understand the awesome power of nature to create some of the phenomenal scenery we see elsewhere in the world. And thanks! It’s easy to take great photos when you have a fascinating and photogenic subject like a glacier!

  13. Epe Darwin June 17, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    OMG! I dont like doing this.. can’t stand in such a cold place. need many fireplace hahahaha

    • Aaron June 17, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

      I hate the cold too. with a passion. But you know what? It was August an it really wasn’t THAT cold. There’s so much ice that it keeps itself cold, even when the outside temperature is around 55 degrees F (12 degrees C). And it’s a truly unforgettable experience!

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