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Are You Game to Brave the Mendenhall Ice Caves?

Some of life’s greatest treasures are only ephemeral, here for one moment and gone the next. The Mendenhall Ice Caves in Juneau, Alaska have been around for quite a while, but due to global warming, they may not be around for much longer.

The Ice Caves offer a spectacular hike through the radiant, electric-blue tunnels of Alaska. According to Slate, “Water has carved caves into the interior, creating surreal, turquoise-toned worlds whose shapes are ever changing.” The inside of the cave truly looks like a crystal-clear blue trip to the center of the Earth.

According to Atlas Obscura, “The Mendenhall Glacier is a 12-mile-long glacier in the Mendenhall Valley, located only 12 miles from downtown Juneau in Southeast Alaska.” Although the glacier is a very popular tourist attraction, very few people get to see it in its most remarkable glory inside of the cave.

That is because the journey to the inside of the cave is a long and strenuous one. Atlas Obscura says that “the Ice Caves are inside the glacier, accessible only to those willing to kayak to, and then ice climb over the glacier.” For the most adventurous and determined of us, The Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture suggests a few tips for preparing for a trip to the ice caves.

Primarily, the Forest Service suggests that these people reserve ample time out of their days for the journey, at least six to eight hours, as it takes longer than most people expect. Also, the service suggests that travelers bring extra clothes in case of a change of weather or if clothing becomes wet due to the melting glacier or the lake.

The service also advises people to “wear sturdy footwear such as hiking boots. Both the rocks and the glacier can be slippery. Loose soil and rocks are regularly encountered. Glacier travel requires crampons, ice axe and rescue gear, and the skills to use them.” Although the adventure will surely provide a lovely and scenic hike of the inside of the wondrous ice cave, many precautions need to be taken in order to ensure safety on the trip.

Much of the destruction of these ice caves can be attributed to global warming. According to Slate, “Rising global temperatures have caused the glacier to start melting—it has receded by about two miles since 1958.” Atlas Obscura continues to state that “the caves are in part a function of this increased glacial melting.”

Because the glaciers and ice caves may soon collapse and melt due to pressures of the failing environment, curious travelers should use this time to visit the Mendenhall Ice Caves. It is worth a trip to Juneau, Alaska to see the spectacular beauty of the caves before it is too late.

Featured Image by Andrew E. Russell on Flickr

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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