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Brighter Night: Colorful Night Ice Climbing in Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier

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Have you ever thought about ice climbing in such a magical light show?

Follow along as Roam Media’s Jordan Halland takes us along to the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska, with elite local climbers Alan Gordon and Jamie Pierce for a magical experience of colorful ice climbing. Jordan and the camera crew light up the crystal clear glaciers with colorful LED lights for Alan Gordon and Jamie Pierces night climbs. It was Jordan and Alan’s creative dream and their execution is truly breathtaking.


ROAM exists to inspire, educate, and activate your life of Adventure + Purpose. Founded by the world’s best adventure athletes, photographers, and filmmakers, ROAM brings a new voice, straight from the icons themselves, to the world. Through educational videos, original shows, mini-documentaries, audio experiments, and community events like the annual ROAM Awards, we strive to energize and encourage our audience and members. ROAM’s mission of providing quality storytelling and education is designed to spark something within, creating a simplicity of motion that draws people toward living in the now. Their ultimate goal? To encourage and support everyone in our community to ROAM toward a life of Adventure + Purpose.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier and Lake

Mendenhall Glacier and Lake

Mendenhall Glacier (also Sitaantaagu) is a glacier about 13.6 miles (21.9 km) long located in Mendenhall Valley, about 12 miles (19 km) from downtown Juneau in the southeast area of the U.S. state of Alaska. The glacier and surrounding landscape is protected as part of the 5,815 acres (2,353 ha) Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, a federally designated unit of the Tongass National Forest.

It was originally known as Sitaantaago (“the Glacier Behind the Town”) or Aak’wtaaksit (“the Glacier Behind the Little Lake”), also Latinized as Aakwtaaksit, by the Tlingit. The glacier was named Auke (Auk) Glacier by naturalist John Muir for the Tlingit Auk Kwaan (or Aak’w Kwaan) band in 1879. In 1891 it was renamed in honor of Thomas Corwin Mendenhall. It extends from the Juneau Icefield, its source, to Mendenhall Lake.

One of the beautiful ice caves within the Mendenhall Glacier

One of the beautiful ice caves within the Mendenhall Glacier

The Juneau Icefield Research Program has monitored the outlet glaciers of the Juneau Icefield since 1942, including Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier has also retreated 1.75 miles (2.82 km) since 1929, when Mendenhall Lake was created, and over 2.5 miles (4.0 km) since 1500. The end of the glacier currently has a negative glacier mass balanceand will continue to retreat in the foreseeable future.

Given that average yearly temperatures are currently increasing, and the outlook is for this trend to continue, it is actually possible that the glacier might experience a period of stabilization or slight advance during its retreating march. This is because increasing amounts of warm, moist air will be carried up to the head of the icefield, where colder ambient temperatures will cause it to precipitate as snow. The increased amount of snow will feed the icefield, possibly enough to offset the continually increasing melting experienced at the glacier’s terminus. However, this interesting phenomenon will fade away if temperatures continue to climb, since the head of the glacier will no longer have cold enough ambient temperatures to cause snow to precipitate.

Mendenhall Glacier Ice Cave Trail

If you are planning on climbing the Mendenhall Glacier ice caves, we suggest taking the Ice Cave Trail. The Ice Cave Trail is a difficult 6.1 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Auke Bay, Alaska that features Mendenhall Lake and the ice caves. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips and is best used from June until August. This challenging hike typically takes 3 to 4 hours.

The Ice Caves are one of the coolest destinations at the end of this hike. The trail has great views of the glacier along the way. There are pink and orange ribbons for way finding, if you get turned around. Be aware of the water puddles and slick rocks on the trail.

Don’t forget to bring some lights!


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Terms of Use: As with each guide published on SKYBLUE, should you choose to this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While taking a trail, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. SKYBLUE OVERLAND LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following this route.