dancing horses

dancing horses

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How to Hike to an Ice Cave

I had many memorable experiences on my vacation but this is one for the books (some things may be exaggerated for dramatic effect. But not by much).

It starts with my best friend suggesting we go on a hike to see an ice cave (actually it’s a tunnel through a glacier but everyone calls it a cave). I agree because, well ‘do all the things’ is kinda my life motto.

Look up hike online, realize that you haven’t really hiked in a long time and you are 54.  Have  doubts as to the wisdom of this.

Suppress doubts.

Drive to small Yukon community with friend and another friend. The clouds are low and there is a light snow falling. On the way see wild elk and horses.

Drive by entry point and turn back. Entry point is a highway km marker and some orange tape tied to trees.

Bundle up in preparation. Be really glad you went to bathroom at gas station right before.

Walk through trees and then up a frozen steam bed feeling confident.  The snow is granular and it’s like walking in sand and your right knee is complaining. Shush knee and keep going. The world is gray all around you and visibility is limited.

Friend of friend points to hazy mountain in the far  distance and declares ‘the ice bridge is in a pass through there’.
can you see that mountain? I had to squint

Decide she must be joking and keep going.

Realize she’s not joking. And the mountain is looking just as far away as it did 20 minutes ago. At some point knee stopped bitching and has subisded into sullen silence. Decide it’s because you worked through the stiffness and not any other reason.

Mountain still far away.

Get overheated and stop to strip off layers. -13 has never felt so warm.  Pack is now heavier but the
coolness is refreshing.

Briefly wonder if this is the leading cause of death for menopausal women in the North.

Mountain is closer but incline is steeper.  Friend of friend (who's 20 years younger) assures you that it’s not far now. Look at her map on phone and feel like she’s overly optimistic or lying to keep you motivated. Decide that it's probably both.
it's in the cleft in the middle (sort of. I think)

Rest breaks are becoming more frequent. Contemplate quitting. Decide you can see cave in distance. Keep going.

The last km to cave is steep and the terrain is harder. Even more breaks. Body is telling you that it hates you and will never forgive this outrage.

Cave seems to be on wheels as it never gets any closer. Begin to feel like Sam accompanying Frodo to Mount Doom. Feel grateful that at least there won't be any giant spiders. Shit, did something just move?  Realize that it's highly unlikely to be giant spiders or bears. Probably.

Decide you are going to cave so that you can tell it to go to hell. Wonder if you are overreacting.  Decide you don’t fucking care.
at last- I can see it but that last uphill was so painful

Make it to cave. Take deep breaths while it dawns on you on majestic this is. You have hiked to a glacier.

Explore cave and take lots of photos. Rest for about 20 minutes while you chew on a frozen granola bar. Wish you had a dog sled to go back.

the floor was littered with ice that has fallen from the ceiling.
It was too treacherous to walk on 

I loved striations

I'm standing in the entrance and took this photo of Cynthia for scale,
otherwise it can seem smaller than it really was. 

Start the trek back. Realize how much easier it is  to go downhill. Relatively.

 Resolve to increase fitness when you go home.

On the trek down grayness clears revealing that you are surrounded by the most spectacular mountains. Breathe in the fresh, clean air and listen the silence. Stop to take many photos. Also put layers back on because -13 now feels cold.
the light in the Yukon is just magical

walking away, the mountain seems majestic. Not daunting

Keep walking wondering if you can find the orange markers to get back to car. Point out a tree that you saw on the way back.
Me: We're almost there. I remember that tree!'
Friend looks at all the trees surrounding us and then at you with a worried expression.
Assure her that you are okay.

See a snowmobile pull out from woods and wonder if they would pick up a hitchhiker. Best friend says 'I really hope they pulled out on the trail that takes us back to the car'.

Finally you see it. Fall into car and drive back to town. Go to local restaurant (only one open) and order large hamburger and fries. Devour meal with all the grace of a starving hyena.

Marvel at the scenery on the drive home. There are mountains in every direction as far as the eye can see. Doze off at some point. Fitbit cheerily chirps at you to ‘go for a stroll’. Tell it to fuck off.

Everything hurts. Back home pour glass of wine and have  hot bath.

Hike to cave: 2.5 hours. Hike back 1.5.

No regrets.


  1. oh man, that is SO COOL - those striations are so pretty!!! good for you for sticking it out tho haha, it sounds exhausting.

    one of my weird free time hobbies is watching everest videos on youtube - both actual summit attempts and just the treks to base came (there are so.many.videos.omg), and if i've learned anything from that, it's that trekking to remote places is just plain old intense. but usually worth it ;)

    1. It was intense. I lovedthe striations too. They were fascinating.

  2. I'm pretty sore just reading this... Certainly was beautiful though! Congrats on surviving that adventure!

    1. I had a few knots to work out the next day! But the beauty was worth seeing.

  3. Oh my gosh. This is so amazing. I would love to go see a glacier and a cave/tube, but I would die before I survived that hike. I would need a dog sled or snowmobile.

    1. I think someone could have a good business taking people to the cave via dog sled.

  4. What a beautiful adventure - holy crow. I imagine the photos don't even do it justice.

  5. This post is SO EPIC. I love it. Hilarious and gorgeous and just WOW!!! My FitBit cheerfully told me to take a stroll after we accidentally hiked 18 miles and I wanted to throw it LOL

    1. Thank you. I wish that Fitbits were more reasonable. Like ‘hey I saw that you hiked a long distance. Have some chocolate. And a nap. ‘

  6. Absolutely beautiful. And a hilarious write-up!

    That hike was no joke either. Isn't it funny how the most bitter of cold can seem like nothing when you're working up a sweat in it?

    1. It was beautiful. I’m glad you enjoyed the write up! I was surprised at how many time I took my hat and gloves off over the week.

  7. Gorgeous!!!! I'm so so so jealous!!!

  8. Beautiful hike! I wouldn't have made it with my knee, sometimes it just won't shut the hell up! Someone needs to open a dog sled business there. A fortune is to be made and it would be part of the adventure. Just gorgeous scenery.

    1. I agree about the dog sled business! I wondered how my knee would be the next day but it was fine.

  9. Wow I can't even imagine that kind of cold, but it sure is pretty!

    1. It was a dry cold so it didn't feel too bad- at least as long as you are bundled up and moving!


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