Glacier Ice Hiking & Climbing

Exit Glacier Ice Hiking & Ice Climbing

A view of the Harding Ice Field which is part of our Glacier Hiking and Climbing Adventure
Harding Ice Field

 

 

Exit Glacier Hiking & Ice Climbing is an amazing way to spend a day. Exit Glacier is a glacier derived from the Harding Icefield in the Kenai Mountains of Alaska. It is one of Kenai Fjords National Park’s major attractions. Additionally, it is one of the most accessible valley glaciers in Alaska. The glacier is a strikingly visible indicator of glacial recession due to climate change. Exit Glacier retreated approximately 187 feet (57 m) from 2013 to 2014. Park scientists continue to monitor and record the glacier’s accelerating recession. On the drive up to the glacier, you’ll see marker posts going back hundreds of years. These markers show where the glacier was originally during that year. It’s fascinating to watch its retreat as you drive the miles to the base of the trailhead.

The Harding Ice Field was first crossed in 1968. Exit Glacier received its name for serving as the exit for the first recorded crossing. Although exit glacier is one of the smaller glaciers of the Harding ice-field its size is remarkable and awe-inspiring. 

During the retreat of Exit Glacier from its Little Ice Age maximum in 1815 until recent times, the glacier has left a series of more than 11 moraines. It has also retreated more than 1.25 miles (2 km). The glacier had an average retreat of roughly 6/10 of a mile eac.. Starting in the 1800s, markers have been posted along the trail as a visual reminder of the glacier’s retreat. It’s been melting at a rate of roughly 162 feet per year since 2010.

Single Day Excursions

Climbing out of a glacier crevasse on our Exit Glacier Hiking & Climbing Adventure
Climbing out of a glacier crevasse on our Exit Glacier Hiking & Climbing Adventure

 

Ever wanted to climb stand on top of an amazing active glacier and even climb its crevasses? Our Glacier hiking & climbing trips do not require previous ice climbing experience. You just need to bring the right attitude and enough physical ability to hike a steep trail. The ice climbing tour of exit glacier is to give you a first introduction to ice climbing and do it right on one of the most famous glaciers in Alaska. 

We will share a shuttle ride and then begin the 1.5-hour hike through the flats to the base of the glacier. There you will don ice climbing crampons and use the first gentle slopes to understand how to use your crampons, discuss safety, and the basics of how we will climb areas of the glacier.  While this trip does not require previous ice climbing experience it does require enough physical abilities to handle hiking, climbing, and being active and fit. The total hike will be 4.5 miles through more than 1500 feet of elevation change.

Two Day - Exit Glacier Ice Climbing

Helicopter sits atop the Harding Ice Field as part of our two day Glacier Hiking & Climbing Adventures
Helicopter resting atop the Harding Ice Field

Want to spend even more time on this incredible glacier hiking and climbing and see more of what it has to offer? Then consider our multi-day glacier trip allowing you to spend two full days exploring this magnificent glacier. Day one will be spent much like the single-day exploration.  Learning to use your crampons, develop technique,s and learning how to explore safely.

Day two involves jumping into a helicopter and flying to a more remote area of the glacier. You’ll learn more about glacier topology and get a chance to explore moulins, see active rivers flowing throughout the glacier, and truly feel and experience the sheer amount of ice that stretches for miles. It creates a constantly changing and fascinating landscape.

Exit Glacier Ice Hiking

A deep crevasse and waterfall as seen during our Glacier Hiking & Climbing Adventures
A deep crevasse and waterfall experienced during a Glacier Hike

The Exit Glacier hiking & ice climbing tour is intended to give you an introduction to ice climbing while exploring Exit Glacier. The Ice Hiking tour is a full day hiking and trekking trip intended for outdoor enthusiasts that really want to explore and see large parts of the glacier. While a large part of the trip is spent hiking and gaining elevation next to the glacier and its stunning views of the valley below, there will still be 1 to 2 hours of time spent directly on and exploring the ice.

Like the ice climbing trip, while you don’t have to be a superstar athlete you will need to be physically fit and be able to hike the trails while carrying your pack and any equipment you choose to bring. For those willing to put in the work the views, memories, and pictures are amazing.

On these hikes, wildlife viewing of black bears, moose, marmots, eagles, and more are very common. As are wild raspberries and other wild Alaska berries, plants, and flowers.

While much of this hike is done with hiking boots, once the ice is reached you will put on your crampons, harnesses, and helmets and work your way out onto the ice. Once on the ice, you’ll have an up-close look at the waterfalls created by the melt-off, enormous crevasses, deep holes, and the incredible aqua blue color of the glacier. 

One of the amazing things about hiking this glacier is that no two trips are ever the same. The glacier is constantly changing not only from day to day but from year to year as it continues its freeze and melt cycles throughout the year.