Mission accomplished: Matanuska icefall post-climb.
  • Mission accomplished: Matanuska icefall post-climb.
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I had less than eight hours before my flight and I wanted to hike Matanuska Glacier, a two-and-a-half-hour drive each way from the Anchorage airport.

It had been a fun weekend visiting friends, seeing the sights and drinking beer, but the unexpected snow had put a damper in my hiking plans. I wasn’t about to leave without having gone on at least one hike. It was now or never. Today was my last chance to hike Matanuska.

The rugged beauty of Matanuska.

The rugged beauty of Matanuska.

The drive on Glenn Highway to Matanuska Glacier can be scenic and relaxing... except when you have limited time and take Old Glenn Highway, adding another four miles of winding roads.

At mile maker 101, I made a quick stop at the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site for a glimpse before I continued to mile marker 102, turned off the highway, and followed the dirt road to the Matanuska Glacier gift shop.

Access to the glacier is located on private property. I paid the $20/person access fee and drove another two miles down rutted dirt roads to the station.

Orange construction cones marked the path to the toe of the glacier. An easy 10-15 minute walk and I was on the ice.

But this was just the tip of the iceberg, as they say.

I headed for the icefall and giant seracs (columns of ice formed by intersecting crevasses on a glacier). Without a clearly marked path, only the path to the toe of the glacier is marked. I didn’t know how long it would take, but I was going to reach the icefall.

Getting out to the icefall and seracs was exhilarating – a feeling of excitement mixed with fear. Fear that I’d take a wrong step and end up falling down a 40-foot crevasse, never to be seen again. I wanted to explore more and venture further, but it was after noon. I had to be at the airport at 3 p.m.

It had taken me an hour and a half to reach the icefall, stopping for photos and navigating a safe passage (left). Pressed for time, however, I made it back to my car in 40 minutes.

Driving like Speed Racer down the mountain, I arrived at the Anchorage airport with a few minutes to spare. The risk of missing my flight was worth the experience.

Access to Matanuska Glacier is located at mile marker 102, Glenn Highway, Anchorage, Alaska.

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