Finding the balance
In the ice world, consider yourself on a solo expedition. As expedition climbers know, certain things come as mandatory, one above them all: you must take care of your physical well being. This is a principle of several components. The most obvious of course, is the reality you are on a glacier- surrounded by its seemingly endless crevasses, it's massive abyss-like vertical melt tubes (known as moulins), small holes and divots endangering ankles, the technical terrain that requires sound footwork and ice tools, and like any good Alaskan wilderness environment: Bears!
Finding the balance of exploring this terrain in your free time, understanding it well for your guiding, and keeping yourself out of trouble is something you learn quickly. Like all expeditions, our diet and hydration become key factors that will greatly impact our physical and mental output. There is no one here to hold us accountable for eating right, drinking enough, or helping share the load of preparing food and cleaning cookware. This is something you must do for yourself. And last but not least- maintaining physical fitness. As an ice climber, this environment is a perfect summer get-away and often I would find a vertical wall near the camp to do pull-ups on and work on moving up and down on my tools. If it rains for a week while you're alone in an ice world you will sit in the tent most of each day and you must find ways to exercise. For me this meant pushups, situps, focusing on good posture, and then mustering up the courage to go out hiking around the ice in the rain for a while. One of our guides used to bring running shoes with microspikes to strap over and would go for short runs in the flat area around camp. Opinion: Running on ice- not advised!
So, how do you camp on hard ice for a summer? With a constant wind, a daily surface melt of 10 to 20 cm, and the glacier slowly sliding downhill- it’s a tough life for a tent and its upkeep is vital. With the glacier in a constant melt from sunlight, the tent protects the ice under it and thus melts very slowly. Unfortunately for residents of Ice world, this means after 4 days the tent may be on a platform up to 80cm off the surrounding ice. One of the constant projects is using our one-meter drill to make industrial-strength V-threads (Abalakovs) to anchor the tent. Using a trekking pole with a metal hook on the end, we pull the webbing through and tension hitch it to the tent. These anchors become a point of pride amongst guides as you want to be the one making the deepest V-threads because they'll last the longest.
This is imperative or the tent is at a very real risk of being picked up and moved by the wind. These are just some of the many trivial pieces of living in Ice world that must be negotiated and it has its effects on the whole operation. Going to bed is a wonderful time, snuggling into my Mythic bag on an insulated cot off the ice, reading books, writing, watching some pre-downloaded movies or TV episodes, the comforts in the tent were solid. With a carpeted floor, solar panel, and propane stove, getting comfortable inside was easy. I always slept flawlessly to the noise of the wind and the nearby waterfalls, or the calming sound of a thousand raindrops spattering across the tent.