Rangers warn hikers to stay off Byron Glacier snowfield
Thursday, July 5th 2018, 12:05 PM AKDT
Forest rangers are warning people about the dangers of Byron Glacier after a woman was crushed by falling ice on July 4.
Alaska State Troopers said 32-year-old Brittany Boegel from Minnesota was underneath a snow formation when it collapsed.
Tom Charnon, the district ranger for the Chugach National Forest, said what people perceive as ice caves aren’t really part of Byron Glacier at all.
The avalanche debris is a semi-permanent snowfield with a creek running underneath that creates a cave-type formation.
“We recommend a half-a-mile separation distance from glaciers in general to due to ice fall and rock fall associated with glaciers, and we don’t recommend people travel on or in a persistent snowfield where snow caves may form,” Charnon said.
There’s an allure to the ice, though; despite the posted warnings, people ventured onto the snowfield to get a closer look.
“We were coming down the trail and we saw the sign that has the graphic of someone falling on ice and falling through and said something to the effect of 'be careful'. I’ll be honest, I was thinking of that more in the context of winter,” Robert Hutchings said.
When Hutchings and his family reached the end of the maintained trail, they were alerted by another hiker that falling ice had killed Boegel the day before.
That changed their plans to explore the snowfield themselves.
"As soon as we found out, we told our kids, 'don’t go on the ice. Don’t go on the ice, on the snow, don’t climb on it. You can grab it with your hands and make snowballs, but that’s it,'” he said.
As an Alaskan, Hutchings knows the ice and snow are not as stable as they appear to be.
"This looks fairly harmless. We know the water’s cold, it’s not snowing, it’s not winter, it’s not windy and we’re not really in danger of avalanches anymore. It’s easy to get complacent and take this for granted,” Hutchings said.
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