‘Byron was talking pretty clearly:’ Ice fall highlights glacier’s dangers
A major ice fall, caught on camera at a Byron Glacier arch frequented by locals, has experts warning of the hazard it and similar formations may pose.
George Klug and his fiancée Selena Hudson recorded the video Wednesday afternoon along the popular Byron Glacier Trail, near the Portage Glacier’s Begich Boggs Visitor Center.
Klug said people described the arch as “stretchy” Wednesday, but a group walked through it just 10 to 15 minutes before he saw a span of ice collapse where they passed through.
“Byron was talking pretty clearly: ‘Don’t enter unless you enjoy a ride from Life Flight or to the local cemetery,’” Klug said. “Because of the increase and consistency of the cracking we stayed and videoed, and bam – it happened.”
The Byron Glacier area has a series of well-known instabilities, which prompted an avalanche in April that nearly struck several hikers. Last summer 32-year-old Minnesota hiker Brittany Boegel was killed by falling ice at the glacier, drawing warnings from authorities about the “caves” created by a creek that runs beneath the glacier’s snowfield.
Chugach National Forest spokeswoman Alicia King said Thursday that the trail is marked by warning signs because of its many visitors and easy access from the Seward Highway. The video, she noted, is a demonstration of the dangers which can befall the unwary.
“We don’t recommend that you go into those structures, into those cave-like structures; we recommend that you stay away from large piles of snow, because they could collapse at any time,” King said. “Despite the fact that we’ve had this really nice cold weather, there’s still the possibility of those natural hazards: the rock falling, ice and snow fall, crevasses widening.”
Beyond Byron Glacier, King said, no ice caves in the Chugach National Forest are considered safe to enter.
“If you climb on a glacier or any of those structures, you really need to have proper training and proper gear, and be aware of first-aid issues and make sure that you’ve got safety in mind,” King said. “And so we just don’t recommend it.”
Klug echoed that message, although he was glad nobody was hurt Wednesday.
“Alaska is amazing, but you have to read its signs,” Klug said.
Editor's note: An initial version of this story stated that Alicia King was with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, not the Chugach National Forest.
Scott Jensen and Cassie Schirm contributed information to this story.
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