Kennicott Glacier Ice Cave Exploration

Lair of Light If you've been following along lately, you know that I've just returned from an 8-day shoot throughout interior and eastern Alaska.

First, we ventured out to the Denali Highway, then on to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. While in Wrangell-St. Elias NP, we stayed at the incredible Kennicott Glacier Lodge. The lodge (privately owned by the Kirkwood family) appears to be a 100 year old building, but it was actually built in 1987, as a replica of one of the historic mine buildings from the copper mining days. It is a beautiful lodge, with wonderful staff, and features excellent meals - especially for such a remote location. In my previous trip to this area, I didn't stay at the lodge. But I won't make that mistake again.

Wheel Lost in Time

I was truly impressed by the experience. A wonderful stay is an understatement.

While here, I learned of an ice cave that was relatively accessible.

I say 'relatively' accessible because it involves a lovely little scamper down a multi-tiered scree field.

"What is scree?" you ask.

A mass of small loose stones that form or cover a slope on a mountain.

In this case, the scree didn't cover a slope on a mountain per se, but was created by the deflation of a glacier after it had carved out a massive valley. It works like this: snow falls in higher elevations (known as a the 'accumulation zone') and compresses over time, under its own weight. When the weight of this compacted snow (now solid ice) is affected by gravity, it is slowly drug down hill by gravity. This moving mass of ice is a glacier. Glaciers use their massive weight to carry along rock, that slowly (over many millennia) carve out mountainsides and form deep, u-shaped valleys. These rivers of ice flow down to lower elevations and become the source for many rivers in Alaska. As warmer temperatures affect glaciers, they move more quickly (by adding 'lubrication' in the form of sub-glacial rivers) and begin to deflate and retreat. Many people look at glaciers over time and believe that they simply 'pull back' up into valleys as they melt. This is only part of the equation. They also deflate, or become less thick, when measured from solid bedrock below to the surface of the glacier.

Glacial deflation is very evident in the historic panoramic photos that Kennicott Glacier Lodge has on display in their entryway. Kennicott Glacier has not only retreated, but it has also thinned nearly 200 feet in less than 70 years. An area that was once scoured and covered by glacier is now fully exposed on each lateral moraine. As the glacier carved away the sides of the mountains, it deposit countless small stones along the moraine. This was our entry to the cave. Loose stones covered the slopes of the moraine, from the trail above all the way to the cave entrance. Going down was faster, albeit a bit more treacherous, as every step threatened to grab, twist, and snap our ankles. Going up was laborious though. For every step forward, it seemed we would slide three back.

However, the reward (finding & photographing a 300 foot deep ice cave in the Kennicott Glacier) was definitely worth the work.


I’m proud to release “Lair of Light” & "Lost in Time" as a new prints to our collectors! The first is an image of an incredible ice cave, under the Kennicott Glacier, in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The second is an image of a 100 year old wagon and wheel being consumed by vegetation, in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

I am setting the opening Rendition of each print (#1) at 24″36″. (read about our completely unique ‘Rendition’ prints in this blog post)

Open Editions prints are also available in 12″x18″, 16″x24″,  and 20″x30″ sizes. This print will also be available in our new Canvas Wraps in all Open Edition sizes!

If you are a collector, and would like to own the very first Rendition Print of either of these images, please contact us at 907-315-0191. Likewise, if you would like to own an Open Edition print, we would love to help you.