There are professional glaciers and there are tourist glaciers. I'm going to pretend I was on a professional glacier worthy of National Geographic, but in truth Mendenhall is kind of a tourist glacier. It was a blast, nevertheless.
At the heliport in Juneau, we geared up with arctic pants and coats, helmets, heavy boots with spikes in the toes, thick gloves and an ice axe/pick. Oh yeah, I was lookin' cool!
We rode the "hee-low to base" (helicopter to the flat landing spot) and struggled to figure out how to walk in this strange environment. It was a bit like marching in Herman Munster boots. The weather was sunny and gorgeous the day we were there. The white frozen surface of the glacier was dotted with bright blue pools. We learned how to side-step down the steep hills and dig the toe-picks into the hill on the way up. The ice axe became my best friend as it provided leverage, stability and a crutch. We jumped over a wide, gaping crevasse... okay, maybe it was only 12 inches wide or so, but it was slippery and you couldn't see to the bottom of the crack!
I was trying to protect my new camera from too much banging around when hubby offered to carry it for me. He put it around his neck and promptly lost his footing and went sliding toward Lake Tidy-Bowl like a turtle on his back. In true amateur style, I reached out to grab him (he's 250#, I'm 110#). Fortunately, I missed or we would have both been headed for the drink. He managed to stop himself after about a 15-foot slide and well before he went over the ledge and into the lake. My camera has never forgiven us and the auto-focus motor still sticks sometimes.
At first I was disappointed that the excursion was only 4 hours long including the suit-up, safety training and helicopter ride, but 90-minutes on the ice was more than enough. We were spent. Thank goodness there was a well-stocked bar back on the cruise ship! There's nothing like a soak in the hot tub and a sour-apple martini to take the sting out of blisters, sore muscles, sunburn and frostbite.