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My Glacier Guiding Summer

Olivia Holbrook ’23 is spending her second summer working with a glacier guiding company in Alaska. In this first post, the geosciences major shares what she loves about her summer job. Check back for more updates.

I first thought about guiding in Alaska after reading an article about a Hamilton alumnus working at Exit Glacier Guides while I was applying to colleges. My freshman year, I connected with a glacier guiding company in the Matanuska Valley of Alaska through my geology professor Cat Beck. I worked on the Matanuska Glacier for one summer and quickly fell in love with guiding — it combined my passions of science and the outdoors while being active all day.

 Details shot up close on the Matanuska
Details shot up close on the Matanuska where I worked last summer. Photo: Olivia Holbrook ’23

This summer I’m working at Exit Glacier Guides as an ice climbing and ice trekking guide. I hike up the Harding Icefield Trail every day and spend about seven hours on the ice, hiking up with stops for interpretation. I also trail run after work, so the moment I sit down I fall asleep! It can be quite arduous at times — clients can be difficult, and the weather can be damp as Seward, Alaska, is considered a temperate rainforest. We call rain liquid sunshine! But the job is very rewarding. I tell people about the glaciers, and show the evidence of climate change firsthand. Everything I learn in the classroom can be applied when I tell clients about glacial maximums, the type of rock that surrounds Exit Glacier, and how glaciers form and recede.

alaska seaplane
Ski plane on Harding ice field. Photo: Olivia Holbrook ’23

Another thing I love to tell people about is the Harding Icefield. Exit Glacier originates from the Harding, which is about the size of Rhode Island and looks like Antarctica, a huge mass of ice that is 3,000 feet deep. I’ve taken a ski plane up onto the icefield — just one of many experiences I have had living part-time in Alaska.

I have guided Hamilton students, including Meg Manning ’21, a fellow geosciences major who works for Apogee Adventures. The community of Hamiltonians who work in Alaska is small but growing. Maya Weil-Cooley ’24 is working on the Matanuska Glacier this summer and will be visiting me for an end-of-season trip before we return to Hamilton in the fall and share a quad in Eells [Residence Hall].

alaska - holbrook '23
Belaying clients into a crevasse about 40' deep. 

Often, the best times are after work — ice climbing, running the local peaks, and glissading (fancy term for butt sliding) down snow slopes with extreme alpine environments zooming by. 

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