Above and Beyond Alaska prides itself in hiring high quality staff that have relevant personal or professional experience traveling and camping in the environments found in Southeast Alaska. Despite the experience new and returning staff bring with them, each season we require our guides to participate in our annual training. Over a full day is spent discussing and practicing risk management and technical rescue skills on the glacier. Another day is spent practicing man overboard drills with our motor boat, the Glacier Soul, and working on our kayak paddling technique and rescue skills – from basic to advanced. Additional opportunities are provided for learning about the natural history of our area, exploring our trip areas (for newer staff), learning how we operate camping trips, and Leave No Trace principles.
This season the gorgeous weather has created an excellent environment to do these training exercises. On May 3rd, ten guides spent a full day out on the Mendenhall Glacier. The time on the ice was split between discussing risk/client management, setting up anchors, belaying one another, rappelling, practicing crevasse rescue in a beautifully blue crevasse that was half full of water, discussing cave safety and awareness, and exploring the glacier. The Mendenhall, as always, was filled with a variety of beautiful features. In addition to “the cave” that has gained worldwide popularity this winter from articles published in major newspapers and photos that have gone viral on the website, there were several large pools, tall seracs, vibrant blue streams, impressive crevasses, and tubes carved out in the ice walls. Add in the amazing scenery of the surrounding mountains, the Mendenhall Lake and Valley, a few mountain goat sightings, and an enjoyable hike on the West Glacier and Spur trails – and you end up with one fantastic day of training.
After a couple of days of guided trips we once again gathered. On May 7th, ?? staff spent the day out on the water. The first couple hours we reviewed the safety procedures for operating the Glacier Soul, including “tossing” one of the guides overboard a few times. The waters in Auke Bay were calm and quiet with a minimal amount of boat traffic.
Upon returning to Auke Bay we loaded up kayaks and accessories and drove over to Auke Lake to get our feet and faces wet. After a quick review and assessment of paddling strokes we got down to the business of rescues. A variety of techniques were practiced so that our staff would be competent and confident in any situation that may occur on a trip. For staff that will work our kayak shop, it provided the necessary experience to be able to provide informative and accurate safety briefings to our rental clients.
On the natural history side of things, several guides were able to participate in an annual Marine Naturalist Symposium. The two morning sessions were full of excellent presentations given by local experts on a variety of relevant subjects.
In the coming week several guides will have the opportunity to become familiar with how ABAK runs overnight trips. From the 14-18 of May we will be inspecting our kayaks that are stored near Pack Creek on Admiralty Island, exploring the Pack Creek Zoological Area, and paddling back to Juneau in 4 doubles with a couple of guides and local clients.
The beginning of the season is a fun time of year for ABAK. After a winter of skiing and traveling it’s refreshing to get back out on the Mendenhall Glacier and the water’s of the Inside Passage with old and new faces.
Hope to see you out here!