Outdoors
Tracy Arm may be the most amazing place I've ever seen. The contrast of kayaks against the shear vertical walls that rise hundreds of feet from the icy water makes the place seem more suitable for giants than our group.
A Trip South: The surge of Tracy Arm 070412 OUTDOORS 1 For the Capital City Weekly Tracy Arm may be the most amazing place I've ever seen. The contrast of kayaks against the shear vertical walls that rise hundreds of feet from the icy water makes the place seem more suitable for giants than our group.

File Photo By Sarah Day

The Sawyer Glacier on a sunny day in July, 2011.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Story last updated at 7/4/2012 - 1:42 pm

A Trip South: The surge of Tracy Arm

Tracy Arm may be the most amazing place I've ever seen. The contrast of kayaks against the shear vertical walls that rise hundreds of feet from the icy water makes the place seem more suitable for giants than our group.

Our last day up the arm led us to a camp spot named Feng Shui Heights, which sits just before the North Sawyer Glacier. The site could have been inhabited by mounted goats due to its steep rocky ledges but we were told that our family of kayaks could find a temporary home there. As we paddled through the iceberg fragments, waving to the seals as we passed, we scanned the sides for any sign of Feng Shui Heights in slight disbelief that it would even be possible to get out of our boats.

The sea was just reaching high tide, an essential condition for safe entrance to this site, when we noticed a small point coming down and jutting out into the water. Sure that there was no other option, we paddled up and confirmed the location. There were two entrances, one on each side of the point, and each was only large enough for two boats to unload at a time. Max and I pulled our boat in first and began quickly removing bags while making sure to steady the boat from smashing against the unforgiving rocks.

All was going well until we heard a loud boom come roaring down the arm. "Get ready for the surge!" I heard someone shout from behind. The North Sawyer had caved and the chunk of ice was sending a big wave our way. Before we knew it, we saw our boat rise nearly three feet as water flooded over the rock ledge. With Max holding the boat and I now frantically heaving bags to safety, the boat subsequently dropped as the water was sucked back out. This continued as boat after boat pulled up, unloaded, and was carried up onto the ledge to a safe resting spot. When the chaos was over and all 15 boats were safely stashed for the night, we climbed up the series of ledges to peer out toward the magnificent ice flow that had been giving us so much trouble.

We went to bed that night high up on the mountainside surrounded by flowing waterfalls thinking we had reached nirvana. The only thing keeping us from it was the 4 a.m. high tide we would need to catch the following morning in order to make it out safely. It's hard to fully appreciate the power that a place like Tracy Arm has until you're tossed into it with nothing but your own physical strength to help you and this experience is one that I will never forget.


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