Climbing Alaska's Matanuska Glacier is an excellent example of a challenging climbing experience combined with an amazing exploration of one of the most beautiful natural settings on earth. This massive blue-hued edifice is a wintery wonderland just waiting to be discovered. It's also surprisingly accessible -- the largest glacier in Alaska that can be reached by car [source: Matanuska Glacier].
At 13,176 feet high (4,016 meters), the Matanuska Glacier is dotted with ice caves, crystal clear blue lakes, and beautifully carved crevasses that provide a highly technical and challenging climb [source: Anchorage Daily News]. You'll definitely need gear for ice and snow on this climb, including crampons for your boots and tools such as axes, screws, and anchors. Clothing is also very important on an ice climb. Glaciers and other frozen environments require waterproof gear designed for maximum warmth.
You'd expect a glacier environment to be bitterly cold, and the air around Alaska's Matanuska Glacier can be freezing at times. However, the glacier exists in a "weather hole," which is a zone that sometimes experiences less severe weather than the surrounding area. The Matanuska Glacier weather hole is created when cold air from the glacier itself forces the warmer air around it up toward the peaks, creating a sunny, mild zone for climbers and trekkers despite inclement weather nearby [source: Frommer's Alaska]. This mild zone is concentrated on the glacier, but don't let that stop you from exploring the valley below, which offers plenty of side adventures outside of the glacier environment, such as river rafting, zip lining, and fabulous hiking excursions.