Homer Alaska - Outdoors

Story last updated at 6:17 PM on Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Family embarks on trip to the Malaspina Glacier

Staff report

Seldovia-based trekkers Erin McKittrick and Bretwood (Hig) Higman head out today for a two-month expedition on one of North America's largest glaciers.

The couple are veterans of more than 7,000 miles of human-powered travel in Alaska's remote wilderness, including a yearlong journey from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands chronicled in McKittrick's book "A Long Trek Home: 4,000 Miles by Boot, Raft, and Ski."

For this trip, they're bringing their children — 9-month-old Lituya and 2 ½-year-old Katmai — to the Malaspina Glacier on the remote coast of the Gulf of Alaska, about 250 miles northwest of Juneau.

They call the plan "Life on Ice." It involves human-powered travel between a series of base camps on the glacier and the ocean coast, exploring the impacts of climate change on the area.

"It's just an amazing place. This glacier is 40 miles wide, and there are forests growing on the ice, super-cooled ice springs, sea lions on the coast, bears, amazing fall storms," Higman said. "And the glacier is shrinking so quickly that it's a great spot to see the power of climate change."

Higman has a PhD in geology and McKittrick a master of science in biology, but the family will rely on Higman and McKittrick's decade of experience dealing with grizzly bears, wilderness navigation, wild storms and dangerous rivers.

They are bringing an electrified fence and pepper spray to discourage bears, a woodstove to warm up wet kids and a large shelter, in addition to their standard equipment and ultralight rafts.

"We're actually really cautious people, and we work really hard to anticipate risks," McKittrick said.

Katmai has already traveled more than 500 miles by foot and raft with his parents, but this will be Lituya's first journey.

While away, the family will post photos and stories of the trip at their website and blog, www.groundtruthtrekking.org.