Roadtrippin’: Snowshoe and ice cave adventures in the Don Sheldon Amphitheater

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 2:43 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - While nearly every minute at the Sheldon Chalet felt like an adventure, the Alaska’s News Source Roadtrippin’ crew’s trip was not complete without testing their mettle in the wonder that is the Don Sheldon Amphitheater. After all, every stay at the chalet comes complete with experienced mountain guides, ready and qualified to lead guests on an outdoor adventure uniquely suited to their capabilities.

On the second day of Roadtrippin’, the crew set out on a 45 minute excursion to explore inside the Ruth Glacier. Lead guide Kathryn “Katwal” Walsh said depending on where a visitor is, there’s about 2,000-3,000 feet and it’s moving about a meter a day during the summer.

“Everything is shifting and changing,” she said.

Walsh gave a quick safety briefing of what to expect once inside the cave and also how to explore it. She said they’re always happy to get people out of their comfort zone, even if they are a little nervous.

“Anyone can do this,” she said. “Some people want to spend an hour, some people want to spend 10 minutes and we can make that happen.”

She described the inside of the glacier as a crystal castle.

“It is indescribable, the myriad of different adventures that we have for each group,” said Robert Sheldon, Owner of the Sheldon Chalet. “Everyone can truly have their own experience out here. Some of the caverns we open up, no one’s ever been in them before in the history of mankind until our guides step foot and then bring our guests on in. Each trip is curated to people’s desires and sometimes we give them what they didn’t know they wanted.”

The ice caving adventure didn’t stop there. After, the crew trekked back toward the chalet and were greeted with a glacier picnic, complete with sunbrellas, drinks and a ski show on pristine powder. There were even snow carved couches for guests to enjoy.

Just another nod to the grand experience that happens at the Sheldon Chalet.

“Vocabulary, it’s important, but sometimes pictures are worth more than a thousand words,” said Robert Sheldon.

Last, but certainly not least, is the chalet’s sauna located underneath the helipad, which also doubles as an observation deck.

“The observation deck is number one for me,” said Robert Sheldon. “We call it adventure in place because you truly don’t know what you’re going to get and thankfully when you’re just sitting in place you’re unlikely to get in much trouble. We watch huge geophysical events around us from avalanches and rock falls in the summer. You can literally hear the whole amphitheater trying to squeeze through about a mile-wide gateway over here. Iit grows and grunts and it’s just reverberations — it’s amazing.”

Marne Sheldon said the chalet’s sauna also offers guest a chance at a private pampering session, perfect for warming up after a long day snowshoeing on the Ruth Glacier.

“That cozy feeling to climb into the sauna and be refreshed and rejuvenated, it’s beautiful, it’s a beautiful thing,” she said. “Put on the robe, walk outside. We got essential oils in there, so it’s kind of a do it yourself spa and it has a view of the summit.”

Once the sun sets, the night sky begins to show off and with a little patience, guests are dazzled by a show of the northern lights.

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