Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Today I deliberately fell into a crevasse

Well, I actually allowed myself to be lowered into the crevasse on a rope, with the intention of climbing out of it. I had actually paid for this experience, and better than that, was enjoying it. Ice-climbing has definitely been a highlight of my time in New Zealand, and Fox has been a pretty good place to me.

I've been in Fox about four days now, and yesterday I managed to get out in the chopper for the heli-hike. This was so cool - we got to see beautiful blue caves and archways, as well as deeep crevasses and amazing seracs being pushed up from the ice, all tinged blue from the sun. The ice was clean and free from dirt, and also, maybe best of all, we got to ride in a helicopter. This is rapidly becoming my favourite form of transport, and in order to continue this expensive habit, I will either have to join the armed forces (unlikely), become rich and famous (even less likely) or become one of those people who goes up in helicopters to look at traffic congestion (an interesting career choice which I hadn't considered up until now). I don't think there are many helicopters in the hectic world of financial IT. Still, you never know.

We had about an hour and a half of ice-time, which doesn't sound like much, but we didn't have to go through any crappy moraine, just beautiful clean ice, and furthermore, it was driving rain, so we were getting pretty chilled, despite the 10 zillion layers that had been kindly loaned to us by Alpine Guides. So an hour and a half was plenty of time to wander about, take beautiful photographs, and get a feel for the sheer size and power of the Fox Glacier.

But I really hadn't had enough here, had I? So, this morning I dragged myself out of bed at another ungodly hour (lie-ins just aren't happening in New Zealand - even when I slept through my flight I woke at only 9.05) to be a little bit more daring and see the ice with a completely different perception. Abel was our guide, and he was fantastic. He kitted us up with our crampons, ice axes, harnesses, helmets, backpacks, Columbia windproofs, (why rip my jacket with an ice axe when I can rip somebody else's instead?) and more warm clothes. Once we were adequately kitted out, it was out to the glacier, where he taught us basic moves, such as french technique and using our toes and axes. Then, we attempted faces. The first one was pretty cool and pretty easy - just a simple wall of about 20m, no real features to deal with on it - all pretty nice. Then, it all got a bit more complicated. The next climb we did was really awesome. We (there was only two of us learning - the other guy was a 6'4" German guy who had already climbed, so I didn't feel too bad about sucking compared to him) abseiled into a crevasse that was about 25m deep and only about 1.5m wide at its narrowest point, and then climbed up. It was plenty of fun, and a lot more challenging, particularly since I was entertainment for a day climb, who I know were willing me to fall. I only did that trying to come up over the overhanging lip at the top. Fine and dandy. We had a damn hard climb after that involving a funky leap to start with, and then, on the final climb, my arms just died. I could have cried with frustration, pain, exhaustion, anger, everything, but instead I just had to quit, which sucked. I mean, I shouldn't really feel any shame about it, but it's hard to try and tell your arms to do something and they quite simply wouldn't move. Abel lowered me off the climb, and when I reached stable ice, my whole body was shaking with fatigue. That was the last climb though, and it was a completely thoroughly rewarding day. I do have to admit that I am tempted to go again when I get back to Scotland, or maybe at the glaciers in Patagonia. I am sure that pleases my mother greatly.

Tomorrow I'm sitting up a bus for 12hours to get to Nelson, which I am actually looking foward to, since my whole body is pretty damn exhausted. My knees are completely bruised for falling off the ice onto them. They are going to be blue tomorrow I am sure. Once I get to Nelson, I am planning on doing the Abel Tasman trek, but I am undecided how much I will kayak and how much I will walk. I guess it all depends on the weather, which will, in all honestly, be most likely rain. Like the rest of New Zealand so far!


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