Sunday, 31 August 2008

Yesterday Rob, Dan & I set off for a second round of crevasse exploration. We came across a promising-looking slump in the snow and managed to open up a small hole in the snow bridge through which to enter.

A ramp of snow (a 'false floor' probably created by a previously collapsed snow bridge) gave us an easy entry into the main crevasse. It was considerably wider than the previous slot we'd discovered and continued opening up towards the top where it was heavily bridged by snow. Large lumps of old snow bridge littered the false floor on which we were standing. In winter it can be expected that the snow bridges are 'fairly stable' as temperatures are low and there is little sunlight to cause melting. There's always that chance that they might 'go' but then you might get run over by a skidoo tomorrow....
Dan went ahead fixing the rope to the solid walls of the crevasse as he went. We're always clipped into the rope just incase the floor decides to disappear beneath us! Rob descending into the crevasse

The point where we had entered was fairly cavernous, leading off this was a small chamber where Dan headed off to check what was around the corner. Rob and I stood patiently listening to the sounds of "****", "wow", "ermmm", lots of hammering with ice axes and nervous laughter. Finally we were allowed to follow. There was a large fin of ice coming up into the centre of the narrowed crevasse, Dan had knocked the top off enabling us to move along it in a very dignified shuffling manner. In the words of Greg & Al (the infamous [at Rothera anyway] NZ yoga instructors whose video yoga-routine we regularly follow) "the guys may need to re-adjust the placement of their tackle for this move"...There were some amazing ice formations including large ice-crystals (about an inch long) that resembled feathers (and sadly were difficult to get a photo of) and in one corner a mass of icy threads which looked like spider webs.
It is an unusal feeling entering these stunning underground ice caves, into which possibly no one has ever been (there hasn't been much recorded about people visiting crevasses in this area). You feel extremely priviliged yet extremely vulnerable (despite all the protection you put in place). They are extraordinarily beautiful places where calm and cold conditions allow for the creation of unbelievable ice formations, often sculpted by the flow of air through its passages. There is a sense of time standing still, as whatever the weather is doing up top, underground it is calm, with dim blue light shining through where the snow bridge is at its thinnest. It is deathly quiet and you are filled with a great sense of awe for the place. I have only been down three crevasses and each has been entirely different, I'm looking forward to seeing what suprises the next one holds....

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