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I absailed into a crevasse on the Aletsch Glacier today, which is the longest Glacier in the Alps. I can’t express myself more than saying today was the most exceptional day of my life!
But lets start from the start!
This morning, we woke up to what seemed to me like a snow storm – the sky was white, the wind was cold, and it was a fast run to the drop-toilets outside the building! Breakfast was at 6 – and then it was time to pack our bags, put on our snow jackets, and make our way back to Jungfraujoch.
It was only a short walk – but we couldn’t see more than a few meters in front of us due to the snow and fog! Although the cold was biting through our boots – Dario made me realise that for the Global Climate Expedition; this was the best possible weather to experience on the glacier!! Snowfall is imperative to protect the glacier ~ the thicker the layer of snow; the more preserved the Glacier would be.
We arrived at Jungfraujoch, and then the others waited while Dario and I went to visit our friend Felix to check the latest weather report. It looked pretty grim. Obviously it’s not just about being wet and cold – it’s a decision that has to made based on our safety. With heavy snowfall, it makes it hard to see Crevasses in the Glacier, which could be potentially fatal if someone was to fall in without being properly roped in and acting with the utmost caution. Also – due to global warming, we have been told that this year the Crevasses are larger and more unstable. So the decision was made – we would not be making our way to Koncordia Hut, the trek we had planned through the valley.
But it wasn’t over yet.
We soon met with another Mountain Guide; the wonderful Stephan, along with more TOPtoTOP members: the daughter of Gabi, and the Wuthrich Family; Elizabeth, Tom and Hansjurg.
Now, with two groups, we decided we would venture out into the cold onto the glacier to experience what it is like – in a crevasse!!!!!!!!!!!!
I couldn’t imagine what it would be like – I was excited – but nervous too. I had learnt about the formation and dangers of glaciers; and the idea of absailing into one of them was pretty hard to believe!!!
We put on our harnesses, gloves, and snow gear – then Dario and Stephan helped to attach everyone to the safety line. This is vital to avoid unintentionally disappearing into the cracks below. Then we trekked down through the deep snow – but not too far. Before long – Stephan had spotted an amazing Crevasse – like a cave digging into the ground. This was it.
These caves – like I mentioned briefly in the last report from the Moterasch Glacier – are basically cracks in the ice are like vertical walls. There are different types – what we saw most of the time was the transverse crevasses, which are created where the rock surface below is sloping downwards, causing the ice above to crack as is moves forward. Crevasses interest me so much because of their stratigraphy ~ all the different layers of snow and ice they contain, dating back from the ice age to present day!
But anyway, it was time. I edged towards the natural “ice cave”, connected safely to my harness and line. Then, slowly, stepped cautiously onto the soft snow ledge. Putting my weight backwards, I made the decent. Wow. Once I was lowered and secured, I lifted my head to have a look around – I was surrounded by a stunning landscape of icicles and a white cliff of snow – the further down the crevasse I looked, the more deep blue the colours became. It was beautiful.
From this position; I could film the other students have a go at defending and climbing out of the glacier. It was a fantastic experience to learn about the safety procedures regarding crevasse rescues; and an essential part of mountaineering. Gao has the most difficult position; as he was lowered below some solid ice. Putting safety as our first priority, Dario began to dig parallel to the line Gao was hanging from, and then pulled the rope out of the ice and into the path he had created – then Gao could use this as a way to climb out. It’s important not to dig where the rope is, because if you touch the rope with your knife or pick axe, the tension could cause the rope to break!
Once everyone had their chance to learn about the experience; we all climbed out of the glacier, attached ourselves back onto the line, and made our way back to Jungfraujoch, with some incredible photos!!!
The day was still young ~ we had only been in the snow a few hours! We got back on the steep railway, and made the decent, saying goodbye to Felix, his wife, and the wonderful view! (although hidden by fog)!
We went straight to the information and adventure centre of Grindelwald, and deposited our heavy bags. Then, still with us, Stephan the guide handed out helmets and harnesses! More adventure was to be had!!
We walked down to the bottom of the valley, at the mouth of the glaciers river. Then, it was a bit of a steep hike to the top of the gorge. We looked over the edge – it was a looong way! And we wanted to absail back down!!! It took a long time for everyone to descend down the two sections of cliff – each a stunning 45 meters! (So nearly 100m from the top!!) and once at the bottom, it was an uneasy balancing act across some metal wire above the gushing rapids! But wow; what a buzz!!! We watched from the other side of the river as the rest of the team made their way down!
Afterwards, we made a quick rush through the gorge before we had to return our helmets and gear. The waterfalls trickling down were beautiful between the giant walls of rock!
After the gear was returned; we all walked back up the STEEEEEP mountainside to the Chalet!
That night we continued with our reports, and chatted excitedly over the dinner table about our adventures….. What an amazing day!!!