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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

4 April 2011

International glacier expedition

3rd April 2011

Walking on a glacier is something that you should definitely do once, but probably only once. I’ll no doubt caveat that later in the post.

Our expedition was a truly international affair, with us representing the UK and accompanied by others from China, Malaysia, South Korea and Argentina. Our guides were Canadian and Kiwi. It’s a weird world on the ice. Crampons are fun and surprisingly easy to walk in, as long as you are actually on ice. On rocky parts they squeak like fingernails on a blackboard. Far from being a smooth and featureless landscape the top of a glacier is a mess of ridges and gullies, steep slopes and deep crevasses. In places the ice looks like a mass of sugar crystals, in other places it is deep blue or turquoise scattered with flecks of rock. The guides stop frequently to hack fresh steps out with big ice axes. I’d have liked to have a go at that.

In fact, if there was anything wrong with our ice walk it was that the whole thing was a bit too careful and risk-averse. Any slightly tricky slope or steep drop-off the guides would backtrack and try to find us an easier way. Sometimes a guide would stand in front of a drop to make sure no-one fell in. Really, you’d have to deliberately throw yourself at the hole to ‘accidentally’ fall into it. I know there can be treacherous areas on a glacier requiring experience and skill to navigate, but we were all following in single-file so that’s covered.

So I really enjoyed our three hour exploration of the Fox Glacier and whether in New Zealand, Canada, Norway or Chile I’d recommend it to anyone. But if I were to ever go back on a glacier it would have to be for a more daring exploration where they don’t treat you as though you’re a toddler about to fall on your face every other step. : )

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