Sunday, June 04, 2006

Franz Joseph Glacier

After sleeping in a half-hour past our 0700 alarm, we got ready and made breakfast and lunch before heading over to the glacier guide office. They gave us rubber boots, crampons, ice axe, and waterproof clothing. There were about 10-12 people in our group; some from the US, Australia, Netherlands, and Brasil. We set off in a bus to the beginning of the park. The gorge used to be much deeper, but in the last few decades has filled in 10-15 meters from glacial movement. They say it moves up to 1.5m a day receding and growing, but always moving. The gray riverbed ended with more signs saying "Do Not Continue," which we blew right by.

Our guide Goose (a Kiwi) handed us off to Eian (Welsh) who led us up the steepest commercially guided glacier. Right about when we hit the ice, it started raining. On either side of the glacier, there were waterfalls from the rain forest run-off. They get an insane amount of rain here, like 40 meters or something like that. The water was running down the ice face and path, melting the ice steps that our guides carved for us. Water-filled holes seemed bottomless. The crevasses were deep and wide, a few had hand-ropes along the path and a 20m drop on the other side. My gloves were dripping water and the 5 layers I had on were barely keeping me warm in the downpour. We had lunch on a flat spot on the glacier, wind blowing cold rain down from higher in the mountains. The two girls from Brasil told the guide they couldn't continue (horribly under-dressed). So Goose came up to take them back to base. Kacey and I looked at the relentless rain, our soggy "waterproof" gear, and the thought of three more hours of this...and joined the girls on the trip back to base camp.

It kept pouring well past 2100, so we know we did the right thing. There was at least one helicopter evacuation today--we saw it happen on our way down. My clothes were soaked though the top tow layers and 75% of the next. I was 'under armour'ed up, which helped a lot (long and short shirt, boxers, leggings). We did laundry mostly to dry everything out. My courier bag's seen better days, as I can see light through it now. We had another dinner at the Blue Ice Cafe. The glacier ice was very hard, blue and marbled at times...very cool scalloped wavy areas all along the path.

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