Ice Climbing

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I nearly missed out on this fam trip and I was devastated. The sign-up sheet had gone up and the spots all filled up before I had even seen it. As a rock climber without any rock to climb, I had been itching to try ice climbing. Even before I came to Antarctica I had wanted to try ice climbing. I knew there would be another trip…. probably (nothing is a certain here). But, that Sunday I wasn’t working and had no other plans, it would have been perfect. Anyway, I got up that Sunday morning to get on with my day and then I saw a note on the board to the field trainer running the trip. Two people had pulled out of the trip, perhaps, just perhaps, I might be able to get on the trip. When I saw Bia (our field trainer) I said to her “have you seen your note? And can I come?”. Clearly still waking up, I realized that the poor girl had just got out of bed, so I gave her some time to process and went off to do some other jobs. About half an hour later I got a PA “Sarah, come to the HFC to fit boots”. I was in, I was on the trip!

I got myself ready, scoffed some breakfast and then we were off. When arrived at the Erebus Glacier Tongue two things were obvious, it was really windy and it was much colder than I had anticipated. Anyway, not to worry, right? While the guides went to scope out somewhere they could set up a top rope we had a play on our cross-country skis we brought along. Although, it wasn’t long before I was off to find some warmer gear. After a little while the guides came back, they had decided that it was too windy to ice climb. Although I really wanted to climb, I agreed with this decision. It’s no fun freezing to death and get blown around on an ice cliff. My ice climbing dreams would have to wait for another day. So, caving it was instead.

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The first cave we went in was a crawl through style cave. It was a great find, you had to get on your hands and knees to get in and at some point it opened up before you emerged out a hole again. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of this cave, I was too busy having fun annnnnd I had snow everywhere, it seemed too hard to get the camera out. After this cave, we decided to venture up part of the glacier which was a gentle slope leading to the top. Here we decided to amuse ourselves by rolling, jumping and sliding down the slope. By the time we had finished being idiots, Bia had found us another cave. This one needed a little setting up. It had a small meter and a half drop so the guides cut some steps and put in some hand lines to help people get in and out. It was a stunning cave! When we came out of this cave, the wind had dropped off! It was beautiful outside, so the guides got busy setting up a top rope. Wohoo!! Harness and crampons on, figure of eight tied, I was ready to go! After a few tips from James, my belayer I was off. Swing axe, swing axe, move one foot, move second foot and repeat. Up, up, up. Then I was staring Sam in the face, our guide/ photographer at the top. I scrambled up and over the ledge and then that was it. My first ice climb completed and in Antarctica! What a way to start huh. Over the edge and back on the ground I helped others get set up for their turn. Unfortunately, with ten or so people to get through there wasn’t time for second climbs but it was enough for me to get a taste and something I would love to do again. Perhaps I am an ice climber in the making.

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