New Zealand Diary 10 July 2002

Today I walked up a glacier. Not all the way, you understand, but enough for one day. We started off at 8:20 by being kitted out with walking boots and crampons, gloves and jacket. Next we were bused to the glacier. From the car park it was another 40 minutes walk across a rock strewn landscape until we saw the terminal face, or front edge of the glacier itself.

The first steps onto the glacier itself were exciting. We climbed a staircase literally cut into the ice earlier that morning by some poor company lacky. The first section of the glacier that we got to was rather disappointing. The ice was dirty and covered in rock and dirt from the bits of the mountain that it'd picked up as it carved its way down through the valley. Here we stopped to put on the crampons.

The ice became cleaner as we climbed up. Just before we stopped to eat the landscape all around us was a mixture of snow white slushed ice, completely clear sections and a strange, almost baby blue colour. After lunch we made a move up to the Pinnacles, a landscape of jagged points sticking out of the glacier, caused when that section flowed down into a steep section of the valley. The top surface struggles to bend round, gets stretched and eventually cracks into a series of fissures and crevices.

The pinnacles are nothing more than an adventure playground. At least that's what it was to us; the most beautiful adventure playground in the world. Our guide took us through an ice tunnel that led into an ice cave with the most fantastic blue and white mottled walls. From here we walked through narrow crevices, slid through ice holes, climbed into impossibly tight burrows, more grottos, all in this bizarre, unique ice world.

Finally, it was time to head back to the real world. The long climb down was tiring, but glances back to where we'd been were revitalising, a reminder of the strange place that we'd spent the day.

To finish off the day, I wandered off into the woods after dark to go and take a peek at some glowworms. They're pretty little creatures, but being in the middle of a pitch dark forest, with a tiny torch whose battery was on its way out reminded me too much of the Blair Witch Project...

To tomorrow

Created by Dan Leigh 10/07/02