Crampons and axes!

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Where I stayed
Gillespies Beach

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Monday, May 9, 2011

We went Ice Climbing!!! Best thing ever! We woke up in the morning a little worried that it would be called off as it was raining. No bother, they never call off anything in these places because they lose too much money.  We arrived at Fox Glaicer Guiding and met our guide Lucia who is from Patagonia in Argentina, and started getting kitted out for our day.  First we were given climbing boots, then a harness, crampons, ice axe, helmet, waterproof pants and warm socks! Once we had everything on or in our bags we were driven to the glacier.  First we had to hike to the terminal face and the up the moraine to the edge of the glacier itself.  When we got there we put on the ice gear – crampons, harness and helmets – and moved onto the ice.  Being a glacier used for day walks without full on crampons the entrance to the glacier looks a little disappointing, with manmade steps hacked and cut into the ice.  However once we got onto the top of the glacier it was literally a case of following Lucia as she made a route for us.  To start with we had to practice using the crampons properly, so walking up and down, along thin tracks etc.  I found it really strange to start with because I was looking down at ice and trying to tiptoe across it slowly, the way you do when it's icy outside the house and you don’t want to fall over! Once I realised that I had these massive spikes on my feet it was a different story (mostly) and I was stomping around trying to trust that I wouldn’t fall on my bum! Very quickly she had us walking up steeper slopes, facing the hill using just the front toe spikes – so kicking our feet into the ice and hoping we didn’t fall!! After a couple of goes she must have thought we were doing ok because we moved onto the ice axe.  I would say my nemesis because I’m sure if the thing wasn’t so heavy I’d have been flying later on! The only thing to really do with the ice axe is practice swinging it at the ice (in a controlled manner of course) and making sure it’s going in deep enough to hold your weight! Again, not sure whether I really got it but Lucia obviously did because we moved onto walking up a steep slope using our axes and toe spikes within about an hour of being on the ice!!!

Once we had managed this, the rest of the day was spent climbing progressively longer and steeper walls.  For this we had to add a new skill, which was belaying each other.  I have to say this wasn’t my greatest skill having absolutely no arm muscles and Kevin being a wee bit heavier than me  - however I look like I really know what I’m doing in the photos so that’s all that counts really! It was the best fun ever though climbing the wall, even the panic moments when you really don’t know how to move your feet up without falling off the wall, or can’t possible imagine holding yourself any longer.  I think we both did really well – we managed to get quite a way up the second and third walls and all the way to the top of the first.  I definitely hope we get to do this again – maybe in Patagonia??

When we got back we were a little bit achy so drove into Franz Josef again and decided to head to the spa for some muscle relaxation.  It’s a hard life….
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Angela on

Very cool you two, very cool! You're like action heroes!

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