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Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Tint of Blue in the Ice

February 10 & February 11. The 10th was as uneventful and dull as the last two days. We traveled again, but the 11th more than made up for the last three days of boredom. I went for a run this morning and was surprised to see that I was stock full of energy. The dullness of the last three days had given me a lust to do something adventurous again. We drove away from the hostel in high spirits, intent on arriving to a glacier that we would be hiking. We stopped along the way for breakfast, but it was a short affair and we wolfed down our food without really realizing what we were eating.
We arrived at a small log cabin, exactly like a Lincoln Log cabin. We stepped inside and were greeted warmly by the guides. They didn’t waste any time, but went straight to the equipment and safety procedures. We slid on hiking socks and laced up the hiking boots we were given. We also received crampons, special foot grips for when you’re hiking the glacier. Backpacks (that smelled like they had never been washed), jackets and, peculiarly, empty water bottles were all handed out before we ran onto the bus. I expected to see a large hill of frost when we came to the glacier, not a 3 mile stretch of compacted, super dense ice moving at 6 meters per day. The landscape was breathtaking. There is no other word for it. It was an enormous valley with massive mountains surrounding the area. I was therefore taken aback when the guide told us we would be hiking one of the mountains in order to reach the glacier. So we set off, trudging through a surrounding rainforest. It wasn’t what I expected a rainforest to be, however. It was humid and desperately quite. The only sounds that broke the monotony of our steps was the faint trickle of a stream or a loud crash as another piece of ice broke free from the glacier. Caitie and I passed the time laughing about the past few nights and quoting Family Guy, but even our joking couldn’t distract me from my rapidly increasing dehydration.
We finally rose to the entrance of the glacier, clutching stitches in our sides. A stunning stream of fresh water flowing through the ice, which gave it a slight blue tint, met us at the base of the entrance. We filled our water bottles to the brim with the ice cold water, bringing them up instantly to our mouths. There is no other water like it. We drank deeply, occasionally coming up for air. I only stopped after 3 bottles full and filled it a 4th time for the return journey. The guide instructed us on how to put on our crampons and gave us walking sticks. He then hiked off, using his icepick to occasionally carve steps for the more difficult pathways. As we walked I became aware of the immediate climate change. We went from a humid rainforest to a freezing iceberg, and my body was reacting accordingly. I was shivering soon, but the captivating sights of the glacier kept my mind away from my body.  I regretted not taking sunglasses after a while. The glare off the blue ice was blinding. However, the weather turned to overcast after 20 minutes of hiking.
We trekked through crevasses, plains, and even through the glacier. The cracks of time and expanding air were always evident, and some of my group voiced their worries that the glacier might crack under our feet. The guide informed us that the ice was way too thick, but I continually noticed worried looks as the ice creaked under our feet. We came across many streams and ice formations, each more fascinating than the last. After about an hour and a half of hiking, our hands became numb and we were starving.
The hike back wasn’t a long one; apparently there was a 10 minute path back to the bus. We crawled into the bus and savored the pleasure of stretching our cramped muscles. We packed up our gear and handed it back to the guide as soon as we came back to the cabin. We received certificates of survival, which was well deserved, and ate ravenously as Erik and Elise handed us sandwiches. We slept away the long journey to another hostile in ­­Fox Town. We are now stretching on our beds, cracking jokes and playing B.S. We’re going to a pub tonight where we can play some pool. There isn’t any wifi in this deserted town, but we are going to Queenstown tomorrow night. Hopefully I can post this then.

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