Published: February 18th 2012February 8th 2012
Up and about early, and headed to the glacier centre in town, from where we'll be ice climbing. It's a beautiful day which I'm not sure is a good thing or not. Baking sunshine and hiking don't tend to go well together. Throw in some ice, or rather slush, and we could be in for a bambi on ice disaster...
First things first - I have to pass the medical.
'Any breathing problems, madam?'
'Oh, just antipodean asthma. Does that count?'
'Hmm, ok, well, any back or neck injuries?'
'Does a horse-related encounter with a tree count?'
'There's no hope for you...'
Fortunately all the questions did were give the guys in charge a laugh. Permission to hike granted!
We set off on the bus for the 10 minute hop to the entrance, at which stage we set off, hiking through woodland, up hill mainly, until we got to the glacier. Determined not to let my asthma get in the way, I took the lead behind the guide, and managed to hold down a conversation while I was at it. Clearly I'm fitter than I thought. We emerged at the base of the glacier - the most deceptively monstrously huge thing I've ever seen. A mix of greys, from where the mountain edges have previously collapsed and distributed grey moraine all over the ice, and blues and whites of the pure frozen ice.
At this stage we were asked to form two groups - 1 for the keenest of hikers, and 2 for those who wanted to take it more steady. I opted for 2 - purely on the grounds of the very handsome guide, Kyle, who'd be showing us the way to the point where we put on our crampons to hit the ice.
We set off, except this time the first person behind the guide was a rather hefty, Italian woman, wearing jeans (expressly stated in booking conditions 'no jeans'), a roll neck jumper (it's 25 degrees on the ground right now) and about 5 stone overweight (I'm not one to talk but I'm guessing she's done no marathons in the last couple of years, apart from the chocolate variety). To say it was a slow pace was laughable - we were crawling. Kyle told the group we were going at a great pace - the Dutch pensioners behind laughed in disbelief.
We crawled, stopped for Italian breath, crawled some more and then we reached the crampon zone. At this stage, Kyle's group was to be split into two - the quicker ones and the slower ones. The Italian asked, very matter of fact, which group she should join. Kyle, in only a way that a friendly Canadian could get away with, said the slow group. She looked unimpressed. Me and the Dutch pensioners breathed a sigh of relief...
So, strange metal, almost antique, contraptions attached to our feet, we headed up the glacier. Through paths barely wide enough to fit one person at a time, up the man-made-with-an-icepick-this-morning steps further and further up the glacier. We saw blue ice, rocks that had fallen, crevasses (not crevices...we'd left the Italian behind, remember), but no yellow snow :-)
We got to the lunch spot where group 1 had found an ice cave, which we all ventured into, some further than others. It was amazing - totally engulfed in ice which, under the scorching sun, was melting faster than an ice lolly on a gas stove. Still, made for some awesome pictures. Group 1 and 2 made it there - group 3 didn't. We were sworn to secrecy not to blurt it out to the slower group that they were missing out - I really felt though for the fitter souls that had found themselves lumbered in that group. It's an expensive trip, just to go halfway to where you thought you'd be.
We had a great group - a family of 4 from Yorkshire, the Dutchies, me, a glamorous Canadian lady the image of Caprice (except 10 years older), and two crazy Japanese kids who ventured further into the cave than anyone else. We had a real laugh - and that's half the fun. Kyle was a brilliant guide - honestly, he could've looked like Shrek and he would still have been brilliant. The fact that he was beautiful just was the icing on the cake.
And so back to the hostel, knackered but chuffed to bits at my achievement. I celebrated on my balcony with a French girl, Julie, who I'd met yesterday, with a couple of beers. It would have been great but for the evil bastard sandflies that kept attacking me. Bite after bite after bite - have a feeling that it's not going to be pretty once I wake up in the morning. I have two new roomies tonight - a lovely couple who I've had a laugh with. And a bonus roomie, who turned up at 10pm, when we were all in bed, but who couldn't work the door to get in. None of us volunteered to help. When she eventually sussed it out, she was greeted by rounds of hysteria and applause - it's a shame I'm only here one more night because I reckon this dorm could be fun. For now, it's dose up on the antihistamines and keep everything crossed that the bites don't turn as evil as the internet suggests....