Our penultimate day was coming to an end. Tomorrow we would pack up and ski down off the glacier. The weather began to clear in the afternoon so we headed down into the heart of Fox Glacier, hunting out the fresh snow and sun softened slopes as the day wore on. It had been another day to remember.
As the sun set our attention began to turn to the following morning and the long journey down and out. We would need to pack up everything in the morning, clean the hut, gather the rubbish and find space for food, spare fuel and a cooker should we be unlucky and not make it out from the Chancellor Hut. We knew, if the weather turned bad the heli’s would be grounded. After our feast of a dinner, (‘alpine spag bol’), and a lively hut discussion about everything from the US election and why the British love tea so much, everyone began to turn in. I enjoyed my routine teeth clean with a view, on the balcony outside, then clambered up and into my bag, (#bestpurchaseever). The snoring started as usual. The earplugs were good, just not good enough and as I tried to get to sleep all I could think about was the next morning’s steep climb down and onto the glacier, with my likely 20kg pack. There would be no gentle start to the day.
Eventually morning came, (not soon enough for me). With the stove lit and water on for coffee, I ventured to the loo, (using the rope) and admiring our surroundings, knowing that soon we’d be heading down.
The other group in the hut would leave first, giving us more time to prep and the icy slopes to warm a little. We packed and re-packed, editing spare food to an absolute minimum and spending an inordinate amount of time crushing and squeezing rubbish to fit into the top of our packs. Two coffees and a huge bowl of porridge later we were all but ready to leave. We’d already discussed the route. First the steep ski down, then a big traverse right across the heart of the glacier towards Chancellor Dome. Luckily the weather was just perfect.
Harness on. Beacon on, battery check and switch to transmit. Next, tighten boots, then jacket on, glasses, helmet and camera. Now for the pack. Yes….that’s heavy, but it doesn’t feel too bad once I adjust all the straps. We lumber out of the hut after one last look around, carrying our skis and poles. Time to find out if I can ski with this pack. We made our way down to the top of the steep section and this (below) is the view that greeted us, far left is where we were headed. I was just thinking, could I make the first turn on this section, without wiping out? I was determined to nail it. A few deep breaths and then we were off, Nick barking ‘stay in control!’ ‘Mister Obvious’, I thought.
We made it down without any drama, the conditions helped, the steep slope not ‘granite hard’ but more ‘hard ice with about 1cm of sugar on top’, just enough to make that first turn.
Next the very easy traverse across the glacier. That was a joy, just sitting on the skis admiring the view. Hence I was able to pull out the iPhone and take this:
Once over the other side, it was time for a break and to take in a new perspective and panorama of the glacier. Next we were headed to the left of Chancellor Dome, (middle of image above).
This story continues in ‘Part 2’.