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Saturday, May 9

Adventure to Ice Cave

Isbjorn 3- Mark, Pippa, Jamie Logie, Herpreet, Sarah
Written by Sarah Phillips

We had an absolutely unforgettable day. Our leader Richard had managed to cast his mind back and relocate an untouched ice cave (0537021, 694476) just behind our camp up a steep valley. He was however concerned about the huge cornice overhanging the valley, especially since the snow was heavily piling up and the weather was vicious. So we ventured up the side of the valley in the relentless wind that tries to knock you over as you wobble and sway up the incline.

After about an hour we reached the point where we were going to be lowered down into the valley and ‘letter-posted’ into the little slot of the cave, however instead we heel-kicked our way down. We slid into the tiny gap that was barely noticeable and could easily go undetected. Once in there however, it opened up into a huge church-like cavern. It was stunning. A once running river had frozen over the slick pebbles and rocks, creating perfectly gleaming transparent steps, inviting us further into the unknown. The ceiling glistened and sparkled, secretly twinkling out of the corner of your eye. I really had the sense of the Snow Queen’s forgotten lair. You could also make out the immaculately presented layers of rock and ice, demonstrating the way the cave had formed and frozen in stages.

We excitedly ventured further in, coming across untouched beauty such as cascading water paused delicately as it splashed to the floor and fragile glass-like icicles ranging in all sizes balanced from the starry ceiling. When we stepped up and into the waiting tunnel, our cramponed feet crunched through the icy steps; the sound of breaking glass bounced off the rippled walls. At times the path ahead sneakily veered off and we discovered all kinds of secret, special nooks. At frequent intervals the roof nearly touched the floor, forcing us to belly crawl our way along the slipping glassy ground and then it would grandly open up onto a tunnel of waving walls casting a dusty rose glow streaked with iridescent ice.

We settled to do our scientific discoveries of the cave, planning to map it out by taking detailed measurements at frequent intervals along the 240m tunnel. We measured the length to the point we couldn’t squeeze through the tiny gaps anymore, even though Pip would try in vain in her over-stuffed down jacket. We eventually hope to turn our results into a 3-D model of the cave and create a task for future YEs to investigate.

When we reached the back (0537089, 8694604) our leader told us to turn off our head torches and simply appreciate the still darkness and utter silence. It was amazing; the thick pressing black and the saturated quietness reminded us of what we’ve been lacking. It is easy to forget being in such conditions, as we’ve not experienced any kind of darkness for 5 weeks or had the luxury of utter silence as there is always a wind howling or a skin on a ski humming. It was truly a special moment of meditating and appreciating these simple things. Richard reckoned there had been less people in the cave than on Everest- quite an unusual thought to be part of a minute number.
After 5 hours of hardcore science and spectacular adventure, we rugged up and braved the angry weather. We were staggered by how blustery it was outside yet we couldn’t hear a whisper in the cave, which got to a tropical +2 degrees. Richard was adamant we didn’t wait around because of the precariously balanced snow-ladened cornice. So we galloped and loped back down hurriedly in the deep snow, adrenaline pumping as we clumsily staggered past remnants of previous fresh avalanches. After a short while we reached our beloved camp and escaped the harrowing wind. All in all a magical day that can’t really be described!

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