Glacier Ice Climbing

It would be my first time on a glacier! Being inexperienced we chose to go with an adventure company - MicaGuides, that does various activities - treks, ice climbing, camping etc., on the Matanuska glacier, Alaska. We decided on ice climbing since trekking seemed too easy.

On the day of the activity, we packed ourselves in warm long pants, warm full sleeved shirt, waterproof jacket, liner gloves, long warm socks and water-resistant hiking boots. It was a two-hour drive from Anchorage to their office. We had reached a little early, so we looked around and freshened up. Later, one of the employees helped us find the right size of boots, crampons, helmets and rubber gloves. They had boots and crampons of every adult size available in the market. The boots and crampons felt pretty heavy. We wore a climbing harness for safety in case we slip while climbing. Everyone started gathering and we found ourselves to be a part of the small group.

We started walking towards the glacier. I had to lift my feet way more than I am used to while walking. I didn't mind that - thanks to the adrenaline rush of novelty. There were gravel and stones in places that did not have ice. Walking on the ice was harder as the ice is yielding under the weight of the foot, yet, it felt incredible to know I was walking on a glacier! I realized, a while later, I had forgotten all about the boots and crampons and lost myself in the experience! It was a moderate walk to the ice slope. On the way, there was meltwater trickling down the slope. This was glacial water that is prized for the flavor and purity. I filled my water bottle to drink and take home.

   

We reached close to the ice slope. And, I was filled with awe and fear! Our guide goes up the slope and makes arrangements for our climb. In the meantime, I explored the area within a few feet of our gathering. I soaked in the breathtaking 360 degrees scenery and clicked photos. He returned after about 20 minutes and instructed on how to place our foot, how to move forward with the help of the ice axe and instructions on good spots to rest our feet and dig the axe. I had a knowing that once I would start climbing, I had to keep going - there will not be enough time to rest in between. I was scared and excited. The only relief was - at any time, I could let go and fall freely with the harness to protect me from hitting the ground, but not from the regret of giving up! It was my turn to climb.

   

   

I began climbing - I hit the ice with the axe and pushed my foot into the ice. My foot moved inside the boot! I had not felt the movement while we had trekked to the spot. I should have worn shoes that were snug but I was wearing the smallest adult size! I have always found it difficult to find shoes my size. Because of the movement, I could not feel the firmness of my footing on the ice. I had to triple check to ensure I was not resting my weight on a bad (hard) spot, otherwise, I could slip and fall. The extra effort made me a little more tired than I should have. There was not enough time to rest, as I had expected - the ice below the foot could loosen under my weight. Standing on one foot was not much relief, anyway - it was better to keep moving. I climbed one step at a time. At times, I felt like giving up. But I had been told the view from the top was amazing. That view was my trophy and my mind's eye was on it. It kept me going up and up. Hurray! I finally made it to the top (that's me in the photo)! And what a view it was! Incredible! The landing was supposed to be a fall and felt much easier.

I wish I could carry the camera to the top, to click photos for you, but then, isn't it better if you view it for yourself and save the prize for the last? Looking back, I feel it was slightly strenuous but worth every bit of effort! You ask me, would I do it again - of course, but with better fitting boots!

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