Into the Freezer, Gornergletscher (Gorner Glacier), near Zermatt, Valais, Switzerland


Photograph by Henry Patton

flickr  flickr

Glaciers can often look beautiful from the outside, but the view from inside is like another world. Inspired by the explorations of the La Venta Group during the 1980s and 90s, a group of us set off from Wales to the Gornergletscher, Switzerland to see what we could find.

Although this type of exploration was fairly new to all of us, we were all cavers so could apply a lot of the techniques we had learnt underground. The major differences of course is that glaciers tend to melt and crack easily, which means making sure belay points are bombproof is critical, but also that keeping dry is essential to avoid a miserably cold time.

This moulin we entered is a permanent feature of the Gornergletscher, staying open all year round. It was surveyed to around a depth of 25 metres, and at the bottom a walking-sized passage meandered off down-glacier. We could only explore a limited distance though until keeping dry became unfeasible.

Plans are afoot to return to the glacier again, with possible aims of diving some of the sumped moulins, and also to carry out some scientific analysis of the englacial hydrology.

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