A good friend, Martin Groves, had been keen for sometime to get an expedition together to look at exploring moulins, or water sinkholes, in glaciers. In 2011, using information from an Italian group who had previously explored the Gorner glacier in Zermatt, and back by a group of idiots who also thought this a fun idea, Martin went out to explore! I joined the trip for the second week. Martin also had further adventures in the glacier on a return trip in October 2011 - good write up by one of the participants, Henry, here.
The area is a vast expanse of ice, though evidence of large scale glacial retreat is everywhere. It is a harsh but beautiful landscape surrounded by 4000m peaks.
Exploration had to occur at night when the temperature dropped and meltwater levels subsequently reduced. Typically we got up midnight, and returned to camp around 8.00am. We would then try to rest for a few hours until got too hot, after which we went for a wander, then ate an evening meal before trying to get a few hours kip before midnight. Photo: Martin Groves
Rigging used SRT or single rope techniques typically used in caving, but the main belay points were large bars sunk into holes in the ice drilled using an auger. All other rigging was done using ice screws or thread holes drilled using ice screws. Photo: Martin Groves
Descending an ice shaft within the glacier. Photo: Martin Groves
Tighter rigging close to where one of the moulin ice systems became tight and sumped. Photo: Martin Groves