The morning finds me eating porridge and bread (this time with pickled herring, mustard, and cheese) for breakfast and then helping clean up camp. Everyone's leaving Wednesday - everyone but Jemma, Megan, Mike, and I, that is. Jemma and Megan are staying for a marathon sampling session to see if dye traces being put in 30km up by helicopter will come out in the stream and Mike and I are staying on the miniscule chance that we'll detect the eTracers being inserted at the same time.
|Cleaning consists of burning a fair amount of trash - I'm rather displeased with this, but, at the moment, there's no alternative but to have a good time dousing it all with kerosene.|
|There's been some worry that my beloved "trainers" (aka tennis shoes) are inappropriate for glacial travel and, I admit, there may be some truth to this, though they did quite well in Alaska. Mike's feet are blistered today, though, so I borrow his boots and head up to the ice with Steve and Megan to search for the missing tracers and to do some testing.|
|There's a brief stop to confirm that the tracers are still in the glacier, as I observed yesterday. They are. We continue upwards…|
Mike's boots are exactly the size of my feet, so I can't use them for long distances and their lack of flexibility convinces me that my normal shoes are safer for hiking: I can't feel the ground through the thick, inflexible soles. Even though I'm moving carefully and slowly, I'm feeling off-balance most of the trip down to the ice.
|Once on the glacier and in the crampons, the boots come into their own and, though I'm still sure the tennis shoes would be fine, I'm able to move much quicker with metal spikes holding me on the ice.|
|A half-hour's walk through GlacierWorld brings us to the moulin, situated at the confluence of three "river valleys". Originally two moulins seperated by an ice bridge, they've gradually merged into one increasingly large moulin.|
A moulin's simply a hole the water's drilled down into the glacier. Inside, it's smooth ice and descends, in a round-about way to the bedrock. Falling in would be very, very bad. They are also a very beautiful shade of blue inside.
|The test up here is trying to determine a relation between signal attenuation from the tracer and depth into the glacier. This means the fishing rod is again put to unorthodox uses, except there's no crowd of tourists around to photograph the moment now.|
|Having finished, we depart this strange and icy world.|
As we're taking off the crampons another three of the researchers chance upon us - they're heading down onto the ice to do some work with the chainsaw (I'm not sure why). I'm invited to leave, agree to go, and suddenly realise this is the last time I'll see Steve. He also realises this and says whimsically that this may be the last time he sees me standing on a mountain-side. We shake hands, make brief comments about project follow-up, and he and Megan hike off into the distance.
As I prepare myself for another trip onto the ice, I realise that I'm quite excited by the prospect - so excited that I've rather forgotten myself. I'm out here to ensure the success of the Tracers and that isn't best accomplished by taking another hedonistic trip through what is, for me, a glorious wonderland. I tell this to the chainsawists, they assure me they'll be fine if I head back, I take off the crampons, and scurry off down the trail.
And I do so without second thoughts. This is, undoubtably, the Right Thing. And I know the ice will be waiting… and I know that I'll be back. It's the last part that's worrisome - will there come a point when I no longer recognise obligation? It seems like I'm walking a hair's line now.
At camp, I explain this to Steve, who's surprised to see me again. Help him pack up, help the camp pack up, and then say good-bye, again.
Steve, Myself, Mike, and Jemma
|Like in any good story, he walks off into the sunset, along with our friends from Edinburgh.|
Jemma makes up a wonderful pasta supper and a very cold night wind sets in as I write this. Begin on the ice today was such a Good Thing that I commemorated it by having my 29th kiwi, but I think I'm the last one up now and shall head to bed before my fingers freeze!