No moon, no stars, only blackness. Freezing, failing headlamps reveal only a couple of meters of terrain around me. The 60kmph wind howls, cutting off speech and chilling us through to the core; it supports my weight when I lean into it, threatens to topple me if I don’t. The bitter cold begins to affect me: My fingers, my nose are frozen and it creeps into my arms, threatening my core. One foot in front of the other, I trudge onward.Only a few days ago it was sunny and hot; beautiful flowers, trees, birds, monkeys. Then, I could talk to my friends, chat about inconsequential topics, learn Swahili, point out the landscape and features to one another. It was nice in the rain forest. Now there is only rock: black, pitted and dusty lava rock from this sleeping volcano. Now I can hear nothing but the howling wind; we do not attempt to speak for the effort required. Only a few words at the occasional rest stop, mumbled breathlessly through cracked and frozen lips. We must keep our rhythm, must keep moving to stay warm. We must keep moving.

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Burden of hope

Ice, extending behind us as far as we could see, crunched under our crampon laden feet. It had been a long day — 12 km across the glacier – but now the edge was in sight, and just beyond that a boat bobbed in the ocean awaiting our return.

We stripped the crampons off, stowed our ice axes and walked across the dirty glacial edge to the pier, then down to the boat. The wind picked up on the water but we couldn’t tear our eyes from the massive 20m cliff of ice to head below decks.

Our guide had disappeared, leaving us to meditate the sight, but soon reappeared bearing a small tray with glasses. Handing one to each of us, he explained: “Argentine Whiskey, the best in the world. That ice – it is 300 years old and taken from the center of the glacier we just crossed.”

As we sipped, Stefanie’s eyes met mine with the same thought: it couldn’t get better than this. The next two weeks would prove us wrong.


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