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Descending unexplored moulins and ice caves on the Gorner Glacier in Switzerland 2013

EC CommunityJames HipkissComment

Towering above the alpine villages of Switzerland, Italy and France, the imposing peaks of the Matterhorn and surrounding mountains have long been a mecca for mountaineers and explorers alike.

Today, whilst cable cars and a mountain railway transport hordes of tourists to the more accessible areas, pioneering exploration continues, not on the surface, but far out of sight in the icy depths of the second largest glacier system in the Alps. During the end of October, 2012, an eight-person strong British team, led by Martin Groves and Gareth Davies of South Wales, returned to the Gorner Glacier for their third expedition exploring, mapping and photographing the harsh but beautiful sub-glacial world of moulins. The 2012 expedition took place slightly later than during the previous year, in the hope that meltwater would be less, and the going significantly easier.

In reality, extremely harsh weather conditions made progress difficult, as the team battled with strong blizzards and temperatures of -18 C. Countless hours were spent advancing through the deep snow, only for the hard work to be completely erased again moments later. All was not lost however. Access was gained to several incredibly beautiful moulins. Who knows, in this ever changing world beneath the glacier, how long these magnificent places will be accessible for? Following on from the success from this last expedition, the team have already begun hatching plans for a return visit next year.

The first of two trips is penciled in at the end of the summer while a follow up expedition is scheduled for half term in October 2013. However, the team are currently looking into ways of raising sufficient funds to support this kind of expedition. A huge thanks must go to the Welsh Sports Association who have already supported this project enormously. Watch this space... ...Cavers wanted!

For hazardous journey, wages non existent, long nights of darkness, days of little sleep, constant danger, safe return hopeful, honour and recognition if successful. The team from the 2012 expedition has set aside dates for this years expedition. Under the watchful eye of the Matterhorn, the team hope to descend moulins from last years trip and undoubtedly new moulins to this year.

robbie@shonephotography.com