“Slowly, slowly,” yelled our mountaineering guide, Wilson. In my mind, though, I couldn’t get down into the crevasse quick enough. I had never seen a crevasse, let alone been into one and with the adrenaline flowing; I was bounding down the mountain, backwards, and racing to see what was inside.
Earlier, we had traversed a couple of the peaks in and around Paradise Bay that tower over Argentina’s Brown Research Base on the continent of Antarctica. Roped together and armed with ice axes, we were led by our guides Bertol and Wilson in what was supposed to be an intermediate mountaineering expedition.
To finish the day, our guides thought it would be a good idea to let us look into a crevasse. I leapt at the idea and immediately volunteered to be the first one to experience the giant crack around the ice and snow. Anchors were dug and placed and once I was roped up, I began the descent down the mountain and towards the crevasse.
I didn’t know what I was heading towards, but the excitement was building. Three metres, two metres, one metre… Bang! The ice and snow just perished and crumbled beneath my feet and I was in free fall. Another loud bang went off, maybe it was just in my head, but as this happened, I bounced and the fall stopped. My rope and harness had saved me. I looked up and had fallen down about two metres into the crevasse.
I was just staring at the ice wall in front of me whilst trying to find a raised edge to stand on but there wasn’t one. My crampons were useless as the ice wall was so soft, everything just crumbled away and I was relying solely on my rope and harness. To make matters worse, the rope, my lifeline, had carved its way into the ice wall. I wasn’t panicking, but I wasn’t comfortable at all.
Scott, who had also been lowered into the crevasse about five metres away from me had clambered down a hard ice wall and was perched nicely on what appeared to be a perfect saddle. I wasn’t as fortunate.
I wanted out and began digging my knees into the crevasse wall to make holes that I could use to step into in the hope of climbing out. In what seemed to take forever, I was slowly rising, centimetre-by-centimetre and moving away from another 15-metre drop down into the depth of the crevasse. My ice axe provided a small help and eventually, I pulled myself out of the crevasse and lay in a heap on the snow, just metres from where it perished beneath me. I was panting, sweating, shaking and thanking God that I had made it out of there alive.
It’s funny the way you start to think when you’re faced with a fight or flight type of situation and in my time of desperation, I began thinking about the 15-metre fall that I was about to endure should the rope snap. It wasn’t a nice thought but I tried to override it by willing myself out of the crevasse, and trusting in the equipment. Looking back at it now, I can only think how silly I was to have thoughts about falling and possibly dying, but in the situation, it was all I could think about.