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Ice Caving on the South Annapurna Glacier in Nepal

The first cave I came across formed this magnificent archway of ice
Korbindra, my guide, stands in the pathway out of the cave

A sliver of light reflected of the frozen surface creating an enigmatic blue wave swaying through the black ice. Enchanted by the spectacle, I crawled deeper into the increasingly tight space. My guide, Korbindra summoned me to return. So I inched my way out of the darkness, only to be welcomed by menacing black clouds looming overhead. The shelter of the glacier cave comforted me. But at some point I had to go back to camp.
Sharp blades of ice encircled the vortex-like pathway out of this frozen fissure in the South Annapurna Glacier. I proceeded through the hellish corridor and over to the edge.
A thirty-foot climb now remained between me and the boulder field below. Giant rocks hung precipitously above the entrance of the cave. Speed meant safety. Gripping the head of my ice tools, I placed them into the ice. I moved fast. One leg after the other as my crampons stabbed the glacier. Before I knew it, I hit rock. I turned and jogged away from the ice. Safety.
Sitting down to organize my gear and take off my crampons, I glanced back at the cave. Suddenly, a rumble. I looked up. A fatal mass of tiny brown rocks and colossal boulders crashed down onto the very path I descended just minutes earlier.
“Holy shit,” I exclaimed.
The world paused. A blissful smile formed on my face. Perhaps out of relief. Or perhaps out of excitement in accepting a fateful gamble and walking away a winner.
Before ascending to high camp on Tharpa Chuli I took a day to explore the ice caves within the South Annapurna Glacier. I ate a quick breakfast on the morning of my sixth day and left base camp with Korbindra and Robbins, the assistant guide, in search of the unknown. The minefield of stone proved to be more frustrating than arduous, as I repeatedly stepped on one that shifted beneath my feet. But I reaped the rewards for embarking upon the troublesome crossing.
Traversing the glacier, I encountered five different caverns of ice. From a towering archway to a glacial river flowing down into infinity, each cave validated my wanderlust.
However, the first four caves prevented me from penetrating into the frozen depths. They all ended before I could be enclosed in the shadows of the South Annapurna Glacier.
It was late afternoon and time seemed to be running out, until I marched over one final boulder encased glacial dune. Without a doubt, the cave in front of me required a headlamp. I rushed forward in excitement. The darkness snaked beyond the mouth of the cave to indefinite limits. I carefully bounded from one rock to the next and arrived at the foot of the climb.
A short wall of ice stood as my final obstacle to this mysterious breach into the glacier. In picking up my black diamond vipers, I wagered everything on an irresistible hand.


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