What No One Tells You About Climbing the Conrad Glacier Via Ferrata

In Summer

Conrad Glacier Via Ferrata at CMH Bobbie Burns | Photo: Patch Bennett

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WORDS BY ALISON JONES | JANUARY 20, 2018

My mind is buzzing, but my body is tired. I don’t even know where to begin looking through the 950 photos I’ve taken after only two days at the lodge. The glass of wine I had with dinner – the one I’d thought about all day while out in the field – has made my eyelids heavy and sleep just a turn away. As I lay on the rewardingly soft bed, thoughts drifting, I realize that what no one tells you before embarking on this adventure, is how you can even begin to describe the experience to those who ask the inevitable, “how was your trip?”

Conrad Glacier Via Ferrata at CMH Bobbie Burns | Photo: Glass Horizon Photography
Photo: Glass Horizon Photography | Conrad Glacier via ferrata at CMH Bobbie Burns

Today was spent climbing the Conrad Glacier via ferrata at CMH Bobbie Burns; one of two via ferrata routes at the lodge. Consisting of a series of fixed ladders, cables, and bridges, it allows those with zero experience (like me) to climb a mountain in one of the most stunning places in the world, and to enjoy doing it.

What are the words to use to put the glacier into perspective? How it felt to climb next to the towering spires of ice. The coursing rush of adrenaline. My arms drained but my grip strong as we inched across wire burma bridges over powerful rivers of glacial water, making our way further through the route led by our sturdy and sure-footed guide. The support from strangers I’d met less than a day ago. Their kindness and camaraderie. Our jokes and the bond we immediately forged before reaching the top of the via ferrata together to view the tongue of the glacier ice giant reaching down into the valley below.

Crossing a burma bridge | Photo: Ethan Perrin
Photo: Ethan Perrin | Crossing a burma bridge

The entire day you’re immersed both into the backcountry and within a sensory overload. The powerful sound of the heli contrasted with the striking silence once it leaves. Your eyes take over, drinking in the relentless views of nature that you’re faced with. You see it, but your brain can’t process the size, the scale, the beauty. You’re truly here, living it, and you sense that everyone in your group feels it too as there exists a delicate balance of emotion between awe and tears. You’re thankful for every moment in your life that has brought you to this point, where your feet are on this very ground where few others have walked before.

Nope, there are no real words to explain this feeling. How only two days before, having never done anything like this before, did I think I’d not only be able to climb the via ferrata but to genuinely say that it was the best experience of my life.

The top of the Conrad Glacier Via Ferrata
Photo: At the top of the Conrad Glacier via ferrata

The scrapes on my shins are accompanied by a wonderfully satisfying ache in my legs and arms. My soul is happy, and I’m immensely proud of myself.

As I face the open window to the silent starry night above, I let my head sink into the cool pillow. I’m ready to tumble into a deep sleep that comes only after a day of exertion and adrenaline. Sated, I let myself drift, knowing that tomorrow, we’ll do it all again.

Writing on the experience of climbing the Conrad Glacier via ferrata at CMH Bobbie Burns.